Britain, groups oppose Cross River highway project
UNCOMFORTABLE with the proposed Super Highway project being undertaken by the Cross River State Government, a number of international bodies including the Britain have raised the alarm over the project, saying it constitutes threat to livelihood.
As at the weekend, The Guardian learnt that, a German firm, which plans to invest over 500m Euro on the project many have suspended work.
It was also learnt that a Germany firm, Broad Spectrum Industrial Services and the China Harbour Engineering Company firms may have put on hold all plans for the proposed 260 km super highway and the deep sea port in the state.
This is coming to fore just as unconfirmed sources says President Mohammadu Buhari, who was billed for the ground breaking of the project today has suspended the occasion based on environmental issues raised by international organisations and the Federal Ministry of Environment.
Both the German and Chinese firms, and others involved in the project and seaport may have stopped work pending the resolution of all issues raised by the international organisations.
The Federal Ministry of Environment in a letter dated September 11, 2015 and signed by the Permanent Secretary, Mrs. Nana Fatima Mede to the Cross River State Governor Senator, Ben Ayade said “the ministry has received complaints from relevant stakeholders and some international organisations including the British Government through their High Commission in Nigeria on the proposed Super Highway connecting Calabar and Obudu traversing the Cross River National Park (CRNP)”.
The ministry said the “CRNP is one of the most Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) in the whole of Africa and had been proposed for UNESCO World Heritage Status. Equally, the park is amongst the last vestiges of Nigeria’s rainforest, a vital part of our country’s national heritage, plays a key role in delivering a carbon sequestration and climate change mitigation”.
The ministry further drew the attention of the state government to the fact that “Nigeria is a party to some international convention’s agreement such as Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) whose values and principles support protection of wildlife, mitigation and adaptation to climate change.
“CRNP having been designated as KBAs has 18 species of primates, the highest diversity recorded at a single site in Africa; two species of butterflies new to science have been described from the area and plant diversity is high.
In view of this, fears are rife that the internal bodies like the UNESCO, UNFCCC, CBD, CMS which Nigeria is a signatory to may sanction Nigeria if the state goes ahead with the project without satisfying all issues covered by the convention as according to the ministry, “the proposed highway would open up the park to poachers and jeopardize globally threatened species”.
While acknowledging the fact that the state government has agreed to re-route the road outside CRNP, Mede said, “you will need to subject the road project to Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study in line with the EIA Act. This is the normal requirement where inputs and comments of all stakeholders are taken into consideration before certification”.
But, reacting to the letter from the Federal Ministry of Environment, the Chief Press Secretary to the State Governor, Mr. Christian Ita, in a press statement said that “the proposed road would not traverse the Cross River National Park, as the superhighway is several kilometres far removed from the National Park. Based on the input of the Cross River National Park, the road has since been rerouted with the alignment now several kilometers away from the Park,”
He said the governor who is passionate about the preservation of the state’s biodiversity with his establishment of the Green Police, would not embark on a project that would undermine the environment as “the EIA report on the road is being handled by PGM (Nig) Ltd, environmental consultants recommended to the state by the Federal Ministry of Environment”.
While thanking the people of the state for keeping faith with Governor Ayade for his vision for the state, Ita affirmed the Governor’s unwavering determination to see through the project and his reassurance “to work closely with the Presidency to clear areas of doubt, promising to convey to Cross Riverians a new date for the ceremony”.
While marking his 100 days in office, Ayade said “on issue of the sea port, as I speak to you, the biggest and number one company in harbour design and construction in the world, which is the China Harbour Engineering Company is right there at the seaport in Calabar. Design work has been completed, construction work is ongoing, geophysical studies, foundation studies, and sea-pilling work is ongoing at the site. The 260km super highway, which is supposed to take off from the Seaport and terminates at Gakem in Bekwara the boundary with Vandykkia is also on going.
“Survey work is going on, the road has been plotted, excavation has started from the sea port at point zero and we have made a progress of about 1.8km and we hope that we are going to hit the president by-pass. We are going to terminate at that point and then face the northern hemisphere of the state which we will start tearing and gain a reasonable distance”.