NGOs, others charge FG to ignore Cross River ultimatum on superhighway

Mrs. Rosemary Archibong

The Federal Government has been charged to ignore the request for approval by the Cross River State government for the construction of the 260km superhighway until the state complies with environmental standards.

The stakeholders argued that if the approval is given without a proper Environmental Impact Assessment, as required by law, what remains of Nigeria’s 90 percent rainforest found in the state, which is one of the richest in biodiversity in Africa, investment by the National Park, United Nations’ Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) carbon credit fund and many others, will be lost while over 180 communities will be negatively impacted. Hence, the state government “should withdraw the empty threat to the Federal Government and tender apology to Cross Riverians.”

Last week, the state government had, through Mrs. Rosemary Archibong, Commissioner for Information, issued a three-week ultimatum to the Federal Government to sanction the construction of its proposed 260km superhighway, saying “the Federal Government must grant approval not later than the middle of March, 2017. We want to continue with our work. In a short time, the rainy season would set in and Cross River State is a place of torrential downpour, and we cannot wait for the rainy season while all the lofty projects of benefit to Cross River and Nigeria suffer.”

The state government said the non-approval of EIA reports for both the superhighway and Bakassi deep-sea port projects had led to the withdrawal of some local and foreign investors.

Conservationists, Non Governmental Organisations (NGO) and impacted communities have rejected the latest EIA submitted by the state and called on the Federal Government not to give approval to the project, until the needful is done, as the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Flora & Fauna International (FFI) said the EIA was faulty.

The WCS Nigeria Country Director, Mr. Andrew Dunn, in a petition to the to the Ministry of Environment, pointed out that, “this is the third edition of the EIA, yet it still fails to address our original concerns, and contains a number of new errors and false claims. The revised EIA completely fails to consider the negative impacts of the proposed superhighway and its corridor on Cross River National Park and surrounding forests; moreover it contains much data that is clearly false and makes a number of fraudulent claims. The Wildlife Conservation Society considers that the document is fundamentally flawed and should be rejected”.

On its part, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), urged the Federal Ministry of Environment to remain resolute in demanding that the Cross River State government comply with environmental standards in the proposed Calabar Super Highway project, as the threat by the state government to go ahead with the Super highway project, when its EIA is still subject to scrutiny, “is very disturbing and unacceptable.”

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Mrs. Rosemary ArchibongNGO
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