260km Super Highway: 13 Int’l NGOs Petition FG, Fault EIA

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Bassey Inyang in Calabar

As controversy continues to trail the construction of the proposed 260-kilometre Calabar-Katsina Ala Super Highway by the Cross River State Government, 13 international Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), have petitioned the federal government, expressing concerns about the process and content of the documents on the project’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

In their petition, the NGOs, based in America, Europe and Africa, listed 27 grounds on which they faulted the EIA presented by the state government to the Federal Ministry of Environment.

The petition addressed to the Minister of Environment, Hajia Amina Mohammed, dated May 25, 2016, entitled “Comments on the EIA Of The Proposed Calabar-Ikom-Katsina Ala Superhighway Project: Draft Report Submitted To The Federal Ministry Of Environment,” was signed by Fred Kwame, Africa Regional Head, WWF International, Switzerland; John Robinson, Executive Vice President, Wildlife Conservation Society, USA (United States of America); Hazell Thompson, Birdlife International, UK; Jonathan Bailie, Zoological Society of London, UK; Richard Bergl, North Carolina Zoo, USA; Russ Mittermeier, Conservation International, USA; Mark Rose, Fauna and Flora International, UK; Adeniyi Karunwi, Executive Director, Nigerian Conservation Foundation, Lagos; Tunde Morakinyo, Founder and Director, Iroko Foundation, UK; John Oates, Hunter College, City University of NY, USA; Ako Amadi, Executive Director, Community Conservation and Development Initiative (CCDI), Nigeria; and Zoe Parr, Consultant, Botswana.”
In the petition made available to journalists in Calabar, the NGOs expressed their concerns over the EIA document, and demanded that a fresh EIA be done while communities are paid full compensation by the state government for grabbing and clearing their lands in a manner they described as illegal.

The petitioners said their recent complaints to the federal government was to re-emphasize the concerns expressed by a group of Nigerian and international conservation NGOs through a petition to President Muhammadu Buhari, dated October 20,2015 faulting the siting of the project on conservation area.

The NGOs stated that following extreme concerns that they had expressed over the route for the super highway, they commissioned Environmental Resource Management (ERM), “an international environmental, social and sustainability consultancy of global repute” to scrutinize the draft EIA and draw very objective conclusions.

“In summary, the findings of this gap analysis clearly indicate that the draft EIA is inadequate and cannot in any way be considered as a document on which any meaningful decisions might be made as to the further development of the project. It is clear that there has not been a sufficiently robust process to identify and mitigate the impacts from a project of this magnitude on one of the world’s most important biodiversity hot-spots. We believe that the document is so fundamentally flawed that it cannot simply be revised and should instead be completely redone or discarded,” they said.

But, the state Commissioner for Lands, Mr. John Inyang, defended the position of the state government on the EIA document.

He said some of the comments raised were critical and would be taken into consideration in the final draft.
On the issue of acquisition of 10 km of land along each sides of the highway, he said, “I did the publication on behalf of government, and if you go through the publication our coordinates did not go beyond the road. We are not acquiring 10kms to either sides of the proposed superhighway.

“The purpose of the 10 km is not to send the settlers away but it is for administrative purpose and development control. We want to add to the aesthetic value of the road. How can we displace the people and where will we get such compensation to pay?”