Bassey Inyang in Calabar
The Obong of Calabar, Edidem Okpo Okon Abasi Otu V, Senator Florence Ita-Giwa, Senator Gershom Bassey and other prominent from Cross River State have urged the Federal Ministry of Environment to expedite action on the approval of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the construction of the state’s 260-kilomtre superhighway.
This was even as they separately decried the activities of some local and foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs) believed to be working against the commencement of the state’s superhighway.
Accusing the NGOs of playing petty politics with a project as massive as the superhighway that will add value to the lives of Cross Riverians, the royal father urged the federal government not to pander to the narrow interest of a few collaborators who do not mean well for the state.
Okon Abasi Otu, who advised politicians and ethnic jingoists to see the superhighway beyond political and ethnic lines, said: “When it comes to issues of development, party line or ethnic grouping should not be promoted at the detriment of the people you claim to represent. We are endowed with a large chunk of forest cover that stretches up to the Camerouns, so opening up a small portion to bring about development to the state as well as make the people feel a sense of belonging and the impact of this administration should not be stalled for whatever reasons.”
Faulting claims that the 260km superhighway will impinge on the state’s vast forest cover, Abasi Otu said: “As far as I am concerned, the construction will not distort conservation as more trees will be planted to replace the few trees that will be taken off in the course of construction. This will also boost conservation effort of the government because people will have access to the forest as it is the practice globally.”
According to the monarch, “The superhighway and Bakassi deep seaport are the best things that have ever happened to this state because these projects will open it up economically and Cross River will be better off.”
Otu who further highlighted the benefits of the superhighway, said: “I recall when some ships laden with used vehicle birthed in Calabar for three months, the whole Calabar and its environs were agog with economic activities. So, you can imagine what will happen if the seaport and the superhighway projects become operational.”
Speaking in similar vein, Ita-Giwa said the superhighway has the potential of changing the economic landscape of the state and lamented that bad politics and ethnicity were being introduced to kill the project.
“Honestly, it is unfortunate that people are playing politics with a project as massive as the superhighway. They should not undermine a project that will be of great benefit to the people. Even in America and other advanced countries, when they undertake massive projects, large area of land is always cleared. Governor Ben Ayade is an environmentalist, who is passionate about the environment. So he will not engage on any project that will be counter-productive to the environment and the people,” Ita-Giwa said.
Similarly, the senator representing Cross River Southern senatorial district, Senator Gershom Bassey, maintained that when completed, the superhighway and the Bakassi Deep Seaport have the capacity and the magic wand to aggressively and positively change the economic fortunes of not only Cross River and its people but also the economy of the entire nation.
“The superhighway is a bankable project, it is an absolute winner. Yes, it is an ambitious project but because it is a bankable project, we will not be funding it from our balance sheet. It is to be handled with investors’ fund,” Bassey hinted.
He said the project should not warrant any petition from the international NGOs, stressing that rather than embarking on petition writing against such laudable project, the NGOs and other persons fighting against the actualization of the project should go into dialogue with the state government to have a better appreciation of the matter.
Validating Bassey’s position, one-time member of the defunct Provincial Ruling Council (PRC), Maj. Gen. Edward Unimna (rtd), said: “The superhighway is a very wonderful project that will actually open up the state to far greater prosperity that would be highly beneficial to the people of Cross River State.
“It is a project that is for the overall interests of Cross Riverians and Nigerians, including Chadians and Nigeriens who would use the road to evacuate their goods from the Bakassi Deep seaport.”
Unimna said it would be outright insanity for any person or group of persons to conspire against the superhighway project.