CBassey Inyang in Calabar
Thousands of market women and youth groups wednesday took to the streets of Calabar to express their support for the state’s 260km superhighway project.
They carried banners and placards with inscriptions such as: “Cross Riverians say no to conspiracy against superhighway”, “Superhighway our dream for a better tomorrow,, “our economic development depends on the superhighway,” “You can’t hate us and love our forest.”
The protesters denounced what they described as conspiracy by some international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and their local collaborators against the project.
They therefore, urged the federal government to disregard the antics of the NGOs and ensure timely approval of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for commencement of construction work on the superhighway.
The rally brought vehicular traffic to a standstill in some parts of the Calabar metropolis for over two hours.
The President National Youth Council of Nigeria, Cross River State council, Ndiyo Ndiyo, who was visibly angry at what he described as unfair treatment of the state, warned: “We want everybody including the International community and the Federal Ministry of Environment to know that the youths of Cross River State say no one should play politics with our developmental efforts! Nobody should sacrifice Cross River State for selfish gains!”
Continuing, he said: “When they developed Abuja was there no forest? When they developed China, didn’t they tamper with their forest? What about other developed countries? Did they develop them without touching their forest? So why is Cross River State’s case different? We hereby pass vote of confidence on the project.”
Ndiyo called on the federal government to expedite action on the approval of the EIA for the project, even as he demanded that the state be paid compensation for preserving its forest over the years.
On her part, the leader of the women group who were mostly market women, Mrs. Vivian Imogbo, said the need for the superhighway could not be over-emphasised given the deplorable state of the only existing highway, which is a federal road.
“We want superhighway because the only federal highway that we have is in very bad state. Our women who travel on that road to different markets die on that road every day. Recently some of our Reverend Sisters died on that road.
“Governor Ben Ayade knows what is good for us, that is why he initiated the superhighway project and our deep seaport project to ameliorate the untold hardship we face daily on the bad federal road in the state.”