- Threatens to takeover national park
By Bassey Inyang in Calabar
Blaming the federal government for allegedly frustrating its effort to commence the construction of the proposed 260-kilometre super highway, the Cross River State Government has informed the federal government that it would go ahead with the project, if by middle of March the state fails to get the necessary approvals for construction to commence.
According to the state government, the construction of the super highway, which is one of the two signature projects promised by Governor Ben Ayade, has suffered undue sabotage because of the uncooperative attitude of some federal government agencies, which are suspected to be conniving with perceived enemies of the state, and detractors of the administration in the state to frustrate the road project.
The state government lamented that after addressing all the contentious issues concerning the environmental impact assessment (EIA), for the project, the federal agencies have continued to raise fresh hurdles that have stalled effective take-off of the project.
Addressing journalists on the issue yesterday, the state Commissioner for Information, Mrs. Rosemary Archibong, said: “Efforts have been put in place to ensure that these projects meet the approval of the federal government and all other international stakeholders, but somehow we have had these projects stalled over time for different reason and the state government has not rested on its oars.”
The commissioner said the state government has bent over backwards to meet the demands just to make sure that these highly laudable employment generating projects get approval for construction from the federal government.
The commissioner who led three other commissioners to the press conference held at the Government House disclose that the revocation of 10-kilometre buffer on either way of the Superhighway which was meant to be used for development has been reversed because the governor listened to the cries of the communities that 10kilometre buffer should not be part of the Superhighway.
“The federal government must grant approval not later than the middle of March. We want to continue with our work. In a short time, the rainy season would soon set in and Cross River State is a place of torrential downpour and we cannot wait for the rainy season and all the lofty projects that will benefits Cross River and Nigeria would suffer. We are appealing that by the middle of March we would want to see our approvals granted,” Archibong added.
Speaking in the same vein the state Commissioner for Lands, Professor John Ofem Inyang, who indicted some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and individuals of attempting to sabotage the project, said some of the NGOs have decided to join our opponents to politicise the superhighway project
“We want to once again tell our opponents to look for something else to criticise this government and not the superhighway. We have sacrificed the 10-kilometre span on either side of the road, limiting to just 70 metres. And I think from today, they have nothing to say against the Superhighway other than to cooperate with us. So we are going to be aggressive after the second week of March, if we don’t get our EIA. We have met all the requirements as far as EIA approval is concerned. So as a people we would come together, we would be formidable and we would fight for the cause that we believe in, in as much as we have met all the requirements. If the goalpost is shifted again, we would take a different action because we know our rights,’’ the lands commissioner said.
The state Commissioner for Water Resource, Mr. Gabe Odu Orji, said: “We have done everything to get these approvals and cannot continue to wait again because we have the constitutional right to invoke and proceed with this projects. First you notice that the Yankari Game Reserve which is today in Gombe State was formerly a National Park. But, it was not in the interest of the state government to continue as a national park, so they reverted it to a game reserve.”
Giving indication that the Cross River State Government could adopt the Yankari model, Orji said as it concerns the Cross River National Park, the constitution which is the supreme law of the land empowers the state government to concurrently legislate of the environment.
“That we have been playing the good boy so far for the federal government does not mean we do not know our right. Why the agencies concerned with these approvals are still rigmarole is what we don’t know,” Orji said.
Commissioner for Climate Change, Alice Ekwu, who queried the introduction of fresh scope after the EIA has been done, said: “In this instance, the superhighway is not even passing through the national park as our detractors would rather have it stated. It is outside the national park and indeed it is within the degraded area.”
The state Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Asuquo Ekpenyong Jnr., who spoke in the same vein as his colleagues said the Super Highway would be constructed through Public Private Partnership (PPP), and that Chinese investors were already on standby to undertake the project.