It is no longer news that the Super Highway Project proposed to be carried out in Cross River State has met with opposition from various factions, ranging from environmentalists to the British Council. This was so severe that following complaints that the project would encroach into conservation areas in the state, the Federal Ministry of Environment advised The Cross River State Government to ensure that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) be carried out before any project implementation.
Due to the visit of the President of Nigeria to commission the project in October 2015 and a visit by the Minister of Environment to the Akamkpa site of the highway in March 2015, a temporary EIA was issued by the Ministry of Environment. However, the Cross River State Government still had to ensure a full assessment was carried out and approved before commencing any further work on the project and a deadline was given. As the Cross River State government was unable to meet with this deadline, the Ministry of Environment issued a Press Release on April 15th 2016 stating that they were still expecting an EIA report from the state government.
Following a new development, the Cross River State Government has now submitted the draft of the EIA which is currently undergoing the mandatory 21 working day public hearing. After this, and the conclusion of a stakeholder’s conference, it is expected that the Cross River State Government will be in a position to receive the EIA Certificate which will allow work on the project to recommence. The primary expectation now is that the Ministry of Environment will expedite the issuance of this EIA certificate to enable the progress of this positive project in Cross River State.
In the mean time, the Cross River State Governor, Senator Professor Ben Ayade along with the Senior Special Assistant on Communications and Branding, Dr. Dorncklaimz Enamhe met with the Hon. Minister of Environment, Amina J. Mohammed on Wednesday, 4th of May to explain the road map of the project and to assure her and the Ministry that all possible environmental impacts had been captured in the EIA report submitted. This is a step in the right direction for the project, particularly since the Court has now asked for an out of court settlement between the Cross River State Government and NESREA which is an enforcement arm of the Ministry of Environment.
It is believed that the current progress being made in complying and settling with the requirements of NESREA and the Ministry of Environment as a whole can only serve to enhance the efficacy and viability of this Super Highway project. Hopefully all goes well with the EIA process so this fantastic project can get a head start.
Meanwhile, the youths of Gakem community of Cross River State (pictured), where the Super Highway empties into Benue State and the North part of Nigeria, have threatened to stage a protest and walk to Abuja if need be in order to appeal to the Federal Government to allow the project to commence. Speaking on behalf of the youths, the Youth Leader, Mr. Peter Olofu and the Clan Head, HRH Ushiekakpa Opah Ushie reiterated the fact that the Gakem community is a historic town and completion of this project would not only create opportunities for the local people but bring recognition to their ‘forgotten’ community.
Till the EIA is approved, the Super Highway project only can remain a ‘proposed project’ as the Cross River State Governor has momentarily accepted the ‘Stop Work Order’ from the Ministry till the environmental assessment report is approved and go-ahead given for the project to commence. Let’s hope this happens sooner rather than later as this can only be a positive thing in Cross River State. Already, contractors who hired equipment ready to commence work have been forced to halt all activities which does not augur well with the Governor and the positive impact he is trying to make in Cross River State.