By Michael Peter, The Sight News
Abuja: The failure of the Cross Rivers State government to pay compensation to those whose lands were affected by the ongoing Super Highway project being undertaken by the State has brought untold hardship on over a million indigenes who reside in the affected communities.
A group of civil society groups led by Climate Transformation and Energy Remediation Society (CLIMATTERS) raised this concern at a press conference, describing the actions by the State Government as irresponsible and unconstitutional, while at the same time urging the Federal Government to prevail on the Governor Ayade led government to do the needful.
Addressing newsmen in Abuja, Executive Director, Rainforest Resource and Development Centre (RRDC), Ode Oyama drew attention to the fact that none of the 23 conditions as stipulated by the Federal Ministry of Environment before the takeoff of the project, has been met by the State Government.
According to Oyama, the State government has refused to also comply with the provision of the 1999 constitution which stipulates for the prompt payment of compensations to the affected individuals disclosing also that the surveys, coordinates and maps have not yet been produced, published nor gazetted as demanded by the Federal Ministry of Environment in it’s 23 conditions.
“The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended),
provides for the prompt payment of compensation to communities and persons whose lands and property are being affected by the superhighway”.
Oyama therefore called on the federal government to suspend the issuance of the environmental impact statement and certificate until the Cross River State Government complies to the conditions stipulated by the federal ministry of environment.
In his earlier remark, Smart Chukwuma Amaefula, President/CEO of CLIMATTERS urged the Ministry of Environment to resist every pressure to give an EIA approval to the super highway, pointing out that the manner in which the highway is being pursued is constitutionally out of place and makes little or no economic sense.
On his part, Tolutope Agunloye, the Assistant Manager, BudgIT, Abuja, is of the view that the N200 billion road project is ambiguous and makes no economic sense as the state government will spend less if it would rather invest in the dualization of an already existing road.
He called on the government to discontinue the project and use funds for projects which directly impacts on the economic wellbeing of the people.
In giving a situation report on the implications of the project in affected communities, Umo Isua-Ikoh of Peace Point Action, said that no prior notice was given before bulldozers and tractors moved into their communities and started pulling down buildings and destroying farmlands.
He said “now what these affected communities are looking for is compensation. You can’t do such a road without compensation. Are we talking about a road that will not be meaningful to the community are we talking about a road that will not take into consideration the options and livelihood of the people? We should be able to marry development with the priorities of the people.
He painted a picture of the horrible living condition of the affected communities, saying that “the impact has been so much that most of the community people cannot even feed themselves again not to talk of sending their children to school.
“If you get to the mangrove community of Cross Rivers State, precisely Bakassi and Apaboyo Local Government, if you go around Ikot-Ekpene, Ikon Darake etc, the feeling there is so emotional in that it really impacts on the buildings and the economic lives of the people. Most of the buildings are at the stretch road of the superhighway” he said.