The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has urged the Federal Ministry of Environment to remain resolute in demanding the Cross River State government comply with environmental standards in the proposed Calabar Super Highway project.

ERA/FoEN position is coming on the heels of threats by the Cross Rivers government against the federal government to start construction work on the proposed 260-kilometre superhighway and deep seaport projects without the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report approvals as reported in the media.

The state government said that the non-approval of EIA reports for both projects had led to the withdrawal of some local and foreign investors.

Governor Ben Ayade had on assumption of office in May 2015 announced the construction of three signature projects namely the superhighway, deep seaport and garment factory.

Cross River Commissioner for Information, Mrs. Rosemary Archibong, said the federal agencies responsible for issuing the approvals were frustrating the state’s development programmes, threatening that if EIA approvals were not given by the end of March 2017, the state government might be forced to go on with construction works on the two projects without minding whose ox is gored.

ERA/FoEN in a statement issued in Lagos said that, the threat by the Cross River State government to go ahead with the Super Highway project when its EIA is still subject to scrutiny “is very disturbing and unacceptable”

ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Godwin Uyi Ojo said: “It will be a breach on our laws and a bad precedent for the Cross River government to attempt going ahead with the Super Highway project without a proper EIA. The mere submission of an EIA does not amount to approval or claims to have satisfied all requirements. The Cross River state government should consider that a no action decision that is likely will amount to a rejection of the EIA”.

Godwin Uyi Ojo stated further that, “Environmentalists within and outside the country have already alerted on the project’s likely negative impact on biodiversity and about 150 communities including the Ekuri whose livelihoods depended on the forest. The mitigation of the impacts are grossly inadequate hence the need to re-route the superhighway away from pristine forests and neighborhoods”

While praising the Federal Ministry of Environment for carrying out due diligence on the project, Ojo noted that the speed with which the Cross River government intends to carry out the project raises some suspicion. We have long called for the revocation or at least revision of the Land Use Act of 1978 which allows the claims of overriding state interest to cede community lands to other interests“.

The urgency attached to implementing this project is questionable and again brings to the fore the unchecked powers of the state governments who exploit the Land Use Act to grab lands and displace indigenous people and land owners”.

“We have said it time and again that, while we welcome projects that are expected to better the lot of our people, promoters of the highway project The Federal Ministry of Environment must not capitulate to the Cross River State intimidation”, Ojo insisted.