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276-KM SUPER HIGHWAY: Gov Ayade comes under fresh attack over rapid deforestation

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*Experts, community leaders say C’River‘ll lose rainforest before 2040

By Ike Uchechukwu

CALABAR- EXPERTS, community leaders and a nongovernmental organization for environmental development and information delivery, operating under the auspices of Rainforest Resource and Development Centre, RRDC, have censured the governor of Cross River State, Prof Ben Ayade, over an alleged high spate of deforestation in parts of the state by his administration under the guise of constructing a 276- km super highway.

They expressed disapproval at a workshop on “Media Sensitization and Forest Community Concenrs and Super Highway” organized by RRDC in Calabar, the state capital.

Governor Ben Ayade

Several experts and community leaders, who spoke at the workshop,   stressed the rate at which the flora and fauna of Cross River forest was been depleted and with the level of deforestation, the zone known be encapsulating about 30 per cent of Nigeria’s rainforest was being cleaned out.

Putting the cart before the horse – Oyama, RRDC

Executive Director, RRDC,Odey Oyama, who spoke to NDV afer the presentations, stressed that if the rate of deforestation in the state was not curtailed and continued unabated as currently is the case, Cross River might lose her vast rain forest before the year 2040.

“The bulldozing of the rainforest owned by the communities and Cross River National Park is against the law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; hence due process was not followed. Why should they bulldoze farms ranging from cocoa, cassava, yams plantains and several economic crops before they start talking of compensation, how would they be able to carry out such an assessment in this case because the cart was put before the horse as far as this Super High Way project is concerned,” he queried.

“Apart from economic trees and land lost as a result of bulldozing the land purported to be used for construction of the super highway, many communities have also lost their artifacts and their ancestral history due to destruction and bulldozing of their communities,” Oyana said

Many lives lost over this project – Atah, activist

Another expert, an environmental consultant, Tony Atah, said:  “The Super High Way is not a development issue at all. Rather, a governance issue. If we are not able to sit down as Cross- Riverians and discuss, understand what it is all about, we may spend our money without achieving anything”.

‘’A lot of people have lost lives, a lot of people have lost hope ,many have lost confidence in this government because of the way and manner this project was started ,the idea might be well thought out,  but the execution has brought pain, anguish and penury to hundreds of people and thousands of families,” he noted .

Blurred project – Brade, media advocate

Media advocate/activist, Pamela Brade, said three years after, it was still unclear what the Super highway project was all about, adding: “A road that will take about 10 meters to the right and left will rather wipe out some villages that should have benefited from the project.  Government must attend to the felt needs of the people.”

People turn refugees in their homeland – Asuquo, community leader

Community leader, Edem Asuquo told NDV:  “A lot of people have become refugees in their homeland while some have become destitute because their only source of livelihood has been wiped off in the name of a project that may not even see the light of day.”

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