A not-for-profit group based in Calabar, Cross River State, the Rainforest Resource & Development Centre (RRDC), has questioned the Federal Government rationale for granting conditional approval for the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report of the proposed six-lane, 275km long Superhighway project being promoted by the state government.
According to the RRDC, the Federal Ministry of Environment (FMEv) erred by giving the report such a consideration, given the quality and questionable status of the report as well as the implication of the project to the immediate environment.
In a statement made available to EnviroNews on Wednesday, July 5, 2017, Odey Oyama, Executive Director of RRDC, noted that the EIA Law, CAP. E12 does not contain any provisions for granting conditional approvals to proponents of deficient EIA reports presented to the FMEv for consideration.
“Rather issues pertaining to ‘conditions’ specified in the EIA Act are discussed in Sections 43 and 47 concerning the matter of ‘public hearing and substitution assessment by a review panel’. Thus the granting of conditional approval for fraudulent and environmentally defective EIA reports would appear to be outside the premise of the law,” stated Oyama.
Concerning the condition given by the FMEv for the Cross River State Government (CRSG) to re-route and realign the Superhighway, Oyama opined that part of the highway still falls within the gazetted boundaries of the Cross River National Park (CRNP), especially at the Oban Division.
The group commended the FMEv for specifying that the CRSG should gazette the reversal of revocation order on the acquisition of 10km on either side to the 70km span of the road corridor, as well as the boundary of the CRNP. According to Oyama, hitherto, the CRSG was in the practice of publishing Acquisition and Revocation Orders pertaining to the superhighway project in newspapers instead of official government gazettes.
On the condition bodering compensations, resettlement and restoration plans, the RRDC notes that, so far, the list of communities and persons to benefit from the compensations has not been compiled and established in compliance with the provisions of the Land Use Act No. 6, 1978 and the Land and Allied Matters Act.
“Thus, the condition remains vague and unenforceable until public declarations are made by the proponents of the project about the potential beneficiaries in compliance with national and international standards of best practice.”
The RRDC likewise underlined the fact that the enumeration of the people and communities that have to be resettled has not been conducted and the results published.
“Under these circumstances it would be difficult or impossible to monitor compliance with these conditions and establish when it would be said to have been completely fulfilled,” the body stated, even as it expressed concern over the fact that certain statements in the FMEv conditions reveal “fraudulent claims and fundamental omissions” in the EIA report, which was the fourth attempt by the CRSG.
Oyama declared: “It is our considered opinion therefore that, in line with the provisions of the EIA Act CAP. E12 (Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria – LFRN) and international standards pertaining to best practices, these deficiencies ought to have been rectified before the issuance of any type of EIA approval.
“It would be the RRDC understanding that if the proponents of the project are unable to comply with the conditions, then it shall be the duty of the Federal Ministry of Environment to state categorically the status of the approval at the expiration of two weeks. We however thank the Federal Ministry of Environment for their consideration of this matter and hope that the government of Cross River State will enforce necessary measures to effect compliance with the stipulated period of two weeks.”
In a related development, the RRDC has written to Governor Ben Ayade, demanding evidence of how the project will be funded.
The letter reads in part:
RE: APPLICATION FOR CERTIFIED TRUE COPIES OF DOCUMENTS/INSTRUMENTS IN RESPECT OF THE SOURCE OF FUNDING FOR THE SUPERHIGWAY PROJECT
Pursuant to the relevant provisions of the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN), we write to apply for certified through copies of all the documents and/or instruments pertaining to the source of funding for the superhighway project of Cross River State of Nigeria.
We understand that:
- The project will be constructed through a distance of 260 Km from the water line at Bakassi Local Government Area (LGA), through the pristine Tropical Rainforest ecosystem to the extreme Northern boundary of Cross River State at Bekwara LGA, leading to Katsina-Ala in Benue State.
- The highway will to be fitted with digital internet connectivity, speed cameras and toilet facilities; and
- The cost of the project is estimated at over N800 billion.
We have however observed that, the true nature and source of funding and/or loan for this huge project has not yet been disclosed to the Federal Government of Nigeria, the Cross River State House of Assembly, as well as the entire people of Cross River State of Nigeria on whom the burden of repayment shall rest upon squarely. If the source is a loan, grant, donation or by the budget of the state, the law requires that the source must be disclosed to the Cross River State House Assembly for strict scrutiny. But so far there is no evidence that such disclosures have been made. Now therefore,
- Having studied the 1st, 2nd, 3rd & 4th EIA versions of the superhighway project submitted to the Federal Ministry of Environment for scrutiny;
- Having read the publication of the Federal Ministry of Environment granting provisional approval to the Cross River State Government for the superhighway EIA; and,
- Having specifically studied the 20 Conditions of the Federal Ministry of Environment imposed as a precondition for the commencement of the construction of the superhighway;
Now therefore, in line with the doctrine of Transparency and Accountability, we the Rainforest Resource and Development Centre (RRDC), an NGO on Environment, Development and Information Delivery, a Company Limited by Guarantee and registered under PART C of the Corporate Affairs Commission, also acting in the capacity of the environmental consultants representing the Okuni community by the POWER OF ATTORNEY of the indigenous people of Okuni community, do hereby, in our dual capacity described above, apply for the urgent release of the information requested above in compliance with the subsisting laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
We would like to draw His Excellency’s attention to the fact that our request is anchored under the dispensation granted us by the
- Freedom of Information Act, 2011,
- Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act 2004,
- ICPC Act, and
- OTHER extant Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as well as
- Related International treaties and conventions which Nigeria is a signatory.
We thank Your Excellency for your kind cooperation.