By CrossRiverWatch Admin
This is not an AMEN piece. It is a guide for Cross Riverians, and by that I mean residents and indigenes of the State at home and away who wonder if their land has been confiscated under the auspices of a super highway for which the Cross River State Government has revoked, on January 22nd 2016, one quarter of all the land in the state.
Yes you read me right. One quarter. For a 12 lane “super highway” that ends in a rickety 2 lane road in Benue State. Width revoked 400m plus 10km on either side equals 20.4km. And this spans 260km so yes it IS a quarter of the land in Cross River State.
In 2015 Cross River State Governor Professor Senator Ben Ayade announced that he would focus on ambitious out of the box projects. A multi-lane super highway starting at a yet to be built deep sea port with internet access would be built at no cost to the state and end up in Benue State. People naturally rejoiced.
After bulldozers cleared (before their January 22 notice!) the highway was halted by the Federal Ministry of Environment to secure an EIA (environmental impact assessment).
1. A revocation notice is not “just a notice” as I have heard government aides explain. You will not lose your land, you have lost it. Read the notice.
2. Very few people along the path from Bakassi, Akpabuyo, Akampka, Bekwarra, Boki, Ikom, and other LGs know the ownership of their lands have been revoked. Very few know that aside from the 400km sized for the road, 10km ON EITHER SIDE has been seized. This “buffer zone” touches LGs like Calabar South, Etung and communities like Ajidinkpo, Bokomo, Okuni, Etara, Ekuri-Eyeyen. In Akpabuyo and Bakkassi it is possible Ikot obo, Idundun, Esighi, Idebe could be obliterated.
3. This highway starts at something optimistically called a “deep sea port”. Cross River State has zero contact with any sea, let alone the deep sea. The ceding of Bakassi to Cameroon robbed us of our littoral status and that is the singular reason Akwa Ibom snatched our oil wells. It would be interesting to hear how this works. Determine the feasibility of the “deep sea” port first.
4. Usually when a high way is being built community members enjoy business opportunities. Indigenes build restaurants, guest houses, shops. Local market days move as close to the road as is safe and legal. This time no such luck. You can’t get within 10km of the road.
5. People are ambivalent about the environment. But I’ll still drop these numbers. Nigeria has 4% of primary forest left. 70% of that is in Cross River. Much of that falls within the path of this road and its 20km “buffer zone”. Cross River villages do get buried by mudslides. That’s what rushed logging does. Make of it what you will.
Am I against development? Of course not. However the unprecedented quantity of land, the inexplicable path of this road from a deep sea port without a sea and the inability of Government to compensate even people whose crops were destroyed in the initial construction is deeply worrisome.
As Odigha Odigha said, Cross River State is 70% agrarian, and 90% of our bloody communal clashes are land related. Where do these people go?
What can you do?
Typing AMEN will not return your ancestral land title. So here are some tips.
1. Download a copy of the revocation and map notice to confirm if you are affected. Show a surveyor
2. Ask your elected officials what they are doing about this situation. They ALL know what’s going on. Force them to take a stand for their constituents.
a. Local Government Chair, Councillor
b. State House of Assembly members (communities tried to meet them in the house to no avail.)
c. National Assembly legislators – Senators and Rep members
3. Visit or write to the MDA for Lands.
4. Discuss this in your holiday meeting at home. Help your community members whose farms and property have been bulldozed without compensation speak to officials. They feel frustrated and abandoned.
One road evacuating a yet to be built deep sea port does nothing for 70% of our agrarian communities who watch crops rot for lack of feeder roads. Will the crops be airlifted to the highway? Does the highway go anywhere else than rickety 2 lane road in Benue? Our Government should do massive construction of feeder roads to rural areas where crops rot for lack of good roads. Or where sick people die bumpy bike ride on a track enroute to the nearest health facility. Fix what you have and build to serve the unserved.
ENGAGE YOUR ELECTED AND PUBLIC OFFICIALS THIS SEASON. FIND OUT IF YOU ARE HOMELESS.
Next year tell me how it went. I wish you the best. I will post pictures of my meeting with whichever Cross River elected officer I can see on my social media handles. Let us help ourselves. AMEN!
Listen to those affected speak here and here and here and here
Pamela Braide is a public affairs analyst and writes from Calabar.