By CrossRiverWatch admin
The botched visit of President Mohammadu Buhari to Cross River State may have cost the state 200 million Naira according to reliable government house sources.
President Buhari was billed to visit Calabar tomorrow, 21st of September to perform the ground breaking ceremony for the 240km superhighway from Calabar to Obudu in the northern part of the state but the visit was cancelled owing to concerns about whether or not the Environmental Impact Assessment for the projects has been done and fears that the road will constitute danger to the Cross River National Park in Oban, Boki LGA.
CrossRiverWatch gathered that arrangements were already in top gear to give the President a befitting visit to the state with the disbursement of funds to Security chiefs to put things in place and ensure a hitch free visit. The visit was coordinated by the office of the State Security Adviser, SSA Mr. Jude Ngaji.
Based on security advice to avoid using road in any journey that exceeds 25mins, CrossRiverWatch learnt that the state government got a contractor to excavate and build a concrete helipad in Nsan community, next to the spot where President Buhari was meant to perform the ground breaking ceremony.
Mr. President was expected to land at the Margaret Ekpo International Airport and after brief festivities at the airport, take-off in a Presidential chopper while the governor and his own entourage take off in another chopper to Nsan in Akamkpa LGA, since the journey by road from the Airport to the location is about an hour. A demo landing was supposed to be conducted on Friday but was also called off.
Our sources say the Chairmen of Akamkpa and Biase LGAs were specifically directed to mobilize five thousand people each to be at the venue of the ceremony and the airport while funds were also said to have been disbursed to party stalwarts across the eighteen local governments of the state to mobilize members of the party from the LGAs to Calabar to welcome the President.
Branded T-shirts had already been printed and were supposed to be distributed on Monday morning on instruction of the SSA, while adverts were already running in the state owned media, CRBC announcing the visit of Mr. President.
Other publicity materials like large outdoor banners and bill boards had also been printed and were meant to be displayed this weekend before the visit was called off. Top government sources told CrossRiverWatch that N200million was earmarked for the visit. They also regretted the cancellation of the visit and said it was a huge setback for the project.
A decision to postpone the ceremony was communicated to the governor in a letter signed by the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari.
The Presidency attributed the shift to a letter written to the President by the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Environment, Nana Fatima Mede.
According the PS, the proposed highway, if allowed to go on, would cut through the Cross River National Park.
The letter also said that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) on the proposed road was yet to be carried out.
But the governor, through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Christian Ita stated that the proposed road would not traverse the Cross River National Park, as the superhighway would be several kilometres away from the national park.
According to Ita, “Based on the input of the Cross River National Park, the road has since been re-routed with the alignment now several kilometers away from the park.
“As a governor who is passionate about the preservation of the state’s biodiversity with his establishment of the Green Police, he would not embark on a project that would undermine the environment.”
But all that will have to wait until the President changes his mind. At the moment, the cancellation of the visit is a huge blow to the state and it really hit the governor below the belt because he did not see it coming and was in very high spirit prior to the cancellation.
Most of the government functionaries contacted by our reporter were unwilling to be quoted on the cancellation. But the effect of the botched visit was very obvious the following morning in government house as the governor was not only absent from work, the general mood in the place was unusually very low with people wearing long faces and speaking in hush tones.
While some expressed optimism that the President will return to perform the ceremony when the issues raised are addressed, others accused the opposition APC of orchestrating the cancellation of the visit for political reasons.
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