It is highly regrettable and unfortunate that successive administrations since the return of democracy in Nigeria, both at national and state levels failed to construct quality road network that would have connected Calabar, Cross River State Capital with other parts of the state as well as other states.
Cross River, a state which pride itself as the nation’s Paradise and hosted the first capital of Nigeria, surprisingly many years after independence, still has no good road network to the state. In fact, the state which is popularly known with the phrase “one way in and one way out” has the worst major road network in the South-South geopolitical zone.
To travel from one end of the state to another is like traveling from one region to another. It will take a good driver who is familiar with the terrain of the state about eight hours to drive from the northern part of the state to the Capital city. From central, it takes approximately four hours before getting to Calabar.
In fact, if somebody is traveling from Ogoja which is located at the northern part of the state to Abuja, the nation’s capital and another from the same destination to Calabar, the person crossing over six states before getting to Abuja will arrive, relax for some hours before the person coming to Calabar would arrive.
This is not because Cross River is the biggest state in Nigeria but simply because to say the least, there is no road.
A good road network has enormous economic benefit to the state. As the only non-oil producing state in the region, the state depends majorly on resources and products from the north and central senatorial district for economic activities in the Capital.
The yams, the garri, Cocoa, palm oil, rice amongst others are all produced from outside the southern senatorial district of the state that houses the capital. Even other things like livestock, onions, fruits, etc that come from the northern part of the country still pass the north/central routes before getting to the capital.
So when people complain about how expensive it is to live in Calabar, it could simply mean that they do not understand the risk involved in transporting goods from other parts of the country and the state to the capital.
An accessible road would mean that, traveling from one end of the state to another will require roughly just three to four hours. But unfortunately, this has not been the case.
It cannot be stressed enough the important role a good road play in improving a state’s economy as well as the living standard of the people.
It was because of these challenges and many more that the decision of the current administration led by Prof. Ben Ayade to construct a dual carriage superhighway cutting across the three senatorial districts was greeted with excitement.
The governor’s decision may not have been unconnected to the fact that he understood some of these challenges as well as the economic importance of having accessible roads.
When Ayade announced this as one his signature projects during his inaugural speech, Cross Riverians breathed a sigh of relief. Many had thought that, finally, the state has been blessed with a man committed to combat the challenges of the state for good especially when it concerns accessible roads.
The governor explained that, as he is constructing the deep seaport at the southern part of the state, it was reasonable enough to develop quality road network which would serve as an evacuation corridor for the seaport.
However, as has become the usual case with this administration, the once acclaimed superhighway is gradually becoming a project with unending controversies. Simply put, a superhighway of super controversies.
While Cross Riverians have cried that they need a super highway, they never bargained for a super highway shrouded in fraud, deceit and lies.
Before President Muhammadu Buhari finally visited the state for the ground breaking ceremony of the project, it was rumoured that the President postponed the first visit as a result of the state noncompliance to conducting a thorough Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the project.
After the postponement, the state government went on rampage on the media to announce that the EIA has been completed but regrettably, as events unfolded, it was revealed that the story was one of the many lies associated with the Ayade’s administration.
The story of purported petition to Federal Government by 13 international Non-Governmental Organizations on the EIA of the project is a bad omen for the Ayade’s administration. It has completely denigrated the integrity of the government as well as the credibility of the project.
Now, to justify the action, the government has dragged highly respected Cross Riverians from all sectors ranging from traditional rulers, past leaders, heads of faith based organizations etc etc to discredit the petition by the NGOs.
While I share in the passion, patriotism and sentiment expressed by these people, I fear for their reputation if the petition later come out to be against the government. I will urge them to play from the gallery to avoid anybody building on their integrity to make illegality looks legal.
What is worth doing is worth doing well. The road will be built primarily for Cross Riverians therefore, a proper EIA should be carried out, compensation should be paid and biddings for the project should be open to the public.
Those who submit tender should undergo a transparent screening and the successful company or companies should be awarded the contract so that Cross Riverians can follow the development as well as know where to channel their questions to for clarification.
As a digital governor, Ayade should appreciate the fact that everything has gone digital to the point that even the so called vulnerable average people in our society want to hold government responsible on what they do with public funds.
Although, a large chunk of Cross Riverians believe the project is a wild goose chase considering the lean financial position of the state, I believe strongly that impossibility only exist where there is no room for justice, fair play and equity. Where there is right attitude devoid of fraud and looting, there’s always no limit to what can be achieved.
We need roads but our people whose farmlands, crops and plantations are destroyed should not die for us to have the project accomplished.
Proper compensations like stated before should be paid because it is only when the right thing is done that everybody can synergize with government to actualize this lofty dream.
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