Experience of mankind in this sphere of existence, both in the past and present clearly points to the fact that the Creator, found wisdom in ensuring that there must be necessarily an opposition in all things, and that all things have their opposite.
Sweet and bitter, good and bad, just and unjust, moral and immoral, ethical and unethical etc. exist side by side, so that in testing one or both of the opposites, man can best appreciate where he ought to stand, while learning and growing from such experiences.
The presence of opposition was/is never meant to deter man from dreaming and coming out with ideas that serves to better the living conditions of himself, immediate family, society and mankind. The world has gotten to its present level of mind-boggling and super-sonic sophistication from its crude stone age of yore to the 21st century through very important seeds called, ideas.
It was idea encouraged and supported that brought about the bicycles, motorcars, airplanes, ocean liners/ships that could carry an entire community, space shuttles and other wonderful breakthroughs in medicines and other fields of human endeavours. The popular saying that ideas rule the world is unquestionably correct.
Indeed, if ideas are the eternal seeds which aid human development and progress, then such ideas when they come should be appreciated, irrespective of the law of opposition or who is behind the idea or ideas, so long as such will ultimately lead to human progress if not globally at least in a particular locality or region.
This therefore means that a good idea, programme and project should be seen, taken and appreciated on its value and not based on whether or not we love the face of the mover of such idea, vision and dream.
For instance, if this writer, Solomon Asha, is good at a particular area or endeavour or has come up with an idea worth consideration and acceptance, he should be value based on what he can offer, his competence, the value of his idea and not based on whether or not we love his face, love or hate where he hails from; he should not be denied what is due him because the idea came from him.
In the same vein, if the Governor of Cross River, Senator Ben Ayade has come up with wonderful vision of giving the state a super highway and a deep seaport which when completed will forever change the economic fortune of the state and its people for good, such vision should not be frustrated by anybody or group of persons because he or they do not like Ayade’s face.
I may not like Ayade as a person, but I should not frustrate a worthy idea for the good of all, that will amount to throwing away the bath, the water with the baby.
A petition to the Minister of Environment, Hajia Amina Mohammed, dated May 25, 2016, by 13 NGOs in America and Africa, rapaciously attacked the EIA for the super high way alleging that it was flawed, that it does not address the needs of the natives, among others.
It is globally a known fact that Environmental/Conservation oriented NGOs have made it their global calling to wage war against anything they in their opinion considered detrimental to the environment, especially in the case of construction of access roads through national parks and forests reserves.
While on the surface, the NGOs may be applauded for doing a nice job of preserving the world’s remaining ecosystem from extinction, a closer investigation will also carpet them for expecting so much from others while they themselves do very little in aiding these national/regional governments in particular to solicits for funds and logistics to equip anti-deforestation committees, Green Police and Park Rangers to effectively combat activities of illegal loggers, poachers/hunters and other harvesters of the forests resources, from destroying the forests which are natural habitat for endangered species.
It is with this intent and purpose that the leadership of Senator Ben Ayade sets up the current anti-deforestation task force with AVM Osim (Rtd) as Chairman to ensure that we depart from the embarrassing era where poachers and illegal loggers and other individuals noted for the unsustainable harvesting of our forests resources have a field day with some members of the erstwhile anti-deforestation task force involved in selling impounded timber and in aiding and abetting illegal logging activities.
It would be wish, genuine, altruistic and instructive for the 13 NGOs, the FG and any other group of persons or individual to channel their energies and resources to helping Cross River State through the provision of adequate fund for the task force to enable it to effectively and efficiently checkmate the activities of illegal loggers, poachers/hunters as well as to empower and provide an alternative means of livelihood for the natives to keep them away from the forests, rather than bickering and working to undermine the actualization of the super highway whose absence has not of course abetted the ongoing mindless ravaging of our state forests, majorly by non-Cross Riverians.
Recently, over 2600 pieces of timber was seized at Ikom from illegal loggers who are not from the state, but who daily cut down our forests illegally and in a most savage manner. The state is doing its best to combat the illegal loggers and poachers/hunters within the limit of its resources while at the same time striving to create laws to protect the forests, employing scientific means, and not emotions.
This writer strongly feel that while the 13 NGOs concerns are appreciated, they cannot however assumed that they have the interest of our forests at heart more than the legally constituted government and its people, hence what is being playing out is cheap but dangerous politics to blackmail and to continue to undermine the state interests.
The 13 International NGOs have never cried out about the injustice which the whole world meted out on the state by ceding Bakassi to Cameroon without a referendum, they never stopped the Federal Government of Nigeria from giving our 76 oil wells to Akwa Ibom. We will want these NGOs to fight for the return of Bakassi land and the 76 oil wells to Cross River.
The AVM Osim’s task force need to be adequately funded and equipped with modern communication, security/surveillance gadgets to be able to carry out intelligence surveillance, advocacy/enlightenment campaigns, to work 24 hours at the forest and to pay the security operatives as well as to train and equip the Cross River Green Police.
First, would a 260km super high way cutting across the entire length of Cross River and a deep seaport in Bakassi be of any immense commercial/economic benefit to us as a people and as a state?
My answer would be in the affirmative. Secondly, does the proposed super high way cut through the perimeter of the Cross River National Park as it is being alleged? The answer is capital NO.
Thirdly, now that there is no super high way passing near the Cross River National Park and its environs, is massive illegal logging and pillaging of our forests resources majorly by non-indigenes of Cross River ongoing? Again, the answer is a big yes. Fourthly, would a super high way that will be constantly patrolled by security agents coupled with the presence of the National Park Rangers and the Cross River Green Police, help to checkmate and even eliminate the nefarious activities of these illegal loggers, poachers/hunters? The answer is also yes.
A super highway will help the state get access to sustainably explore and exploit its solid minerals deposits to boost the state financial base and financial empowerment of the people.
Frankly speaking, outsiders and foreigners cannot pretend to love this state more than Cross Riverians themselves. In fact, it is curious and highly suspicious for a sympathizer to weep or cry more than the bereaved.
The road will create alternative opportunities and means of livelihood for the indigenous people within the super high way areas who are now made to collect peanuts from these illegal loggers, poachers/hunters to the detriment of the forest and even the people themselves. The people will also secure new jobs in the seaport just as new businesses will spring up to their advantage.
It is also the candid position of this writer, and without any prejudice that a super highway of 30 meters corridor, and more than seven kilometers away from the National park is not what will wipe out Cross River, Nigeria and Africa’s largest rain forest with all its endangered species but the mindless logging, harvesting and poaching activities and the lack of financial support from the same NGOs to fight the scourge.
To argue that a single super high way is what will lay the foundation for the liquidation of the Cross River National Park, reduce the people to absolute want, thereby the project is not only anti-forestation and anti-people, is itself a crude method of blackmail and anti-Cross River interests deviously and fantastically concocted, suited in a wicked agenda whose foundation emanates from a few individuals within the state, with global support as a shield.
How will a super high way of 30 meters corridor and more than seven kilometers from the National park become an albatross to the forests and the people of the area when access roads are not only means for rapid socio-economic development /empowerment of the people but also provide access for effective policing of the areas.
In fact, an article titled, “Tourism in Africa is an untapped goldmine lucidly states that “the future of tourism in Africa holds great potentials, but its expansion and development depends on better transport infrastructure-including airlines connections, roads and railways in addition to open borders and improved marketing to niche sectors such as adventure and ecotourism”.
Fortunately, Cross River holds great potentials in adventure and ecotourism, in addition to its rich cultural heritage, and hospitable people.
It should equally be noted that even if the super high way was to cut through the national park, which is not, it would not have been the first in the world, as there are other national parks and forests reserves in other countries with roads passing by them and some having roads cut through them (UNESCO World Heritage sites), and heavens have not fallen.
For instance, in South Africa, the Kruger National Park, the Mapungubwe National park have 160km/100miles road pass and 1700km/1056miles wild wander (Cape Town to Durban road of which 300km/186 miles passes through stretches of beaches, lagoons and indigenous forests.
In Kenya, Lake Nakuru National Park housing more than one million flamingos and other birds which the famous Ornithologist, Roger Tory Peterson, referred to as “the greatest bird spectacle on earth” has A104 tarred and busy road passing through the park.
The Ngorongoro National Park in Tanzania equally have access roads to and through the park, just as the Serengeti National Park also in Tanzania has one of the 40km roads leading to the Ikoma gate of the park from Muguma.
A paved road leads from the city of Flores, Southwest through the Tikal Guatemala National Park to the park administrative center; the Auca road through Waorani, Ecuador rain forests built in 1970s by Texaco and a road through the rainforests in northern Boreo.
The Trans-Canada Highway passes through the Banff National park. NH 212 road passes through Bandhipur forest in Kerala, India, just as the Trans-Amazonian High way, East to West across Brazil.
The Interoceanic high way connects Brazil and Peru through the Amazon Basin weaving in between the Tambapota National Reserve, the Madre de Dios Reserve, the Los Amigos conservation concession and Amarakaeri communal Reserve, just as a road runs through Ecuador Yasuni National Park built by Petro-Amazon Oil Company, among others.
The above selected information from other parts of the world are indicative of the fact that development cannot be pushed to the back burner on mere fears bordering environment.
Only remedial programme are to be designed to mitigate the impact of such development, a mitigating instrument which the EIA is to fill the gap with the baseline sample been taken from dry to wet season which is the core need of the scientific requirement for an EIA to be performed.
Indications are positively robust that rather than undermine the forest, the super high way which is more than seven kilomtres from the park will serve to provide impeded access for anti-deforestation taskforce, the National Park Rangers and the Green Police to effectively bring the activities of illegal loggers, poachers/hunters to their kneels.
Apart from the effective policing, by the 30th of this month, a major campaign for the planting of 5million trees will commence, replacing in excess all the threes that gave way to the super high way.
It is also instructive to note that the laws of the Nigerian Federation as regards environment is in the concurrent list which empowers the state to make legislation for the protection and care of its environment. Cross River state has the right over her environment, to own her own environmental laws and EIA laws on the conservation of her forests with the obligation to protect, and sustainably manage her forests.
The super high way will surely come to reality because it is the only high way to decouple Cross River from dependence on federal allocation and help to mitigate the impact of the transfer of 76 oil wells to Akwa Ibom as well as the conspiracy which led to the ceding of the oil rich Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon.
The super high way will help boost the inflow of tourists to the tourism sites in Cross River with an access road and robust security and anti-deforestation taskforce in place.
We have vast natural resources and we need access to help us harvest them for our economic benefits.
Solomon Asha is SA Media to Governor Ayade and writes from Calabar
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