By Archibong Jeremiah
The Cross River State Government, Federal Ministry of Environment, National Park Service and the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report consultants have been dragged to court for allegedly doctoring the Environmental Impact Assessment Report of the proposed super highway.
The Claimants in the suit No: HC/383/2016, Rainforest Resource and Development Center (RRDC), an NGO on Environment said “the draft report of the EIA report of the superhighway project is deficient, non-compliant, flawed, deliberately doctored and unfit document”.
In a press release signed by Odey Oyama, Executive Director of Rainforest Resource and Development Center and made available to our CrossRiverWatch, the claimant said the rationale behind going to court is to clarify certain issues which the organization itemized as follows:
THE SUPERHIGHWAY PROJECT AND THE CROSS RIVER NATIONAL PARK: Right from the inception of the superhighway project, RRDC has observed that the pathway of the project has intercepted with the gazzetted boundaries of the Oban Division of the Cross River National Park, a Federal Government project, approved and gazetted in 1989. Our remote sensing images have confirmed that the pathway of the superhighway project actually intercepts with the boundary of the Oban Division of the Cross River National Park project in not less than 9 points. The above fact cannot be said to be unknown to the Cross River State government (CRSG) because as far back as November 2015, RRDC had already taken the caution to notify His Excellency, the Governor of Cross River State (through His Excellency’s private email address) about the observations of RRDC and the pending issues pertaining to the superhighway. RRDC therefore finds it very curious that CRSG proceeded to formulate an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report on the project without carrying out any valid scientific investigation in respect of the encroachment of the project on the Cross River National Park and the surrounding critical ecosystems.
SUPERHIGHWAY AND INDIGENOUS PEOPLE: The acquisition Notice published in the Weekend Chronicle of Nigeria of 22nd January, 2016 entitled: “Notice of Revocation of Rights of Occupancy for Public Purpose Land Use Act 1978” declared that 10Km to the left and 10Km to the right of the centerline of the superhighway would be acquired by the government for overriding public interest. The computations of RRDC have shown that this amount to the acquisition of 5,200Km2 of land for the construction of a superhighway that is 260Km in length, this acquisition amounts to 20Km2 of land for every single Km of the superhighway. Further analysis of the acquisition reveals that the actual portion of the land that is necessary for the establishment of the right-of-way of the superhighway amounts to only 4% to 5% of the total land being acquired for the entire project. RRDC has since found it difficult to rationalize the acquisition of 5,200Km2 of land of a road project that requires only 4% to 5% of that land mass. RRDC found it curious that the EIA report contained absolutely no reference to the massive territory (i.e. 5,200Km2 of land) that was being acquired for the road project, concealing such vital information from the indigenous people who occupy this vast territory, as well as from the Federal Ministry of Environment that is officially mandated by Law to vet the EIA report, amounts to very unpardonable lack of transparency.
The investigation of RRDC has shown that the acquisition of this large territory will remove more than 180 indigenous communities from their ancestral lands. The interpretation of this scenario is that more than one million (1, 000, 000m) inhabitants of these communities would turn out to be internally displaced persons (IDPs) and a potential burden on the people of Cross River State of Nigeria and the Federal government of Nigeria. It is pertinent that within this same State the several thousands of people who were ejected from the Bakassi Peninsular ceded to the Republic of Cameroon, have become Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and their problems have not yet been resolved. So it became the duty of RRDC to present this matter at the EIA public forum where such matters are actually expected to be resolved.
REMEDY IN COURT: On account of the fact that the above issues have continued to be ignored by the Cross River State Government (as demonstrated by the deliberate omission of these facts from the EIA report that was submitted by the Cross River State government to the Federal Ministry of Environment for approval).
THREAT: RRDC was compelled to seek relief from the court in this matter because of the several threats that have been sent to the Executive Director of RRDC, Odey Oyama (the undersigned), on account of this campaign. It is inconsequence of this and several other reasons that RRDC has decided to drag the Government of Cross River State of Nigeria and 8 OTHER DEFFENDANTS to a court of competent jurisdiction in the Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN).
Accordingly, in view of the forgoing, the RRDC is praying the court for the following orders:
- An Order of perpetual injunction restraining the Defendants from entering the gazzetted portions and buffer zones of the Oban Division of the Cross River National Park for the purpose of constructing the superhighway project.
- An Order declaring null and void and setting aside the Notice of Revocation of Rights of Occupancy dated 13th day of January, 2016 and published in the “Weekend Chronicle” of the 22nd day of January, 2016 of all the piece or parcel of land lying, being and situate along the superhighway.
- A Further Order setting aside the draft Environmental Impact Assessment report submitted to the Federal Ministry of Environment in March 2016 for being deficient, non-compliant, flawed, deliberately doctored without actual field investigation and surveys.
However, the claimant concluded by noting that, “let it be known to all parties that RRDC, the Claimants in the suit, are not against the superhighway project or indeed any other project of the Cross River State Government”.
As at the time of filling this report, all efforts to reach Cross River State Attorney General, Barrister Joe Abang for comments were not successful. Calls to the AG were not taken and a text message sent to him also did not get a response.