By Jonathan Ugbal
The Government of Cross River State has fired another salvo over the delay in the approval of the Environmental Impact Assessment for its proposed 260 kilometers superhighway, threatening the revocation of the land allocated to the National Park in the state.
The Superhighway is part of the signature projects of Cross River Governor, Senator Ben Ayade and is to serve as an evacuation corridor for the Bakassi deep seaport with the Federal Government thrice in public fora, alleging that the EIA did not meet basic international requirements while the state accused relevant authorities of “politicking” with its future.
“National Park was a donation of the Cross River government and I am the governor. I have the right to revoke it. It is the property of the government and I own the land in store for the people of Cross River State. So, you cannot have super-abundant effect and control over the National Park,” Ayade told the Managing Director of the Nigeria Export Processing Zone Authority (NEPZA), Emmanuel Jime last week in Calabar.
He continued; “After all, Yankari Reserves was donated by Bauchi State government, they revoked it and became a state property. I can do that but I allowed it, I played the fool and I have also given way.
“Why is the approval not coming? Why can’t a state do a six-lane 275km super highway we are asking approval for? And for two years, we can’t get an approval to do a road for our people in our own state? We are not asking you for money and you are sitting on it?
“Tell me, maybe I should go and do rural education, rural roads in the name of a governor, in the name of the election maybe that is when I am governor. I have a deep vision and the concept that I have an idea and I thought I will make a difference and completely (take us) to a different level and take Cross River from dependence on allocation.”
Ayade who disclosed that federal allocation was almost zero due to deductions at source that had left the state in a limbo with a wage bill of NGN5.1billion, said the state is been viewed as investment unfriendly due to “forces” beyond his control and slammed the activities of oil and gas operators while promising to consider dredging the 87 kilometers Calabar channel.
“Our oil wells are taken away in that circumstance, we are not oil producing state” and all pressure from federal agencies and others in terms of picking security bills and others have been on the state, yet the state is being questioned on why it is collecting wharf landing dues.
“Our wage bill is about NGN5.1 billion when you take the local councils and the civil service put together, but we have a federal allocation of about NGN2 billion plus and the debt that they take at source is about NGN2 billion, so this state gets either zero allocation or minus or near nothing with an internal generated revenue (IGR) which is less than NGN500 million,” Ayade said.
On the non payment of tax by players in the oil industry, he said: “When I went after some of the tank farm owners, I kept getting calls from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) asking me to slow down, it will cause oil scarcity and a man brings in petroleum products through our waterways which you are asking me to dredge for them.
“They land, discharge, pollute our water ways, kill the fishes, reduce the fishing capacity of my people, sell their petroleum products, make their margins and depart and the state gets nothing.
“The tankers destroy our local roads and we sit back and watch for Federal Government to intervene and I say, how can a state run? We don’t get IGR, we don’t get allocations, and we don’t get our oil wells back even when we decided that let do the deep seaport of our own, approval is impossible.”
Earlier Jime had informed Ayade of plans by the federal government to make Calabar an economic hub reports The Guardian.
He said Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari has chosen Calabar to be a pilot industrial city which will make it one of the cities to benefit from such as the enterprises within the Calabar Free Trade Zone have investments worth over $450 Million and that, at least, 11,000 direct employment has been guaranteed.
“NEPZA was having tremendous interferences by the state government agencies in its activities, especially from the duties collected in respect of Wharf landing fees and other levies,” Jime said and argued that these was at variance with their Act No. 63 of 1992.
He noted that the 98 hectares of land donated by the administration of Mr Donald Duke which was revoked by his successor, Liyel Imoke has hindered the growth and development of the Zone.
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