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Controversy Trails Construction of Calabar to Benue Highway

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Published in Critique
Sunday, 27 September 2015 00:00

Cross River is one of the states in Nigeria where federal roads are in very bad state, so that motorists and other road users travail before arriving at their destinations. Travelers have had to sleep on both roads while many must see their doctors once they are able to make it through.

Such terrible roads include federal link roads to South-South and South-eastern parts, the Odukpani/Uyo federal highway. The other is the link between northern states, i.e. Ikom/Ogoja/Benue road.

There have been countless efforts to get these roads fixed to no avail. Key lawmakers representing these federal districts have often returned to tell unpalatable stories which have rather aggravated the people's anger.

The Federal Road Safety Corps FRSC has had to work doubly hard to evacuate casualties on both roads. FERMA officials in Calabar have said that since December 2013 they have not received funds and materials to enable them fix roads in the state.

But Governor Ben Ayade is determined to change all that with readiness to construct a brand new 240km superhighway from the southern to the northern part of the state.

Ayade has vowed to squeeze water out of the many rocks that inundate the state in order to ensure he stands out with this road.

On his inauguration three months ago, he listed two key projects which he prays God will help him to accomplish in his first term. This superhighway is one. Brand new Deep seaport is another.

He said he is ready to infuse all his energies to ensure their completion but are presently eliciting both criticisms and sincere praises beyond the state.

Ayade has said the two are his signature projects, and President Muhammadu Buhari has given him backing. Ayade said the president has also indicated strongly to flag them off come September 21.

The 240km superhighway will stretch from end of Calabar to Bekwarra local government council near Benue State. The deep seaport which construction is about to begin is at Ikang near Bakassi.

Few persons have began to think that the superhighway to be constructed by a frontline German engineering firm can hardly be achievable given the mounting debts and very little federal allocation coming to the state.

But Ayade who appears to have a lion-heart has assured that little or no funds belonging to the state would be used to complete the two projects, which President Buhari has instructed that they be completed in two years.

The governor had inspected a section of the superhighway at Oban near Calabar with the team of experts. The superhighway will otherwise be an evacuation road from the proposed deep seaport expected to be at the Ikang end of the Bakassi sea, and is to terminate at the boundaries between the state and Benue State

To concretise the proposed road project, a Germany firm, Broad Spectrum Industrial Services Ltd, has released €500 (Five Hundred million Euros) being eighty per cent funding for the road construction. Ayade confirmed that "Already the markings of the super highway have been done, the clearing has been done, earth work has commenced."

But environmentalists and forestry experts have challenged Ayade over impending destruction of large part of their vast forests.

Sir Effiom Ekpenyong, a friend of the environment, said the government should be ready to compensate for such massive destruction of forest and properties along the marked roads.or the deep seaport, he disclosed that design work and other equipment required for the construction have since been ready, and that technical experts were also on hand.

According to Ayade's Chief Press Secretary, Mr Christian Ita, who spoke for the governor, the seaport which is conceived to serve the entire land-lock north-eastern and south-eastern flanks of the country would be self-funding, thereby revving up the state income.

He estimated that the port shall be raking in not less than thirty million dollars per year from patronage at the port going by the Memorandum of Understanding they are to sign with Chad and Niger, which are also land-locked.

Chief Executive Officer of the German firm, Michael Havre, assured that they would work to specification and duration, assuring that their partnership with Cross River State would be beneficial.

Ita stated that another Chinese firm has since arrived as principal partners for the seaport construction. They are from "Juanguin" in China, and are described as the best in the development of the deep sea port."

Further in his first three months as governor, 5000 houses are also to be built by Ayade's government throughout the18 local government councils of the state to further ease the burden of the low income earners.

To this end, Daily Trust learnt that an Irish company called Affordable Homes Concepts Ltd has signed Memorandum of understanding with the state government to build the houses.

In a recent twist, however, the Nigerian government has been inundated with complaints from relevant stakeholders and some international organisations including the British Government through their High Commission in Nigeria over the proposed super highway connecting Calabar and Obudu traversing the Cross River National Park.

Uncomfortable with the proposed super highway project being undertaken by the Cross River State Government, a number of international bodies including the Britain have raised the alarm over the project, saying it constitutes threat to livelihood.

A German firm, which plans to invest over 500m Euro on the project many have suspended work.

It was also learnt that the Germany firm, Broad Spectrum Industrial Services and the China Harbour Engineering Company firms may have put on hold all plans for the proposed 260 km super highway and the deep sea port in the state.

This is coming to fore just as unconfirmed sources says President Mohammadu Buhari, who was billed for the ground breaking of the project has suspended the occasion based on environmental issues raised by international organisations and the Federal Ministry of Environment.

Both the German and Chinese firms, and others involved in the project and seaport may have stopped work pending the resolution of all issues raised by the international organisations.

But, reacting to the letter from the Federal Ministry of Environment, the Chief Press Secretary to the State Governor, Mr. Christian Ita, in a press statement said that "the proposed road would not traverse the Cross River National Park, as the superhighway is several kilometres far removed from the National Park. Based on the input of the Cross River National Park, the road has since been rerouted with the alignment now several kilometers away from the Park".

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Online Editor at Interarchtiv Media Company

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