Ayade’s Super Highway: The Fuss About Environmental Impact Assessment

Ayade's Super-Highway 

By Augustine Ogar

CALABAR- “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” Hosea 4:6I am not a priest, neither a pastor nor an evangelist. Not even a prayer band warrior. But I know God and love speaking truth. I am simply a practicing Christian.

When I was growing up as a young child in primary school at a time I could read and write, I did not know my calling. But looking back now, I think journalism was in my blood stream because each time I go to the low to ease myself I used to forget that I am squatting in an unfriendly environment. I would read all the pieces of news or information written on the piece of paper I intended cleaning up myself afterwards. It is now as an adult that I can decipher that I was on the road to being an informer, an educator or in the field of enlightenment.
Yes! In my secondary school days, I fell in love with literature. The way, “words” are played with can convey a whole lot of massage. “Words” can speak to someone and give life. “Words” can cause people to go to war. They can equally cause pains and sorrow. What can words not do is a matter of how you implore or exploit them to achieve your aim. No wonder, the Bible says the tongue is a powerful weapon which can build or destroy anybody.
To go back to the subject matter of my write up, is what I must do as not to divert. I have listened to people talking about the Super Highway in different shades of opinion but the one I find disgusting or outright misinformation is the fuss about the environmental impact assessment, simply, referred to as E.I.A.
Obviously, it is global best practice to carry out an E.I.A on such a big project-Super Highway. To the best of my knowledge as an environmentalist an E.I.A is meant to enhance development and not to stop it. It is meant to point out areas or rather possible environmental threats which the project could pose to ecosystem where the project is sited so as to enable the developer plan strategies for mitigation. Such an assessment exposes the environmental, socio-economic and even political consequences of such a project – an indicator – of what to expect when such a project is executed. Indeed, it calls for a delicate balance between development and ecology preservation.
To the best of my knowledge, the Cross River State Government has done the needful to procure an E.I.A for this project. All the processes have been followed religiously, consultants have been working hard on the processes; state holders have been engaged and the final report is being awaited.
In our own situation, where we are “underdeveloped” on the global economic index it baffles me that some people are fighting against developing the Super Highway in this 21st century in the guise of E.I.A. It is absurd or rather confusing. More so, those who are championing this fight twist the facts to suite their selfish aim. Oh, yes! I can hear the echoes of 2019, being rehearsed: “He promised and failed to deliver”, “We told you it was a russ or scam”, or “Our party is the change agent personified”. My brother, politics is in the air!
My experience in life shows that those who forbid a good thing to happen in their environment simply because they are not the originator will certainly miss in the celebration when the goodies manifest.
What is baffling me is that my Governor, His Excellency, Sen. Prof. Ben Ayade is not building a Super Highway across his village in Kakum – Obudu. It is a road that will transverse Cross River from Bakassi to Bekwarra, about 260km in length and six lanes in width to provide a corridor for evacuation of goods and services to other parts of the nation and even beyond national borders. Such a road has a multiplier effects in businesses, employment, national integration, revenue generation etc. if you have ever had an encounter with my Governor, you will need no clairvoyance to tell you who he is. That he is always on the side of the people. That he is an ecclesia giver not just an extra-ordinary philanthropist. And that his soul exudes passion. Always eager to do good. Recently, in a press parley in his office he told a cross section of journalists who were there for the meeting, “I am desperate to make a difference”.
My boss is a professor of Environmental Science. And the question is, will he want to destroy the Ecosystem? Does he not know what an E.I.A is all about? In my native land, there is a saying that we should not throw away the baby with the bath water. In other words, we should not kill the Super Highway development on the altar of ego, selfishness and politics nor matter our grouse. Even, if we don’t like the face of the Governor.
Yet, some people want us to believe that our wives will not be pregnant again if a Super Highway is built across our land. That many rural dwellers where the project is sited will go blind because there will be exposed to sunshine. Hmmm! Hmmm!
Certainly, these pessimists are out to cause mischief. If not, I cannot understand or underscore what they intend to achieve by such colossal misinformation.
If the white man or western world which sets global standards in everything and we are just copycats could still develop nuclear power even when the byproduct is toxic and deadly. The European Nations even ship this deadly substance to us in exchange for peanuts or aid. Remember koko toxic waste saga in 1986? What is that compare with a surface dressing on land to accommodate a passage way or road? If the advanced nation such as America, Russia or China could still engaged in “space exploration” without forecasting the consequences it may bring to mankind what is that to be compared with a road to give access to our people to better our economy or some trees cut down to create a passage way?
My advice is that when a subject or an issue we are not conversant with surfaces, it is not enough that we attended a school or even a higher institution and obtained a degree, we should “schooled” ourselves by carrying out an in-depth study on that issue or subject to gain more knowledge. That way, the fuss about Ayade’s Super Highway could have been avoided. As our lives “for don better” if we know that environmental impact assessment is an academic exercise pure and simple.

Augustine Ogar is a Special Assistant to the Governor on Publicity (Print)