Who is monkeying with the highway in Cross River? – Part 2
Continued from yesterday
The Cross River Government claims that no Environmental Impact studies have been carried out, that it has received no such order. Or that even if such an order was issued for it to stop the project, the order was defective because it has not seen any studies by the EIA. At this level of sophistry, it is clear that politics has taken over the project.
J. Perhaps a word or two is necessary about the incredible work the two U.S. citizens from Oregon are doing about saving baboon and especially the threatened Drill monkeys. These US citizens came to Nigeria to look at the last remaining enclave of the Drill monkeys high up the mountains dividing Cameroons and Nigeria in North East of Cross River.
They fell in love with these creatures which were actually living in a Forest Reserve. They volunteered towns to create sanctuaries for these monkeys in Calabar and North of the State. I believe something in the order of over 500 families have been preserved over the years. It is now time to gradually introduce them back to the wild but, even now, more money is needed to tackle these problems, follow their progress in the wild, record their survival and do more research.
Suddenly the project is starved of funds. To be fair, the State Government before Governor Ayaba had been most helpful. But since this arrival of the Governor, Drill Monkeys no longer compete with the filthy Lucre that was coming from Chinese and other promises to build a deep sea port in Calabar (a pipe dream – till now nothing has been done and nothing will be done) to build this wonderful six lane 264 kilometers road.
K. Normally such projects attest to the foresight of the Governor and the promise which opening up of the interior with such a project can generate. Normally people petition for such roads to bring development to the people. But there is something not quite kosher with this project.
L. The concept of constituency projects has already sullied the atmosphere as it is feared that members of the State Assembly or their nominees have been given bush clearing contracts. Even if this is not altogether true, why acquire 10 kilometers on either side of the road which will go through the last virgin tropical forest and thus destroy the people’s livelihood and the environment of the baboons and monkeys?
M. The Governor is a very clever man. The Deputy Governor (like most Deputies) a former Vice Chancellor, has been thoroughly sidelined. The Governor travels a great deal but has so structured his state that when he is out, his younger brother acts for him. (The inevitable match of our politicians all over Nigeria towards dynastic rulership goes on apace in Cross Rivers).
On why he has taken over 20 kilometers of land bothering on the highway, he claims that this is to protect the environment! He does not want villages to sprout, as is usual in Nigeria, all along the highway – that such movement would destroy the livelihood of the people, destroy the ecosystem and the monkeys would suffer and die!! N. This project has produced a storm of protest to the Governor, the Federal Government, and the President etc.
O. Massive land clearing, nevertheless, is moving speedily; 15 contractors with second hand bulldozers are working, farms are being cleared, the people are protesting, no compensation has been paid to the owners of the land who were given 6 weeks’ notice before their farms were bull dozed. International NGOs are protesting – have collected nearly 200000 signatures and the people are threatening to go to court.
P. Mr. President has staked his reputation on corruption – which also connotes justice, fair play etc. He should intervene in such matter, at least by offering to reconstruct and expand the existing road – which is a federal road, from Calabar to Obudu – this road at present is dilapidated and a death trap – it runs through the whole of Cross River to Obudu and from there to Benue State and beyond.
Q. Moreover he must issue a stop order to the relentless logging going on – that logging has attracted illegal logger from Rivers State and other nearby States. All these activities have attracted the most undesirable elements in Nigeria: the Navy has been attacked in Cross River by oil militants; the other day, 7 expatriates were kidnapped in the once peaceful Cross River – thus ending any hope of eco-tourism.
R. Cross River has a surfeit of important citizens which ought to take this matter up – Donald Duke, Lyel Imoke, Kam Agabi, Gen. Ukpo, Nellar Andem – Ewa, Senator Ita Giwa, Edem Duke, Ambassador Asuquo Eyo, Usani Usani, Pat Ani, Tony Ani, Prof. Henshaw, Pelebo Banigo, Iyanba Henshawa, Henry Henshaw etc.
S. In a restaurant in the Middle East I read the following quotation by James Bovard. “Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner”. My Northern friend on hearing this shouted “walahi, it is true”, the West and the East are the Lions: the North is the sheep!!
My Yoruba and Ibo friends have no difficulty in assuming the opposite; the North is the Lion and the South is the sheep. To members of South-South one thing is clear, they know who the sheep is when other Nigerians gather. But all the above is beside the point, it is about individual powerful politicians like Governor Ayaba and his friends and the plight of the people along the monkey highway.
Dr. Patrick Cole is a former Nigerian Ambassador to Brazil