Cross River State communities demand compensation over superhighway project

Ongoing clearing of the project site for the super highway. PHOTO: Heinrich Böll Stiftung Nigeria

Some communities in Cross River have decried the commencement of work by the state government on the 275 km superhighway project without meeting the 23 stipulated conditions prescribed by the Federal Government.

The areas which include; Ikot Okpo Ene, Ikot Ndarake and Ikot Abasi Effiom amongst others in Akpabuyo local government said they have lost their farmlands, economic trees without due compensation. They also alleged that their children are not going to school again as a result of so many deaths recorded on the highway.

“As a community, we are not aware of any of the 23 conditions that have been met by the government of Cross River State. Not even the condition that directs them to consult with the communities involved and pay compensation before embarking on the project”.

In a statement signed by the Village heads of Ikot Ndarake, Chief Bassey Okon, Ikot Abasi Effiom; Chief Silver Effiom Duke and Ikot Okpo Ene; Chief Emmanuel Okon, said since the ground breaking of the project in 2015 by president Muhammadu Buhari, the government mobilized machines to the communities and began clearing of farms, and economic trees which are the major income base of the people.

“This exercise was done on the 6th January, 2016 without consultation with the community Chiefs or owners of the farms. No inventory was taken by Government of the number of plants and crops destroyed, rather individuals took up the task of carrying out inventory which cost them so much money to hire Estate Valuers thus adding more burden to the community members”.

They argued, “With the clearing of the standing trees around our houses the roofs of houses have been pulled down by wind storm. There are no trees any longer in our communities to serve as windbreakers and erosion sites are beginning to emerge around the communities. The sources of livelihood of our people especially women have been destroyed, people including women and children now resort to begging for survival. There are recorded higher incidents of youth’s restiveness and crime due to idleness and lack of reasonable sources of income”.

The people communities said that they have suffered severe infringement on their right to living through the destruction of sources of their livelihood; hence, the government should be compelled to pay compensation to communities and individuals affected by the bulldozing already carried out.

The government should embark on massive regeneration of the cleared land; reconstruct houses destroyed by wind storm as a result of the cutting down of the trees that hitherto protected the houses from windstorm.

According to them, the government of Cross River State should liaise with NDDC and other relevant Federal government agencies or international partners to provide support for their agricultural ventures and introduce less expensive agricultural processing methods like the renewable energy agricultural processing equipment.

But in a reaction, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor and Senior Special Assistant Media; Mr. Christian Ita said enumeration for payment has been done.

“First all the companies that did the de-bushing carried out preliminary site evaluation and the records are available. Ministry of Lands with the statutory function also carried out evaluation. What is left is for the ministry of Lands to reconcile with the communities so as to effect compensation”, he stated.



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