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Cross River State is now a net exporter of timber in the country, following the on-goning indiscriminate and massive felling of trees along the proposed 275km super highway corridor.
This was disclosed by resource persons at a one day seminar organized for journalists in Calabar by an NGO, the Peace Point Action(PPA), headed by Umo Johnson.
At the seminar tagged 'Media Sensitization On Forest Community Concerns And Super Highway', it was revealed that massive deforestation through illegal logging was going on at the behest of government officials in the guise of constructing the super highway.
Anietie Akpan, one of the resource persons, warned that the rate at which deforestation was going on, by 2040 the forest in the state would disappear and called for concerted efforts by the media to join the campaign to stop the illegal logging and save the state's world acclaimed rain forest.
Odey Oyama, another resource person from Rainforest Resource and Development Centre (RRDC), said since 2016 when, in clear breach of the law, farmlands, economic trees and houses along the super highway corridor were bulldozed and destroyed, no compensation has been paid to the victims by the state government.
“You can't build roads at the expense of the people or resources. Government can't acquire land arbitrarily because it holds it in trust for the people. And there are consequences for arbitrary acquisition of land by government,” he said.
Already, RRDC on behalf of victims in the affected communities had dragged the government to court to seek redress and judgment is expected to be delivered soon. The victims are seeking N2 billion compensation, he said.
Another resource person, Tony Atah, said the super highway project failed the basic principle of good governance test by its formulation and implementation as the state government did not respect the rule of law and other basic demands before sending bulldozers to destroy farmlands and economic trees and cash crops.
Edem Edem of Greencode, said the super highway project was for selfish purpose and would not bring any development to the state, adding that none of the 23 conditions given to the state government by the Federal Ministry of Environment for the project to commence has been fully met.
One of the conditions is payment of compensation to communities and individuals on the super highway corridor whose houses and farmlands were destroyed.
The resource persons unanimously agreed that the super highway was a failed project and a ploy to harvest timber for sale and to enrich the individuals involved in the illegal logging activities.
Among others, participants agreed that the media should focus on reporting environmental issues to protect the forest, that non-governmental organizations should provide grants to reporters and sponsor or invite journalists on trips to communities affected by super highway, deep seaport and other projects for further investigations.
It was also agreed that for the proposed super highway and deep seaports projects to adopt international best practices to guarantee protection of the environment, the Cross River state government must enter into further dialogue with the affected communities and stakeholders and that the realignment of the Cross River National Park is illegal and should be stopped.
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