Government House Press|30 March 2017
Practice Manager for Environment at the World Bank Office, Washington DC, Dr. Benoit Bosquest, has commended the decision of the Cross River State governor, Senator Ben Ayade to reroute the prosposed 260km Bakassi-Katsina-Ala superhighway.
Bosquest who particularly praised Governor Ayade for initiating the multi billion dollar project said his response to concerns raised by stakeholders was an absolute demonstration of maturity and responsiveness on the part of the governor.
The World Bank Practice Manager disclosed this in Calabar when he led a delegation of the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Programme, (NEWMAP) and that of Reducing Emission on Deforestation and Forest Degradation, (REDD+) on a courtesy visit to Government House, recently.
According to the World Bank Chief, the state took the path of honour by obeying the calls of international community to listen to the agitation of the people saying: “I believe it is no mystery to say that international community very much welcomes your decision to reroute the superhighway around the National park.”
On the NEWMAP project, the World Bank rep expressed satisfaction at the level of work done so far in the state, adding that “from the social and economic point of view, as well as environmental standpoint, NEWMAP is very important and we are thrilled that Cross River State is making so much progress in implementing the programme.”
Continuing, he said, “As one of the pioneering states, Cross River is one of the leading implementing states in the country. I have the pleasure of meeting with a very dedicated team, particularly the NEWMAP project management unit, there have done wonderful jobs.”
While lamenting the inadequate funding of projects by the organisation, Bosquet said: “We hope to have enough funding to allocate to NEWMAP so that the programme can be expanded. Within the union, this is a programme that is highly popular and this a good sign that it is doing quality work on the ground.”
On Reducing Emission, Deforestation and Forest Degradation programme, ( REDD+ ) which Cross River is the pioneering state in Nigeria, he explained that “as your partner, technical and financial, we want to ensure that the activities are being implemented to your satisfaction and the satisfaction of the people of Cross River State.”
According to him, “With respect to REDD+, Nigeria, as you know does not have a great deal of primary forest still standing but Cross River State is one of the locations where the forest still exists.
“Nigeria is a country that is in the process of ratifying the so called Paris Agreement on climate change that was signed by President Muhammadu Buhari and once this is ratified by the National Assembly, it becomes an international commitment for Nigeria.”
Continuing, he said: "Among the measures that Nigeria has pledged to take, is to play its part by contributing to climate change mitigation through the protection of the forest. It is very important that the forest in Cross River State is properly managed and protected as a contribution to this global effort to mitigate climate change which is today the greatest challenge we face as humans."
According to Bosquest, "We very much look forward to continuing to support you in your effort to protect the forest.”
Responding, Cross River State Governor, Professor Ben Ayade who described the team’s visit as timely, stated that the two programmes go beyond environmental issues, and that they deal directly on the livelihood and the very existence of the continent.
He explained: “As communities continuously cut down the trees for a means of livelihood, they expose the soil to direct harshness of the sun which dries up the micro nutrients in the soil and slows or totally stops the growth of the plants. This makes the family to move away to find other means of livelihood which sometimes are criminal."
Accordingly, Ayade sued for speedy implementation of the REDD+ programme in the state.
Specifically, the governor said: “REDD+ is now at the implementation stage. That is why the host communities are saying look, you have told us not to touch our trees, not to touch the forest but REDD+ philosophy is allowing you to utilize your forest without compromising its capacity to protect
"Here we are because of the absolute ban, our forest bearing communities no longer have access to the forest and no livelihood, so, they waited on REDD+"
The governor therefore appealed: "So, I plead with you to see how you can fast track REDD+ towards the implementation phase so that the people can take advantage of and can equally say really that World Bank cares. And that it not just about preserving the forest, but we can also give them a livelihood for preserving the forest.”
Governor Ayade noted that at the implementation phase, the communities will then have a project, a contract, a salary by planting, maintaining and nursing trees. That is very critical because you must link your REDD+ with livelihood.”
He stressed that “As a state, we are the leading examples , we are committed, we are dedicated and ready to ensure the protection of our God-given forest and I can assure you that the people of Cross River know that if we tamper with our forest, Nigeria as a whole will suffer because Cross River state holds in high esteem 60 percent of the entire natural forest cover."
On the NEWMAP project, Ayade pointed out that “The state was faced with enormous erosion challenge that has claimed several lives which prompted the state to declare a state of emergency on erosion. He thanked the team for its interventional role which according to him has restored hope and confidence in governance.”
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