My neighbour recently returned from Nigeria and told me that the Governor of Cross Rivers (Ben Ayade), who seems intent to act out the caricature of a politician (“A Man of the People“), continues to push the construction of the so-called superhighway slated to cross the Cross River National Park. The proposed 260 km highway – from Calabar to Obudu – will not only mean the clearing of 400 m of land for the road itself but also the logging of community land and forests in the 10 km corridors (compulsorily acquired) on either side of the road. Farm and forest destruction has already begun in these corridors. The Ekuri forest community has started to protest, and there is a global petition requesting a halt to the highway:
“To President Buhari of Nigeria, Cross State Governor Ben Ayade and Federal Minister for Environment, Amina Mohammed: As concerned citizens from across the globe, we want to know:- Why is a 260km highway in Cross River State being built through one of Nigeria’s last surviving rainforests? Where is the money to build the superhighway or is this to be paid for by the timber that will be cleared from the 20 km wide right of way? We demand that the Cross River State superhighway be stopped immediately until a new route can be found that will safeguard the rainforests and the future of the Ekuri people.”
These Global Forest Watch images indicate that the protected areas (shown in blue) are at present under pressure, as are the areas along side the existing road network.
So far the potential damage that could be caused by the highway has not attracted much international attention. Is there a bias towards the Amazon region and south-east Asia and against the forests and community livelihoods in Central Africa?
UPDATE: The London Financial Times [gated] reported on Cross Rivers (MAY 20, 2016), “Nigeria road plan drives fears over last rainforests”, highlighting the tensions between the federal and state governments due in large part to weak forest legislation.