HBS Releases Fact Sheet On Cross River Super Highway Controversy | Independent Newspapers Limited
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HBS Releases Fact Sheet On Cross River Super Highway Controversy

Posted: Mar 29, 2016 at 3:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Nkasiobi Oluikpe, Lagos

As controversies over the Cross River Super Highway construction rages, Heinrich Böll Stiftung Nigeria (HBS Nigeria), a German based international NGO, with more than 25 regional and country offices, has released a fact sheet that highlights facts about the environmental and economic value of the protected forest reserve as well as the socio-ecological impact of such a project in Cross River State.

The fact sheet analyses the value of the Forest reserves, the controversy behind the highway construction and issues of due process with respect to the Nigerian constitution.

The objective of this fact sheet is to feed; into the public debate, unbiased facts around the issues of the super highway project, thereby enriching the quality of the public debate amongst stakeholders.

Some issues raised in the fact sheet include that:

Cross River State is host to the largest remaining rainforests of Nigeria; The Cross River National Park has two distinct, non-contiguous divisions: Oban and Okwangwo, with a total area of about 4,000 square km. Protected forests also exist outside the boundaries of the National Park. In total, Cross River State hosts at least 5,524 sq km of protected rainforests; One of the highest bio-diversity forests in the world, Cross River State is home to highly threatened species including Cross River gorilla, Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee, drill monkeys and many others, and hosts about 1,568 plant species, of which 77 are endangered including medicinal plants and orchids. Two new species of orchids were found to be unique to Cross River forests: Tridactyl sp nov. and Hebenaria sp nov.

Others include: That the Rainforests provide livelihood for over 600,000 indigenous people living in and around Akpabuyo, Bakassi, Akampka, Yakurr, Obubra, Etung, Ikom, Boki and Bekwara LGAs; The published state map shows the route abutting the Western boundary of the Cross River National Park, Oban Division. The map also shows the route cutting across the Afi River Forest Reserve and Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary, home to the critically endangered Cross River gorilla.

That all along the 260km route, government has revoked the rights of occupancy within a 20-kilometre-belt, which cuts through protected forest areas within and outside the National Park, including Cross River South, Oban Group,  Ukpon River and Afi River Forest Reserves; Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary; plus the Mangrove Reserve. Where government has revoked land titles, it has the right to fell trees, clear farms and displace communities.

In defence of his action, the Cross River State governor, Prof Benedict Ayade noted that Cross River has over one million hectares of pristine forest which has been conserved and remained unexploited over time.

He said: “That is not the way we are going to move forward, we are going to move from forest conservation to forest management which means we are going to need two to three thousand young men who will be responsible for regeneration of forest. As we are deforesting for development by processing it into ply wood and vinyl for export we are also correspondingly investing hugely for regeneration.

“In fact, the state has much less than 1,000,000 hectares of forest – perhaps only 600,000 are standing. According to environmentalists and scientists, the existing highways, if refurbished, could fulfill development needs without loss of any forests, and at a much lower cost. Other Nigerian states such as Lagos and Rivers State have refurbished and expanded federal roads and have made claims to the Federal Government which were honoured.”