Earlier this year, environmentalists stood up to vehemently challenge Prof. Ben Ayade’s decision to construct a proposed ‘Cross River Superhighway’.
It did not matter that the idea seemed beautiful on the surface – a 260 kilometers long highway with anti-slip features, speed cameras and to crown it, high-speed internet connectivity while connecting other distant parts of the country in a short time.
Debates here and there followed, the conflict was not on the basis of the proposed huge sum of $3.5 billion dollars to be spent for the construction; it was not the dispute over who should get the contract, foreign expatriate or indigenous companies?
Neither was it the fear over how long the project will span entwined with the willingness (or not) of subsequent administration(s) to complete such pioneering project.
The imminent degradation of Nigeria’s rich biodiversity, the destruction of her ancestral heritages, the possible extinction of wildlife like the Cross River gorillas and further threats to the diminishing population of chimpanzee, pangolin, and forest elephant were the issues that attracted international uproar over the construction of the superhighway.
Records have it that the world’s largest decline of any subspecies of great ape recorded is the Cross River gorillas. Between 1995 and 2010 – 5 years, there was a 59 percent decline rate in their population.
The Cross River superhighway could have in few months raised that percentage by another 41 per cent, thereby, causing this endemic species of Gorilla (with less than 300 left in the wild) to be entirely wiped off.
The decision to reroute the highway is a big win considering that Nigeria is viewed as a ‘democratic’ country where people in power – federal and state take decisions with or without (mostly without) long-term consideration of the resultant effect of such actions or policies.
The selfless act of passionate environment conscious individuals, organizations and closely related agencies across the world that stood up and spoke loud enough concerning this issue is highly commendable.
Lastly, we sincerely thank you – President Buhari, Minister Jubril, and Governor Ayade for this.
The decision to reroute the highway and to suspend plans for the superhighway’s 20km-wide buffer through some parts of the Cross River National park is a win for our irreplaceable wildlife, a win for posterity, a win for Nigeria’s biodiversity and a win for the world at large.
Now that we know that the superhighway’s new route will ensure that Nigeria’s biodiversity is prioritized and that our fauna and flora entities will thrive undisturbed, we are super excited about the project and anticipate its realization.
‘Seyifunmi, an Environmentalist, a youth advocate and a Wildlife Researcher, writes from Abuja. His Email, firstname.lastname@example.org