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Citizen writes minister, worries over destruction of Ekuri forest for highway

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Honourable Minister,

Image: Minister for Environment, Amina Mohammed

I write to express my deep concern as regards the plan of Cross River State to construct a 260 km superhighway to go from the coastal city of Calabar to a small town called Katsina-ala in Benue State to the north. The superhighway will rip through the heart of the Ekuri rainforest, opening it up to farming, logging and hunting on a massive scale. Worse still – in a massive, unprecedented land grab, the Governor has seized a 20 km wide ancestral land of thousands of other forest-dependent villagers along the entire 260 km length of the 6-lane superhighway.

Honourable Minister, the Ekuri Rainforest is spectacular and home to a number of rare and endangered wildlife species including Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee, some of the last forest elephants in West Africa and forest buffalo. However, all of this is about to disappear forever due to the construction of the Cross River State Superhighway which will destroy the ancestral lands and forests of the Ekuri people and thousands of others along the proposed 260 km route.

Nigeria’s national environmental policy recognises the need to strike a balance between the environment, development and socio-economic considerations but sadly this is being jettisoned in the proposed project. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Act of 1992 specifies that any construction project that is likely to have a significant impact on the environment or on people must have an EIA carried out and must receive an environmental permit from the Federal Ministry of Environment before any work can take place.  Such an EIA must involve documented consultation meetings with a wide range of affected stakeholders before the final project design is concluded and approved.  But sadly with the expected huge impact of this project on the environment, and livelihoods of the people of Ekuri, there has been no EIA conducted or seen publicly.

The benefit of conserving the forest far outweighs destroying it through the proposed super highway by the government of Cross River State (CRS). The forests of CRS are globally recognised for their international importance as one of the richest sites for biodiversity in Africa and it has attracted millions of dollars in investment for its protection. The people of Ekuri have been so active in protecting the biodiversity of their forests, and these actions have been so successful that in 2004, the Ekuri Community received the highly prestigious Equator Initiative Award from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for their outstanding contribution to biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction.

The newly adopted sustainable development goals, SDG 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss clearly elucidates the importance of keeping forests. Some of the target of this goal is to promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and substantially increase afforestation and reforestation globally and to take urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats, halt the loss of biodiversity and, by 2020, protect and prevent the extinction of threatened species. Clearly the Cross River Super Highway works against the set targets of this goal.

Honourable Minister, I took the courage to write you after carefully considering your antecedents in the development circle and also as a key player in the post-2015 development process. You have been a beacon of hope to many of us in the Civil Society sector and we continue to look up to you even in public service. In your own words at the United Nations in November 2014, you mentioned that “the sustainable development agenda cannot only be about a handful of poor countries but must instead be a universal – concerned with the rights of all people and the actions of all stakeholders everywhere. We need to emphasise shared responsibilities for a shared future of hope, opportunity and dignity for all.” You further mentioned the need to redefine private sector partnership when you opined that the private sector also has responsibilities and all must work in partnership, within and across sectors. While stressing the need to involve young people and marginalised groups.

It is on this note that I am writing your good office as concerned young Nigerian that the Federal Ministry of Environment should;

– Carry out a thoroughly participatory and transparent review of the ecological, socio-cultural, economic, financial and reputational impacts of the project with transparency and make the findings public.

– Consideration of the National Policy on Environment and other relevant laws (NASPA-CCN, INDC) as regards the proposed Cross River Super Highway.

– Suspend immediately all forest logging and clearance already commenced without an EIA permit from the Federal Ministry of Environment of Nigeria and consultation with relevant stakeholders.

Thank you most sincerely and best regards,

Ajiroba Oladipupo BSc. (Plant Science), MSc. (Conservation)

Toronto, Canada; Ajiroba@dfrc.ca 

Cc: Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Environment, Nigeria


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