The Alliance of Leading Environmental Researchers and Thinkers (ALERT) have rejected the construction of Cross River Superhighway saying that it could rapidly worsen a deepening environmental and social crisis in Nigeria.
The 260-kilometer-long highway which is supported by Cross River State Governor, Ben Ayade is expected to ruin a greater part of Cross River National Park which sustains two-thirds of Nigeria’s surviving tropical rainforest.
The director of ALERT, Professor William Laurance said though Nigeria needed better roads but the super highway is one of the ill-conceived infrastructure projects anywhere in the world.
He lamented that millions of trees have been bulldozed along the proposed road route.
According to him, “Among the most shocking things about this project is that the Environmental Impact Assessment was a complete joke since Independent analysis have shown that it is a technical farce while its validity is being challenged in a lawsuit brought by non-governmental groups in Nigeria.”
Laurence who is an environmental scientist from James Cook University Australia described Southern Nigeria and Cross River National Park as some of the most biologically and culturally important real estate on the planet.
He said that it would amount to disaster for the assets to be tragically destroyed or severely degraded by such shortsighted development scheme.
Another ALERT scientist, Dr Mahmoud Mahmoud said that the highway would slice through the most critical forested areas of Nigeria which is the Cross River National Park.
Mahmoud who is a researcher with Nigeria’s Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) added, “It would open up a Pandora box of environmental problems such as illegal deforestation, poaching, and encroachment especially for Cross River National Park.”
While expressing optimism that the state government would apply common sense in handling the project, he noted that there are alternative routes for the highway that would be far less damaging to the environment and locals.
“Much of the seized land was held by traditional landowners such as the Ekuri people, who have lived there for centuries and depended on the forests for their livelihoods but the governor has revoked all traditional claims to land title”, he added.
Also, a former Environmental Advisor to three United States presidents, Prof. Thomas Lovejoy was optimistic that Nigeria has already lost nine-tenths of its forests, with much of its surviving forest being fragmented and overhunted.
“Cross River National Park which is a biological jewel is irreplaceable because it sustains a remarkable 18 species of primates, including the critically endangered Cross River Gorilla and other imperiled wildlife such as forest elephants and leopards”, he concluded.
However, work on the project has been temporarily halted by Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed who requested that a proper environmental impact assessment should be conducted before the commencement of work.
In his contribution, the Managing Partner of Prigem Concepts Limited, Mr Olumayowa Owa regretted that our environment has witnessed horrific alteration since the advent of civilization saying that felling of trees results to 35% loss of forest cover.
“Balanced eco-system is a function of a properly kept forest reserve and vegetation, therefore our activities should be geared towards achieving the objectives of making the environment and the eco-system balanced since we have enough forestation to carter for the excessive CO2 and other harmful gases.