Cross River State in the southeast of Nigeria has 50% of Nigeria’s remaining forests. Cross River State is the pilot REDD state for Nigeria and the state is a member of the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force, set up by Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2008.
But the forests are threatened by the construction of a 260 kilometre-long super highway. On 20 October 2015, Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, and the Governor of Cross River State, Benedict Ayade, took part in a ground breaking ceremony to launch the super highway.
The Ekuri Community Forest lies on the proposed route of the highway. The Ekuri are dependent on the forests for their livelihoods.
The Ekuri communities have successfully defended their 33,600-hectare community forest against logging concessions, and in 2004 the Ekuri Initiative won the UNDP Equator Award.
Yesterday, the Ekuri community sent a message (posted here), saying that,
The situation today is frightening. A bulldozer was sent to Ekuri four days ago to commence work, but the Ekuri people did not co-operate with the operators. They were denied accommodation in the community and casual workers to support their work. Just yesterday the bulldozer was removed from Ekuri to Etara/Eyeyen communities sister communities to Ekuri, and massive destruction is going on there now. Women and Children are lamenting the lost of their farms without hope for compensation.
The operators are planning to penetrate Ekuri forest through Etara-Eyeyen.
We need to as a matter of urgency explore the fastest strategy to get the federal government of Nigeria call governor Ayade to order, and also move our campaign faster to other forest communities who are on the waiting list for destruction.
The project proposes a deep sea port at Calabar, from where the road would go to a small town called Katsina-ala in Benue State to the north. The road has an extraordinary 20 kilometre-wide right of way, making it look more like a land grab than anything to do with Nigeria’s economy:
A Public Notice of Revocation signed by the Commissioner for Lands and Urban Development and published in a local newspaper on 22 January 2016 sates:
“all rights of occupancy existing or deemed to exist on all that piece of land or parcel of land lying and situate along the Super Highway from Esighi, Bakassi Local Government Government Area to Bekwarra Local Government Area of Cross River State covering a distance of 260km approximately and having an offset of 200m on either side of the centre line of the road and further 10km after the span of the Super Highway, excluding Government Reserves and public institutions are hereby revoked for overriding public purpose absolutely.”