A group, Alliance of Leading Environmental Researchers and Thinkers (ALERT) have said that the proposed Cross River Superhighway, if undertaken, could hastily worsen a deepening environmental and social crisis in Nigeria.
The highway, which is to slice through the forested areas of Nigeria, would open up series of environmental problems, such as illegal deforestation, poaching, and encroachment, especially for Cross River National Park, the group said.
The director of ALERT, Professor William Laurence, said in a statement that Nigeria needs better roads; but that this is one of the most ill conceived infrastructure projects, they have seen anywhere.
The researchers say that Cross River National Park sustains two-thirds of Nigeria’s surviving tropical rainforest.
An ALERT member and former environmental advisor to three U.S. presidents, Professor Thomas Lovejoy, said Nigeria has already lost nine-tenths of its forests, with much of its surviving forest being fragmented and overhunted.
“In this context, Cross River National Park is irreplaceable, a biological jewel. It sustains a remarkable 18 species of primates, including the critically endangered Cross River Gorilla plus other imperiled wildlife such as forest elephants and leopards,” Lovejoy said.
According to the group, the project is being widely opposed because the proposed road route with very little public consultation and has seized control of 10 kilometers of land on either side of the road along its entire 260-kilometer length.
“Much of the seized land was held by traditional landowners such as the Ekuri people, who have lived there for centuries and depend on the forests for their livelihoods,” said the statement.