By Our Correspondent
The Conservator of the Cross River State National Park, Mr. Yakubu Mohammed Kolo (Assistant Conservator General), in an interview with the Nation Newspaper, is delighted over the plan of the Cross River State government to construct a super-highway from Calabar to Obudu. He said this will aid accessibility to the park.
His words: “There are lots of benefits that we are going to derive from the superhighway. Right now where our tourist camp is located, Erokut Tourist Camp, is just about three and half kilometres from the road, therefore, that is an advantage to us in terms of easy accessibility to the camp by both park staff and tourists. It will also be useful in our marketing drive.
“We also believe that the road will assist greatly to open up some of the rural areas as well as mobility of people. To this extent, it is a good project. However, there is need for the state government to adhere strictly to all the environmental issues that bother on the construction of the road, especially, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
“While we crave for development, there is need to balance development and conservation as this can be made to serve complementary roles. We are pleased that the state government understands our position that the road be re-aligned completely outside the Cross River National Park, as well as provide a buffer between the road and the park.”
Kolo also said the park is aligning with the tourism vision of the state government.
He said: “When I arrived here and I realised that though there was a working relationship between the Cross River National Park and the Cross River State Tourism Bureau (CRSTBU), the park did not benefit much from its publicity programs. The park is a major ecotourism asset in the state. It should be incorporated in the marketing of the state as the country’s number one tourism destination.
“On our part we are developing some facilities to cater for the leisure needs of the various categories of visitors to the park.
“At the moment, we have constructed 35 chalets, a student hostel, a restaurant, jeep tracks, nature trails, and camping sites at Erokut Tourist Camp. There are plans to construct a 500 seater conference facility in the camp this year as well as a canopy-walk-way in the very near future.
“Again, we are collaborating with CERCOPAN for the release of some species of monkeys to the park, as Erokut Tourist Camp has been chosen for this program.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has already been signed between the National Park Service and CERCOPAN. The experts are already on ground surveying the best location at the camp for the relocation. It is instructive to note that this project will be the first of its kind in West Africa. Furthermore, the release of these monkeys is done under IUCN best standards.”
However, Kolo said the challenge of the park was funds to carry outs its plans and projects and managing relationship with the host community.
There was also the challenge of manning the vast park and keeping out loggers and poachers from the park.
He said: “We will continue to engage the communities in dialogue as the park holds a great promise to the people. There is need for patience and understanding between the park and the communities. The resources belong to the people. The park management is only a trustee.”
Meanwhile, the people of Ekuri who lay claim to large portions of the forest where the super highway is routed have raised a petition to federal authorities calling on them to immediately stop Governor Ayade from proceeding with the construction of the road until a new route can be found that will safeguard the rainforest and the future of the Ekuri people.
In a petition by the Ekuri Initiative to President Buhari and the Federal Ministry of Environment, the group alleged that the entire way of life of the Ekuri people is adversely threatened by the construction of the super highway.
According to the petition, “The Ekuri people rely completely on their ancestral forests for everything. It provides not only fruits, vegetables and other forest products but also their medicines and shapes their unique culture, language and identity. But now this forest, and with it, the entire Ekuri way of life, is threatened with destruction.
“Governor of Cross River State, Ben Ayade has announced the construction of a 260 km superhighway to go from the coast to a small town called Katsina-ala in Benue State to the north. The highway has no obvious economic benefits and is in effect, a highway to nowhere!
“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 an unprecedented massive land grab, the Governor has seized the ancestral land of thousands of other forest dependent villagers, for 10 km either side of the 6-lane superhighway for its entire 260 km length!
“This superhighway will obliterate the entire Ekuri forest destroying their way of life and leaving them homeless. The Ekuri people have already written to the Governor and President Buhari making it clear they will protect their forests through determined non-violent protests. However as we write bulldozers are heading to Ekuri to start the process of forest clearing.”
The petition which has garnered 336 signatories online is calling on more people to sign on.
Since You Are Here, Support Good Journalism
CrossRiverWatch was founded on the ideals of deploying tech tools to report in an ethical manner, news, views and analysis with a narrative that ensures transparency in governance, a good society and an accountable democracy.
Everyone appreciates good journalism but it costs a lot of money. Nonetheless, it cannot be sacrificed on the altar of news commercialisation.
Consider making a modest contribution to support CrossRiverWatch's journalism of credibility and integrity in order to ensure that all have continuous free access to our noble endeavor.