BirdLife advocates to halt construction of superhighway through IBA in Nigeria
The Cross River National Park, one of the most biological diverse sites in Nigeria and an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) is currently being threatened by the construction of a Super-Highway. BirdLife International has written a letter, following the request of the BirdLife Partner in Nigeria (Nigerian Conservation Foundation), to the President of Nigeria, H.E Muhammadu Buhari, outlining concerns over the construction of the proposed Cross River State Super-Highway, appealing for stopping the preparatory works and finding a suitable, less damaging alternative route.
The Super-Highway as currently planned will pass through the heart of the pristine Ekuri rainforest and other communities whose livelihoods depend on the area. This area is an ecological buffer zone to Cross River National Park which is an IBA identified for its outstanding importance for birds, people and other biodiversity.
Cross River National Park contains over 350 bird species such as the globally threatened Grey-necked Picathartes (Picathartes oreas) and 18 primate species, making it one of the richest sites for primates in the world. The park has one of the oldest rainforests in Africa, and has been identified as a biodiversity hot spot.
Some of the concerns surrounding the construction of this highway are that the road is likely to attract farming, logging and hunting on a massive scale which will destroy the area´s rich biodiversity vital for human life. The lives and livelihoods of the forest communities depend on this natural ecosystem; their food, water, shelter, medicine and culture is inextricably linked to the ecosystem services provided by the forests. Birds could suffer serious declines, a key indicator of the health of any ecosystem. The Ekuri forest is also contiguous with the Cameroon Mountains Endemic Bird Area which holds twenty-one restricted range bird species, including eight that are Red Listed.
The Governor of Cross River State is a member of the global Governors´Task Force on Climate and Forests, which is a coalition of sub-national authorities with the stated goal of stopping deforestation in their jurisdiction and therefore mitigate the impacts of climate change. Constructing the planned road will clearly go against this goal by actually increasing deforestation in a wide corridor along the planned route.
As a result of complaints by BirdLife and others, the Federal Government of Nigeria has temporarily stopped the construction of the Super-Highway with the help of the Cross River State Governor, Professor Ben Ayade, pending the results of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). It is critically important that the EIA is completed in an open and transparent manner, consulting all the relevant stakeholders at the local and national level.
BirdLife International thanks the President and Federal Government of Nigeria for intervening in this project and considering the high biodiversity of the Cross River National Park and Ekuri forest. We expect that the Governor of Cross River, in cooperation with relevant Government bodies, will find an alternative route that will avoid deforestation and the unnecessary loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services.