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Uproar over Calabar-Obudu ‘super highway’ project

By Tunde Alao (Lagos) and Anietie Akpan (Calabar)   |   02 November 2015   |   3:42 am  

Calabar.

Calabar.

BARELY one week after construction of Calabar-Obudu super highway was kicked off by President Muhammadu Buhari, 13 local and international organisations have faulted the project, insisting that the route should be re-drawn.
According to the groups, the highway, as it is planned, will destroy a large portion of the rainforest and Nigeria’s most important national park.

Meanwhile, some German experts have arrived Calabar to commence work on the project. Chatting with some newsmen in Calabar yesterday shortly on arrival, two of the expatriates, Mr. Frank Neobaver and Mr. Gauther Honisch, said they were eager to kick-start the projects which they described as very iconic in Africa by ensuring quality delivery.

In a petition addressed to President Buhari and titled “The Planned Super Highway and Cross River National Park, Our Position”, the groups said an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) is urgently required, adding that “to ensure that the ESIA meets both local and international standards, we would recommend that a peer review panel consisting of national and international environmental experts be set up.”

The groups include: John Robinson, Wildlif e Conservation Society, New York, USA; Hazell Thompson, Birdlife International, Cambridge, UK; Tasso Leventis, Leventis Foundation, London, UK; John Oates, Professor Emeritus, Hunter College, City University of New York, USA; and Jonathan Baillie, Zoological Society of London, UK.

Others are Adeniyi Karunwi, Executive Director, Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF); Godwin Ojo, Executive Director, Environmental Rights Action (ERA)/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (FoEN); Ako Amadi, Executive Director, Community Conservation and Development Initiatives (CCDI); Christine K, Director, Heinrich Boll Foundation, Nigeria; Marie Kvarnstrom, Senior Programme Officer, Swedish Biodiversity Centre, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, and Board Member, FOEN/ERA; Tunde Morakinyo, Founder and Director, Iroko Foundation; Liza Gadsby, Director, Pandrillus Foundation; Zoe Parr, Consultant and former Director of Development in Nigeria (DIN).

They suggested that the super-highway should be planned in accordance with Nigerian law, stressing that no project must be allowed to damage Nigeria’s most important national park or its remaining rainforests.

According to the petition: “Cross River National Park is a proposed UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Reserve and a tentative World Heritage Site, the richest site in Nigeria for biodiversity and indeed one of the richest sites in Africa.

‘It is recognized as a Centre of Plant Diversity by WWF and IUCN, and as an Important Bird Area by Birdlife International. Indeed, the biological importance of the Oban Hills was recognized as early as 1912 when a large part of the area was declared a forest reserve. In 1991, the Oban Forest Reserve was upgraded to create the Oban Division of Cross River National Park through which the super-highway is now expected to pass.”



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