Cross River’s Ekuri community protests destruction of ‘33,600 hectares of forest by Super Highway’

The Ekuri people of Cross River have protested against the State Government’s revocation of their communal land rights to construct the $3.5 billion super highway.

Residents of Akamkpa and Obubra local government areas who protested on Tuesday, said the highway would obliterate 33,600 hectares of Ekuri forests.

They also said the revocation of the right of occupancy of their ancestral land for 10 kilometre either side of the six-lane 260- kilometre highway would destroy the livelihood of the forest dependent communities.

No fewer than 500 people from Old Ekuri in Akamkpa carried placards, banners and fresh palm fronts during the protest.

Some of the placards read: “Even chimpanzees cry out, Ayade, don’t take our forest; our forest is our Garden of Eden, Ayade, don’t destroy it.

Others read: Ayade superhighway is a land grab in disguise; we are the indigenous people of Ekuri and we say no; the revocation of our forest is an abuse of social and economic right.

The protesters, which included men, women, boys and girls, chanted, “we no go gree, we no go gree’’ along the dusty road.

They marched through the village to the village square where they were addressed by their leaders.

The Village Heads of Old and New Ekuri, Chief Stephen Oji and Chief Abel Egbe, who said the construction of the super highway was a welcome development.

They, however, said that they do not desire the highway if the project would bring destruction to the people and their environment.

They also said their people needed roads that would help them to evacuate their farm produce.

According them, Ekuri communities require schools, water, electricity and not the kind of road that will come and take our forest away.

They said the superhighway would traverse the heart of the Ekuri rainforest opening it up to farming, logging and hunting on a massive scale.

Chairman of Ekuri Initiative, Martins Egot, said: “the governor has also revoked all rights of occupancy on ancestral land of thousands more forest dependent villagers for 10 kilometres either side of the six lane 260 kilometre super highway.’’

The Non-governmental organisation stated that the revocation was not acceptable.

“This super highway will obliterate the entire 33, 600 hectares Ekuri forests, destroying the way of life of these forest communities forever and leaving them homeless.”

Gov. Ben Ayade of Cross River had on several occasions assured impacted communities that the road will bring economic benefits to them and the state and the entire country.

He said the revocation of land on both sides of the superhighway was for overriding public interest adding the EIA had been done on the project.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the state government has since gazetted the revocation. (NAN)

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