By Anthony Kiganda
A major superhighway construction in Nigeria continued early this week amid opposition from critics that the road will have devastating impact on the nearby Cross River National Park.
The 260-kilometer superhighway in Cross River State, has been touted as an economic booster for the region. The Oban division of Cross River National Park where the road is slated to pass through holds 3,000 square kilometers of lowland rainforest. It is a proposed UNESCO World Heritage Site and recognized as a biodiversity hotspot.
Conservationists argue that the Superhighway construction in Nigeria will negatively affect critically endangered gorillas in the area numbering about 300.
Odey Oyama, executive director of the Rainforest Resource and Development Centre says that the construction of the road could have a devastating impact on that section of the forest.
The environmental expert says with the current illegal logging in Cross River National Park, the road connectivity will only make the situation worse. He added that poaching will also reach fever-pitch if the road construction is continued to completion.
Dubbed the signature project of Governor Ben Ayade, when completed it will connect a proposed deep seaport in Calabar with the cities of Ikom and Katsina Ala.
But Oyama says that governor Ayade and the project architects have not declared how they will compensate indigenous groups and local communities in places where the road passes through on the forest and agriculture land on which they depend. He also questioned about the transparency of the project that is slated to take 4 to 5 years.
Oyama also wants the Nigerian populace to know how the project is being financed.
But proponents of the project say that the Superhighway construction in Nigeria could help Cross River State realize its long-discussed potential for ecotourism, in addition to serving as a conduit for commerce through eastern Nigeria.
But opponents say the officials involved have to be held accountable and follow the legal processes, regardless of the intended benefits, so that Nigerians understand all of the impacts of a project the scale of a superhighway.
It remains to be seen how the superhighway construction in Nigeria pans out, but for now construction continues.