The Ekuri community of Cross River state has accused the state government of deliberately seeking to destroy 20,000 hectre of its 33,600 hectre age-long community forest through logging for the proposed super highway construction, and has therefore written to President Muhammadu Buhari to step in and stop the depletion.
In a letter made available to Blueprint in Calabar, Sunday, dated 4th May, 2021 and signed by 24 chiefs and elders of the community, including Chief Chief Abel Egbe, clan head of Ekuri clan and Chief Edwin Ogar, village head, Ubiofor, the community said government has already leased out the said forest to Sibawood Industry & Agriculture Nigeria to log timber and that the said company has already deployed bulldozers to deplete their prized forest.
The letter read in part: “We thank you Mr. President that when the threats from the superhighway project in 2016 threatened Ekuri community forest and our existence, you came to our rescue that the superhighway be detoured from Ekuri forest. This you did because of the richness and iconic status of this forest which also contributes in meeting Nigeria’s commitments to international environmental agreements.
“We wish to inform you that the threats to Ekuri community forest are not over as another superhighway specifically aimed at logging Ekuri community forest has been approved by the government of Cross River State through the Cross-River State Forestry Commission (CRSFC).
“Mr. President Sir, it is sad to inform you that the government of Cross River State through the Forestry Commission headed by High Chief Tony Undiandeye, has completed the re-validation of the 20,000ha illegal lease of Ekuri forest to Sibawood Industry& Agriculture Nig. Ltd to log against extant injunction and other government policies which the Commission is supposed to enforce but rather has abused them.
“Consequently, Sibawood have deployed bulldozers and commenced the construction of Iyamitet — New Ekuri road and have begun marking hundreds of trees in Ekuri forest for logging, threatening livelihoods, ecosystem services and mitigation of climate which this forest has been contributing to the wellbeing of Ekuri, Nigeria and the world at large.”
“Mr. President Sir, our humble prayer is to use your good office to stop this illegal revalidation of an illegal lease and end the current logging onslaught to destroy the famous Ekuri community forest which has promoted Nigeria’s image globally in terms of conservation, indigenous people’s involvement, livelihoods and climate change mitigation.
“Your intervention Sir, will save the rainforest of Ekuri community from being wipe away and posterity will applaud your exemplary commitments to better their lives.”