Nigerian conservationist, Odey Oyama, recently discovered freshly cut logs on the edge of a pineapple plantation, and nearby sits a saw mill.
The Dangote Group, an industrial conglomerate, seems to be clearing the forest in the Cross River National Park to plant pineapple.
And Oyama has no doubt that the company will continue destroying forest to expand its plantations.
“Farming is outlawed within the National Park,” he says angrily. “Plantations have no business in a national park!”
According to him, the Cross River National Park is a place of outstanding biodiversity.
“It has been a refuge for colobus monkeys, mandrills, forest elephants and countless other species since 1989 – one of the last rainforest areas in a country that has otherwise been almost completely stripped of its forest cover,” he adds.
But the park, he fears, is now in danger: Dansa, a juice manufacturer, is clearing land for plantations there. Dansa is part of the business empire of Alhaji Aliko Dangote. He is the richest man in Africa, having amassed a fortune of $25 billion in the cement business.
Dangote’s pineapple plantations are big business: Nigeria has more land dedicated to growing pineapples than any other country – no less than 182,000 hectares. According to a newspaper report, Dangote has secured concessions for over 75,000 hectares – an area roughly half the size of London. The problem: one concession is located partly, and another entirely, within the boundaries of Cross River National Park.
In a written statement, the company rejects allegations that it has been clearing forest in the national park and has threatened to sue Oyama.
Dangote is currently seeking financing for the construction of an oil refinery – a project worth $11 billion. According to an insider, he has applied for a loan from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a subsidiary of the World Bank.
“The World Bank must withhold the loan until Dangote has withdrawn the pineapple plantations from the National Park,” says Oyama.