If the Rainforest Resource and Development Centre (RRDC) were to have its way, Dansa Foods, a subsidiary of the Dangote Group, would cough up a whopping N100 billion as aggravated ecological damage to the Cross River National Park.
In a pre-action notice by Messrs Kanu G. Agabi & Associates, solicitors to RRDC (a non-governmental organisation), the Calabar-based Dansa Agro Allied Plantation Limited that is said to operate the Dansa Factory has been accused of trespassing as well as carrying out unlawful and adverse activities within the confines of the Cross River National Park, Oban Division and its buffer zones, “thereby degrading the conservation value of the Park, along with its flora and fauna”.
The notice reads: “The position of our clients is that your activities within this conserved area have adverse effects on the fauna and flora and the general configuration and character of the Park. Amongst others, these include extensive logging, excavation, clearing, grading and related destructive activities resulting in permanently obliterating the rich rainforest heritage of these places. Our clients are also certain that all these activities amount to illegalities that contravene the National Park Service Act, Cap. N65, Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (LFRN).”
Stressing that the Cross River State National Park which is allegedly being encroached upon is a gazette territory, the notice adds that “our clients are certain that your operations within the legally defined boundaries of the Park and its environs are threatening the survival of the Park and its wildlife, as well as its buffer zones and ecosystems as the capacity to sustain the natural process have been seriously undermined.”
The RRDC is thus seeking to take action in the High Court of Cross River State against the Dangote Group because, among other issues raised, the only authorised person vested with statutory power to alter the boundaries of an existing National Park in the country is the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The notice then sought five reliefs, among which is aggravated damages of N100 billion to restore the vegetation to its natural state, and made payable to the Cross River National Park for ecological damages allegedly incurred.
It is likewise seeking an order of perpetual injunction restraining Dansa companies (Dangote Group) “either by yourself, your servants, privies, assigns, contractor or any other person however designated or addressed, acting under your company’s power or authorisation from entering into the gazzatted portions and buffer zone of the Oban Hill Division of the Cross River National Park and do anything which involves performing acts of excavation, grading, leveling of ground, clearing, deforestation and or in any way howsoever altering the configuration of the soil or the character of the park.”