For generations, the Ekuri people have relied completely on their ancestral forest for all of their needs. It provides not only fruits, vegetables and other forest products but also their medicines and shapes their unique culture, language and identity. The Ekuri Initiative, an NGO, was established to protect their forests and has successfully brought development benefits to their villages at the same time. But now this forest, and with it the entire Ekuri way of life, is threatened with destruction.
The governor of Cross River State, Ben Ayade, has announced the construction of a 260 km superhighway to go from the coastal city of Calabar to a small town called Katsina-ala in Benue State to the north.
The superhighway will rip through the heart of the Ekuri rainforest, apparently opening it up to farming, logging and hunting on a massive scale.
The government has acquired a 20 km wide swathe of ancestral land of thousands of other forest-dependent villagers along the entire 260 km length of the six-lane superhighway.
The Ekuri know that their forest, homes and way of life are at stake. They intend to protect their forest through peaceful protest and are calling for international support.
The Ekuri blocked the arriving bulldozers from entering the forest and refused to accommodate the construction workers. The workers have since begun destroying the forest in a neighboring community.
“When citizens become dispensable as the superhighway project in Cross River State is suggesting, they rise up in defence of right and life. If Ekuri community and everyone else fail to speak out, the 33,600 hectares of pristine tropical forest in this community in addition to several thousand hectares of forest and farm lands in other locations in Cross River will give way to a superhighway,” said a source.