President Muhammadu Buhari has reiterated the commitment of his administration to offering effective leadership in the fight against insurgency and other environmental issues in the Sahel region.
The President said this while receiving the Auditor-General of the Federation’s report on the drying up the Lake Chad in the Presidential Villa.
Nigeria, alongside Cameroun and Niger had set up the audit committee to find solution to the problem. Having deplored the negative impact of the drying lake on Nigeria, he promised to ensure that the recommendations in the report are considered for implementation.
He traced the history of the formation of the Lake Chad Basin and the wisdom of the founding fathers, and urged the National Assembly to domesticate the Lake Chad Basin Water Charter if the problem must be solved.
He promised to ensure equitable water resources management by paying the marching grant of 850 million naira to compliment the 100 million naira from each of the states bordering the Lake Chad.
He, however, queried the Auditor-General for missing out the aspect of the report where the Federal Government spent five million dollars to tackle the environmental problems in the Lake Chad.
Yes, therewas drama yesterday as President Muhammadu Buhari and Auditor-General of the Federation, AGF, Samuel Ukura, disagreed over the environmental audit report on the drying up of Lake Chad.
While President Buhari noted that the report did not take into account the feasibility study conducted by a team under the tenure of former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, which cost Nigeria $5 million, the AGF insisted that was outside his supervision, saying Lake Chad Basin Commission, LCBC, had that responsibility.
The President then insisted that the AGF should explain the omission.
The development caused a minor stir in the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa, where the presentation was made. Silence followed, before the President requested that someone interpret what the AGF meant, and later asked the Executive Secretary of LCBC, Ambassador Sanusi Abdullahi, to give his side of the story.
Abdullahi said the report of the study was already a public document.
Obasanjo gave $5m for study—BUHARI
Buhari said: “I have to digress here based on personal knowledge of this. I saw an article in a journal in 1978 that a professor in the University of London, in 1925, had foreseen what we are just seeing.
“I handed over the article to Obasanjo and I understand that he took the initiative sometime ago; it is on record that he is the only Nigerian that has presided over the country for more than 11 years.
“He gave $5 million for the study, and the study reported that unless some of the rivers from the Central Africa Republic are diverted to empty into Chad Basin, Lake Chad will dry up.
“I understand that this report, which was sponsored by Nigeria, has been submitted. I am a bit disappointed that in the speech of the Auditor-General, there was no mention of this report. $5 million was given.
“One of the recommendations was that at the time the report was submitted, the cost of diverting one of the rivers to empty into Lake Chad would be between $13 billion and $15 billion.
“I will like the Auditor-General to comment on this: whether they have received this report or the Ministry of Water Resources. I think this government will like to see this report and see how we can ask our foreign friends how they can help us.
Effect of saving Lake Chad
“This is because if that river is diverted to empty into Chad Basin, I think it will affect, at least, two million Nigerians and another two million from Cameroon, Chad and Niger to resettle and perhaps that will help us to stop Boko Haram around that area.
“This is because once we identified the enormous number of people there and their activities, we have to check desertification there.”
Responding, the Auditor-General said: “The report was not made available to the group. It was only made available to LCBC. Maybe they will be in a better position to comment on it. It was not made available to us during the study.”
The President commended the efforts of the governors of Borno, Bauchi, Kano, Jigawa and Plateau states, promising to strengthen the platform to ensure sustainable and equitable water resources management of the Lake Chad Basin.
THE TROUBLE WITH LAKE CHAD
Maps drawn from a series of satellite images show a dramatic decrease in the size of the lake over the past 30 years. Since 1963, the lake has shrunk to nearly a twentieth of its original size, due both to climatic changes and to high demands for agricultural water. Since 1963, the surface area of Lake Chad has decreased from approximately 25,000 km2 to 1,350 km2 (Scientific American, 2001).
The changes in the lake have contributed to local lack of water, crop failures, livestock deaths, collapsed fisheries, soil salinity, and increasing poverty throughout the region:
– Between June 1966 and January 1973, the surface area of Lake Chad shrunk from 22,772 km2 to 15,400 km2.
Between 1953 and 1979, irrigation had only a modest impact on the Lake Chad ecosystem. But between 1983 and 1994 irrigation had increased four-fold.
– About 50% of the decrease in the lake’s size since the 1960s is attributed to human water use, with the remainder attributed to shifting climate patterns.
– Invasive plant species currently cover about 50% of the remaining surface of Lake Chad. Research carried out over the past 40 years indicates that the main factors in the shrinking of the lake have been:
– Major overgrazing in the region (Coe and Foley, 2001), resulting in a loss of vegetation and serious deforestation, contributing to a drier climate.
– Large and unsustainable irrigation projects built by Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad, which have diverted water from both the lake and the Chari and Logone rivers.