By Tobi Soniyi
Abuja — A new report, the ‘Environmental Audit of the Drying Up of the Lake Chad’ has warned of dire consequence for Nigeria and other neighbouring countries if the Lake Chad basin is allowed to dry up.
Presenting the report to President Muhammadu Buari at the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa in Abuja yesterday, the Auditor General of the Federation, Mr. Samuel Ukura, said the key message in the report “is that Lake Chad is drying up very fast from 25,000 sq.km in 1963 to just 1,500 sq.km presently.
“We must save Lake Ckad from extinction.” He noted that there was a correlation between the shrinking of Lake Chad and the current insecurity in North-east of Nigeria.
“It is believed that part of the root causes of violence and insecurity in the Lake Chad Basin which has not been adequately addressed is the crucial issue of weak water resources management which led to scarcity of water.
“A significant part of the increasing population from 30 to about 47 million had to move south in search of alternative livelihoods. “Millions of fishing and pastorialist population are worse affected by the shrinking Lake Chad.”
He said the audit report which was jointly undertaken by Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) member countries including Nigeria, Cameroun, Niger and Chad had been presented to the National Assembly in August in line with constitutional provision.
He listed key findings of the report to include: weak control of human activities on the issue of water resources in the Lake Chad Basin such as excessive extraction of water, dam constructions, diversions of rivers.
Others are that water resources management decisions were not based on water use data even as water use regulations exist but are not enforced in the Lake Chad Basin, among others.
However, during the presentation of the report, a mild drama ensued.
Having observed that the report presented did not reflect the feasibility study carried out by a team under the tenure of former president Olusegun Obasanjo for which Nigeria committed $5million, Buhari said he was disappointed at the report and asked the auditor general to explain the omission.
Ukura in his narrative claimed that the feasibility report was not made available to him for the purpose of the audit report, and swiftly passed the buck to the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) as the agency that should the report in question.
Bewildered by the submission of the accountant general, the president asked that someone should interpret what he meant, and later asked the Executive Secretary of the LCBC, Ambassador Sanusi Imran Abdullahi, to give his side of the story.
The LCBC Executive Secretary, however, explained that the document in question was already in public domain.
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 Obasanjo 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 $5million to the study, and the study was 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, whether my own report was correct: that $5million 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 $13billion and $15billion.
“I will like the Auditor-General to comment on this, whether they have received this report or the Ministry of Water Resources has. I think this government will like to see this report and see how we can ask our foreign friends how they can help us.
“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 Cameroun, Chad and Niger to resettle and perhaps that will help us to stop Boko Haram around that area.
“This is because once we identify the number of people there and their activities. We have to check desertification there.” The Auditor-General then replied: “The report was not made available to the group, it was only made available to the Lake Chad Basin Commission, may be they will be in a better position to comment on it. It was not made available to us during the study.”
Representative of LCBC replied: “The report is a public document actually, it has been in the public domain since the study was concluded. Departments of government of Nigeria and other member states have received copies.
“The situation is that the study had been completed. The cost estimate for the project is $14.5billion. We have been consulting the Congo Basin to allay their fears on the environmental impact assessment they want us to add and we need some additional political support to be able to convince them that it is also in their interest to see that this water is diverted to Lake Chad.
“We have made effort with the Champion of Save Lake Chad, former President Obasanjo, to sensitize the international community, particularly Europe whom we perceived have some unfriendly attitude towards the transfer.”
In his remarks earlier, Buhari said he would prevail on the National Assembly to ratify the Lake Chad Water Charter.
He also stated that the country was committed to leading the war against insurgency in the Lake Chad Basin and would not waver in her support to the commission.
“Since the audit report has been fully submitted to the Lake Chad Basin Commission Heads of States and Government, we will ensure that recommendations are considered for implementation.
“I am aware that the Lake Chad Basin water charter which was adopted by the Heads of States and Government summit on April 30th 2012 has not been approved by the National Assembly. I will urge our National Assembly to domesticate this all important Lake Chad Basin water charter,” the president said.
He also expressed delight at the existence of the Summit of Governors of Hadeja Jama’are, Kumadugu Yobe Basin Trust Fund from Bauchi, Borno, Kano, Jigawa, Kano and Plateau State, which was established on June 8, with a take off grant of N100 million from each of these states with Federal Government matching grant of N850million.
He pledged to strengthen the platform to ensure sustainable and equitable water resources management based on integrated industrial principles.
“I acknowledge that the office of the Auditor-General for the Federation could not carry out effective re-organisation to perform specialised audit based on international best practices without sufficient funds, I will therefore do everything possible within the law to ensure that you succeed,” Buhari stated.
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