By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief
ABUJA—Former Minister of Defence, Gen. Theophilus Danjuma, has called for urgent steps to be taken towards arresting desert encroachment, which is responsible for drought, famine and migration, resulting in armed crisis in the Sahel region.
Speaking at the inauguration of the Council and Boards of the NSE-TAD, a special purpose vehicle for taming desert encroachment, in Abuja, the Army General- turned billionnaire businessman said the Trans-Saharan Highway had the potential to create several million jobs and boost the economies of the affected countries.
Danjuma said: “The project has the potential to create millions of jobs that directly and indirectly cater for the teeming unemployed youths across the continent, the potentials to provide clean water to millions of people along the route; the potential for power generation by harnessing the abundant solar and wind energy, the potential for geological exploration of the Sahara for its hidden treasures and the opportunity to provide an alternative route for fibre optic broadband cables and pipelines for gas and oil transportation across the continent all these cannot be over emphasized”.
Gen. Danjuma whose foundation is partnering with the Nigerian Society Engineers in the renewed fight against desertification pointed out that the plan to address the problem had been on for about 50 years and shouldn’t be allowed to linger further.
“Nigerian leaders hosted a summit in 1964, stating how important it is for Nigeria to take leadership position in this development. I must stress that the rest of Africa expects that from us and posterity will judge us harshly if we fail to do it for future generation.
“My challenge to everyone present here today is that this dream of our founding fathers which we are reviving is not allowed to die again. Now is the future that we have all been waiting for”.
“The last 50 years have seen all of Africa gain political independent, but beset by various political , social and economic problems which have all conspired to push that future forward, for yet another future. I am delighted to say that that future is finally upon us and it is now”, he said.
Gen. Danjuma expressed optimism that the collaboration between the NSE and Dr. Newton Jibunoh’s Fight Against Desert Encroachment Africa, FADE, and several other stakeholders would yield the desired outcome of turning the Sahara Desert into a life-supporting part of the region.
According to him, “the two parties that are collaborating to bring about the resuscitation of the age-long agenda have a proven track record over the years.
“It goes without saying therefore, that if this project is to be realized and bring about the main benefits which it promises Africa and her children- unlocking the huge potentials and possibilities the Sahara desert has hidden for millennia, then these two organizations are best placed to see to it.
“FADE Africa has been working assiduously over for 40 years now with the aim of reclaiming the fast-encroaching Sahara Desert. Its founder, Mr. Newton Jibunoh, a consummate environmentalist who is also a dear friend of mine has been widely known for the campaign for the opening up of the Sub-Sahara terrain for networking of African citizens and for the movement of goods and services. One of the missions if the commitment to focus on collaboration with various arms of government, industry, commerce, the academia and NGOs, in order to make Nigeria a better place for all”.
The boards that were inaugurated, the chairman said were people from across the continent who were prepared to apply their talents “to bring about the transformation of Africa’s economy, unity, technological advancement , education, poverty alleviation and above all demonstrate our collect ability to master our environment, a measure of man’s intelligence.”
He added that the Trans- Sahara Supper highway would open up land-locked countries such as Niger, Chad and Mali and boost trade, as well as, cultural exchange between countries in the sub-region.