MEETING: From left: Executive Secretary of Lake Chad Basin Commission, Sanusi Imran Abdullahi; President of Benin Republic, Thomas Boni Yayi; President Muhammadu Buhari; President of Niger Republic, Mahamadou Issoufou; President of Chad, Idriss Deby and President of Cameroon represented by Defence Minister of Cameroon, Edgar Alain Mebe Ngo’o after the Lake Chad Basin Commission meeting at the Presidential Wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja, yesterday.
President Muhammadu Buhari seized the opportunity of the visit of the Director General of the United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Irina Bukova to Abuja last week, to draw attention to the urgent need to save Lake Chad from imminent extinction.
Leading nine ministers to meet Bukova showed the importance Buhari and Nigeria attached to the project. The President said the inhabitants have suffered terrible hardship over the rapidly-dwindling water body and the scourge of Boko Haram Islamist insurgency, adding:
“Unless the developed countries make concerted efforts to complete the feasibility studies, mobilise resources and technology to start the water transfer from the Congo Basin, the water will dry up. The people will go somewhere and they will create problems for people of those countries”.
Lake Chad has been devastated by climate change and poor water management over the decades. What used to be one of the largest water bodies in the world covering 25,000 square kilometres in the 1960’s has lost 90 per cent of its water and shrunk to about 1,350 square kilometres.
As the water shrinks, the population of those who depend on it for their livelihood drawn from Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger Republic has shot up to 30 million.
The depletion of the Lake has thrown the people of that area into destitution. It is on record that Nigeria’s extreme North East, which used to flourish with agricultural products including the famous mangala dry fish, is now officially the poorest part of the country.
The Lake Chad woes obviously contributed to the rise of the Boko Haram Islamist terror, which has laid waste to its population, economic resources and infrastructure. It has recently been reported that two cases of wild polio have resurfaced there just when Nigeria was beginning to celebrate the eradication of the disease.
The task of restoring Lake Chad is a universal imperative. The world will be much poorer and in greater turmoil if the lake finally dries up. This task should not be abandoned to the member countries of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC).
The United Nations and world powers must get involved, otherwise, as the President pointed out, the migration crises – and the socio-security issues that accompany them – will worsen and reverberate in far-flung corners of the world.
The only way we could guarantee stability in that section of the country after the elimination of Boko Haram is to ensure that the people of the Lake Chad basin are profitably employed. This cannot be possible if the lake dries up.
We look forward to the 2017 date slated for the commencement of the transfer of water from the Congo Basin to refill Lake Chad.