President Muhammadu Buhari recently expressed concern over the shrinking Lake Chad water in the North East region and pleaded with the United Nations (UN) and the international community to assist in recharging the vanishing lake. The President made the plea when he received the president of the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Ms Maria Fernanda Espinosa Graces, in Abuja.
THE UNGA President praised Buhari’s leadership of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Lake Chad Basin Commission. She also pledged to draw the attention of the international community to the ‘hurting effects’ of the receding lake. She advised that the challenges in the Lake Chad area, which are multi-dimensional, should be tackled holistically.
The vanishing lake, which receded from over 24,000sq kilometers to less than 2,000sq kilometers, has negatively affected the lives of about 30 million people and half of them are Nigerians. It has also exacerbated the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East region as well as the recurring clashes between herdsmen and local farmers in some parts of the country, especially in the North Central geo-political zone.
The Lake Chad problem, which has been linked to climate change affects many countries, including Chad, Niger Cameroon, Central African Republic and Congo. It is has been estimated that revamping the dying lake is likely to cost $40billion to $50billion. As President Buhari rightly observed, recharging the lake was beyond the financial power of the affected countries and hence the need for urgent help from the UN and the international community.
Good enough, the UNGA President understood the problem and promised that the UN would assist and intensify developmental efforts in the West African region. She regarded the Lake Chad as one of the major climate change disasters in Africa.
Apart from the challenge of insurgency in the North East, which has accounted for over 200,000 deaths and over two million displaced persons, the livelihoods of many people including Nigerians have been affected by the receding water. According to President Buhari, there are over one million children who live in the IDP camps “who neither know their parents nor where they come from.” This is one of the consequences of the Boko Haram insurgency in the region.
Therefore, we call on the UN and the international community to work in concert with the affected countries to quickly tackle the Lake Chad challenge. If left unattended, the shrinking water would endanger the lives of more people who depend on it for their livelihoods in Africa.
As a matter of priority, we believe that the Lake Chad challenge must be treated as a global emergency. We urge the stakeholders to do the needful and recharge the lake to save the lives of over 30 million people that depend on the water for the livelihoods.
We also call on the member countries of the Lake Chad Basin Commission to commit much money to revamp the Lake Chad. It has been reported that resuscitating the lake would take over ten years to complete starting with the inter-basin water transfer from the Congo River. The consequences of a receding Lake Chad are quite enormous. It has already affected farming and fishing activities in the region. It has also led to huge losses in commerce and agriculture. The nexus between extreme poverty in the North East region and the rising insecurity is not in doubt.
Due to the declining farming and fishing activities around the Lake Chad basin, the insurgents might have recruited some of the people in the area for their terror attacks. The Federal Government should equally step up the ongoing war against the terrorists. Let member countries of the Lake Chad Basin see the revamping of the water as a task that must be urgently tackled.