President Buhari’s Voice For Recharging Lake Chad
By Salisu Na’inna Dambatta
It is in public record that since assuming the Presidency in Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari has been consistent in drawing global attention to the urgent need for recharging Lake Chad, which has shrunken to about 2,000 square miles from its known peak size of around 26, 000 square miles in the 1940s.
However, even as Chairman of the defunct Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), an ad hoc intervention body, he provided money for a detailed study on how to mitigate the factors that led to the dwindling fortunes of the Lake and ways of restoring more of its waters for the benefit of the over 40 million citizens of Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria and Niger whose sources of livelihoods depend on its richness.
The gradual death of Lake Chad over the past 70 years, which is linked to many factors, has aggravated poverty in its sahelian location where bodies of water have greater significance and value in supporting economic, social and cultural activities.
The activities that support livelihoods on the Lake and its shores include fishing, water transportation and trade, irrigation for all-season food production, animal husbandry on its flood plains and hunting for aquatic animals other than fish.
As these important economic activities dwindled with the shrinking waters of the Lake, the population in its vicinity became restless; the poverty level increased as did disagreements and open conflicts for the dwindling resources available for a larger, youth-dominated population who seem to have lost hope in an uncertain future.
These youths and some of their equally hopeless elders in the four countries serviced by the Lake became an easy target and prey for interests that foster crisis for global geo-political advantages, and the huge proven deposits of Petroleum and Gas in the general area straddled by the Lake.
This gave rise to proxy insurgents’ wars against the four countries of Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Nigeria. All of them have found Oil and Gas in areas bordering the Lake, which extra-African interests want on the cheap. By creating instability and sponsoring violence in the four countries by using misguided youths under the guise of religion, autonomy, economic inclusion or even quasi independence, those extra-African interests have callously put human lives below their material gains to the detriment of those countries and the wellbeing of their citizenry.
The Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria and the violent agitation for autonomy in Northern Cameroon for example, have been raging and leading to massive destruction of lives and property; disrupting economic activities and deepening poverty, illiteracy, general backwardness and a catastrophic humanitarian situation involving around 7.4 million innocent human beings in those resource-endowed parts of Africa.
“The violence has driven millions from their homes and hampered access to agricultural lands and assets, creating massive humanitarian needs in an area already characterized by food insecurity, poverty and environmental degradation” according a report by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).
The FAO further said in the report: “The Lake Chad Basin is grappling with a complex humanitarian emergency across northeastern Nigeria, Cameroon’s Far North, western Chad and southeastern Niger. In the most affected areas of these four countries, conflict and displacement are adding to other structural factors that are undermining the livelihoods of the population, increasing food insecurity and poverty and diminishing access to basic and social services (water, sanitation, health and education).”
By lending his voice to the cause of recharging Lake Chad, President Muhammadu Buhari is being patriotically dutiful as he seeks solution to the situations that led to gruesome reports by FAO and others. Raising the US$14 billion estimated cost of building canals and channels, dredging silted courses of River Chari and Logone and pushing water into the trough of the Lake, can contribute in restoring the livelihoods of millions of people. It will end the insurgency for good. It will make it easier for the four countries and those extra-African interests to benefit from extracting the huge Oil and Gas endowments that are apparently the main reasons of sponsoring the violence in the Lake Chad Basin.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s engagement with world leaders bilaterally and multilaterally in different fora including the United Nations Organisation (UNO) and consistently urging them to be generous in making financial contribution to the fund needed to recharge Lake Chard should be heeded. This is because reviving the Lake will revive hope, livelihoods, peace and stability to more than 40 million souls. It will end the catastrophic humanitarian crisis in the region and restore the beautiful fauna and flora on the Lake and around its shores for the benefit of humanity.
The recent awareness creation and sensitization visit by the leadership of the Lake Chad Basin Commission to the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq, during which they emphasised the need to recharge the Lake and tackle the humanitarian crisis its shrinking and the Boko Haram insurgency caused, was apt. Indeed, some elements of the proposals by the Commission toward ending the insurgency and recharging the Lake would make sustainable recovery, resettlement and reintegration of the people now in humanitarian crisis faster.
Salisu Na’inna Dambatta is a Commentator on Public Affairs