President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered that the report of a study initiated by former President Olusegun Obasanjo on the shrinking of Lake Chad be made available to him with immediate effect.
The Obasanjo’s administration had spent $5 million on the study.
A disappointed Buhari gave the directive shortly after the Auditor-General of the Federation, Mr. Samuel Uruka, failed during the presentation of the report of an environmental audit of the drying up of the Lake Chad, to also present the report on shrinking of Lake Chad commissioned by Obasanjo’s administration.
The President expressed concerned about the report recalling that the former President commissioned the study based on an article by a professor in the University of London on the matter which he (Buhari) read and handed over to him (Obasanjo).
The President gave an insight into the earlier report, saying that it noted that unless some of the rivers from the Central Africa Republic are diverted to empty into Chad Basin, Lake Chad will dry up.
Buhari said, “I have to digress here based on personal knowledge of this. I saw an article in the journal of National Demographic 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 Gen. Obasanjo and I understand that Gen. Obasanjo took the initiative sometimes ago, it is on record that he is the only Nigerian that has presided over the country for more than 11 years.
“He gave $5 million to the study, and the study’s report 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 $13 billion and $15 billion.
“I will like the Auditor-General to comment on this, whether they have received this report or the Ministry of Water Resources. 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 Cameroon, Chad and Niger to resettle and perhaps that will help us to stop Boko Haram around that area.”
Defending his group after the President’s query, Uruka told the President that the report was not made available to the group that conducted the latest study, saying it was only made available to the Lake Chad Basin Commission.
A representative of LCBC who was at the presentation however told the President that the report had been in the public domain since the study was concluded with Nigerian government departments and other member states receiving copies.
He said, “The situation is that the study had been completed. The cost estimate for the project is $14.5 billion.
“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 efforts with the Champion of Save Lake Chad, former President Obasanjo, to sensitise the international community, particularly Europe, whom we perceived have some unfriendly attitude towards the transfer.”
President Buhari had earlier in his address said his administration was committed to offer effective leadership in the fight against insurgency and other environmental needs of the Sahel region.
He said since the audit report had been submitted to the Lake Chad Basin Commission Heads of States and Government, he would ensure that its recommendations are considered for implementation.
The President observed that the Lake Chad Basin Water Chater which was adopted by the Heads of States and Government summit on April 30, 2012 has not been approved by the National Assembly.
He urged the National Assembly to domestic the charter.
He said, “I am proud to note 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.
“It was established on June 8 with take off grant of N100 million from each of these states with Federal Government matching grant of N850 million.
“I hope 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.”
Uruka had in his presentation said Lake Chad was drying up very fast from 25,000 sq.km in 1963 to just 1,500 sq.km as at present.
He said efforts must be intensified to save the lake from extinction.
He also added that there was strong correlation between shrinking Lake Chad and insecurity in the North East of Nigeria.
He said the management of transboundary water resources had become one of the most important water issues because a total of 261 rivers are shared by two or more countries.
He said, “It is believed that part of the root causes of violence and instability in the Lake Chad Basin 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 pastoralist population are worst affected by the shrinking Lake Chad.
“Recent insurgent activities in North Eastern Nigeria have also led to thousands of people fleeing the North East region of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and towards the Southern part of Nigeria.
“The key message of the National Audit Report of Nigeria is that Lake Chad is drying up very fast from 25,000 sq.km in 1963 to just 1,500 sq.km as at present. We must save Lake Chad from extinction.”
Uruka listed some of the key findings of the study to include weak control of human activities on the issue of water resources in the Lake Chad Basin; water resources management decisions that were not based on water use data; water use regulations that exist but not enforced in the Lake Chad Basin; as well as arbitrary construction of dams without impact assessment.