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Political commitment needed to revive Lake Chad Basin – Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday, February 28, 2018 in Abuja stressed the need for political commitment towards reviving the Lake Chad Basin.

L-R: President Ali Bomgo of Gabon; Chairman of the Heads of State and Government of the Lake Chad Basin Commission/President of Niger Republic, Mahamaou Issoufou; President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria; and President Idris Debby Itno of Tchad, at the International Conference on saving the Lake Chad in Abuja on Wednesday, February 28, 2018. Photo credit: Albert Otu/ICE/NAN

Speaking at the ongoing International Conference on Saving the Lake Chad, Buhari also called for collective efforts toward rescuing the Lake Chad Basin with a renewed vigor, determination and international collaboration.

“We must treat the issues of the Lake Chad with the urgency they deserve and show the needed political commitment towards reviving the Lake.

“Together let us share this mission of rescuing the Lake Chad Basin with a renewed vigor, determination and international collaboration as our inaction or delay will continue to accelerate the deteriorating standard of living of millions of our people with dire consequences on our continent and the World at large.

“The time to act is now. The time to bail out the region is now. The time to show our humanity is now,’’ he said.

Buhari reiterated Nigeria’s commitment to restore the Lake Chad to its former glory as the conference was designed with a view to finding workable solutions in resuscitating the Lake Chad.

He said that the resuscitation would benefit all member countries of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) and the ecological balance of a large area of West Africa.

He noted that in the past two days, there had been technical sessions with delegates, experts, researchers and resource persons exchanging ideas, views, knowledge and sharing information on water resources development and management in a challenged environment.

“This is now being followed by this high level session to consider recommendations in order to garner political and global support for the restoration option identified for recharging of the Lake.

“I am convinced that this Conference will not just be another ‘talk shop’ but will be a platform to re-launch our partnership and commitment to our continent and the Basin in particular.

“The Conference Report will be presented shortly and I urge you to consider it critically with a view to making informed and strong contributions towards its implementation.

“Let Abuja be the starting point of this commitment and we will call this “The Abuja Declaration.”

“Abuja Declaration will be a benchmark and the bedrock upon which future engagements on restoring the Lake would be built.

According to him, the Declaration will also serve as a fundamental and landmark document which will contain basic principles that can be used as a yardstick for holistic development model for the Basin.

The President maintained that such a model would be useful especially for policy and decision makers, development partners, donors agencies, investors, researchers and institutions.

Buhari thanked the Presidents and Heads of State and Government of LCBC Member Countries – Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad and Niger – for their contributions to the development of the Basin.

He also appreciated the efforts and immense technical support of the United Nations (UN) and its agencies including FAO, UNDP, UNEP and UNESCO for their invaluable contributions towards the Integrated Water Resources Management of the Basin and the organisation of the conference.

He lauded the African Development Bank, World Bank, Islamic Development Bank and China-Exim Bank for their support in promoting the socio-economic well-beings of the member countries of the LCBC.

“The African Union, the European Union, ECOWAS, ECCAS, have also contributed immensely to the sustainable development of the sub-region.

“We are also indebted to the governments of Netherlands, Hungary, France, China, Italy, Japan, United States of America, Canada and Britain,’’ the president added.

While recognising that the efforts of the member countries of the LCBC will be more productive with international support, Buhari called on the international partners (technical and financial) to remain unwavering in their support.

In her remarks, the Director-General of UNESCO, Ms Audrey Azoulay, reiterated the determination of the organisation to continue to assist and support the LCBC and the Congo Basin in addressing their various challenges and als safeguarding the environment.

Azoulay, who was represented by UNESCO’s Deputy Director General, Mr Getachew Engida, used the opportunity to condemn the abduction of schoolgirls from the Government Girls Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State.

She pledged the organisation’s support and solidarity to Nigeria for their safe release.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that goodwill messages were delivered at the occasion by Presidents and Heads of Government, representatives of Presidents of the African Union, ECOWAS, World Bank, Islamic Development Bank and the African Development Bank.

NAN observed that five Presidents including Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria; Mahammadou Issoufu of Niger Republic; Idriss Debby Itno of Chad, Faustin-Archange Touaderae of Central African Republic and Ali Bongo of Gabon as well as Prime Minister of Cameroon, Mr Philemon Yang, with representatives from Sudan and Angola, are attending the conference.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army said that joint efforts from countries on the borders of the Lake Chad Basin (LCB) would ensure security and route out the common enemy – Boko Haram.

Maj.-Gen. Leo Irabor, the Multi-National Joint Task Force Commander, said this on Wednesday at the on-going International Conference on Lake Chad holding from Feb. 26 to Feb. 28, in Abuja.

The conference was tagged: “Saving the Lake Chad to Revitalise the Basin’s Ecosystem for Sustainable Livelihood, Security and Development.’’

It was convened by UNESCO, Lake Chad Basin Commission and the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Water Resources.

“We are talking about a convention of countries; we are talking about borders of all the countries of the Lake Chad Basin region.

“The force that I command is made up of forces from Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria; we also have some contributions from the Republic of Benin.

“That is the reason why the Multi-National Joint Task Force was constituted in the first place, knowing that there is no country that can do it alone.

“But all the countries must synergise their efforts in ensuring that their common enemy is taken out and that is Boko Haram.

“It is the co-operation existing among these countries that has enabled us to make the impact that we have made so far.

“We believe that as we continue on the target that we are pursuing, then of course the problem will be eliminated.

“Issues that have to do with security do not have respect for borders; do not have respect for boundaries and we take it that a challenge exists and we will work at taking measures to ensuring that those challenges are taken out,” Irabor said.

The commander said that consistency in fighting insecurity, terrorism in LCB was the core mandate of the force.

“The mandate of the force is what we are pursuing vigorously, believing that as we remain consistent on the terms of our engagement, the problem will be eliminated,” he said.

He also said that restoring the depleted LCB would boost farming activities and economic growth.

“If the livelihood of people has been taken out, because of the drying of the Lake Chad, assuming we are able to find a way to replenish the water, to recoup the water within the LCB, of course fishing activities will blossom, animal husbandry will also thrive, there will be spine offs from such business concerns.

“The large proportion of the basin can be used for a whole lot of farming and the like.

“When you aggregate all these activities, it will have economic impact on the people.

“The conference is very important in ensuring that the Lake Chad is reclaimed,” he said.

Irabor said that the army was taking advantage of the conference to build influence, seek for resources to address the subsistent insurgency and terrorism.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Lake Chad shrank for the past 30 years with the surface which went from 25,000 square kilometres in the ’60s to 2,500 square kilometres in 2000.

By Ismaila Chafe and Ijeoma Ndubisi

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