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Buhari, Guterres to raise $50bn to recharge Lake Chad

President Muhammadu Buhari has welcomed the acceptance of the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, to co-chair a Special Session to raise $50 billion to fund the inter-basin water transfer from Central Africa to revive the Lake Chad.

Lake Chad
Scientists say the Lake Chad, that borders Nigeria and some other countries, has shrunken by 95 percent over the past 50 years. They have also linked the Boko Haram insurgency to the lake’s situation. Photo credit: AP/Christophe Ena

Malam Garba Shehu, the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, in a statement, said the president stated this when he received the reply of the Secretary-General to his earlier letter on the matter.

Guterres’ response was presented to President Buhari through the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Akinwumi Adesina, at the State House, Abuja on Tuesday, April 23, 2019.

President Buhari said such a Special Forum was necessary in view of the size of capital required for the project which was unavailable to the Lake Chad Basin countries.

Addressing issues directly related to the AfDB, the President expressed delight with successes recorded in the four years of Dr Adesina’s tenure at the bank.

President Buhari specifically cited the bank’s contribution to the growth of Nigeria’s agriculture and infrastructure.

He commended what he called “its critical gesture in 2016 during the difficult period of economic recession through the issuance of $600 million budget support facility.”

The President used the occasion to highlight the successes achieved by the administration through the implementation of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, ERGP.

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He stressed that his focus would continue to be on diversifying the economy and making it more inclusive as well as the creation of jobs in critical sectors like the Information Communication Technology (ICT) and manufacturing so that “young people will earn a decent living.”

President Buhari noted that a lot is being achieved in providing guaranteed off-takers for farmers, and in the provision of infrastructure that include airports, rail, roads and water ways.

He, however, admitted that “we still have significant work ahead in the provision of power, small scale cottage industries and promotion of the agro-industrial zones coming up in the country.”

The president then asked for AfDB’s continued support in this regard.

In his presentation, Adesina thanked President Buhari for his support, without which, he said, he would not have been AfDB president.

He listed his record of achievements in the last four years among which lending to critical sectors of the Nigerian economy grew to an unprecedented $4.3 billion.

Adesina told President Buhari that the fortunes of the bank had significantly improved, earning global ratings in accountability and transparency, improved incomes and for making impact on the lives of millions of its target population.

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The AfDB president sought for the support of the Nigerian leader for a “general capital increase” to fast track the development of the bank.

The statement quoted President Buhari as giving all assurances to the AfDB’s requests and directed the Ministry of Finance to engage and expedite action on the issues brought to the government by the AfDB.

In a related development, Buhari on Tuesday in Abuja called on Qatar to invest in Nigeria’s sectors including petroleum, power, aviation, agriculture and railways to uplift the quality of life of Nigerians.

Mr Femi Adesina, the President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, disclosed this in a statement issued after the closed-door meeting between President Buhari and the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-thani, at State House, Abuja, on Tuesday.

The presidential aide revealed that also on the front burners was the recharge of Lake Chad with water from the Congo Basin, to grant succour to the more than 30 million people adversely affected by the shrinking of the lake over the years.

“We invite you to invest in our refineries, pipelines, power sector, aviation, agriculture, education, and many others, so that you can have your management here to oversee the investment. We need your expertise,” President Buhari said.

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On the receding Lake Chad, he said of the over 30 million people affected, more than half were in Nigeria, and it has contributed greatly to illegal migration, as innumerable youths dare the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea, in order to find safer shores in Europe. A large number die in the process.

He said: “We need help with the recharge of Lake Chad, as it is not a project that the concerned countries can handle alone,

“Recharging the lake will bring back fishing, farming, animal husbandry, and the youths won’t be attracted by insurgency or illegal migration.

“We want Qatar to be involved because of the humanitarian nature of the endeavour.’’

Sheikh Hamad Al-thani said he was honoured and happy to be in Nigeria for the first time, stressing that it was a reciprocal visit to the one paid to Qatar in 2016 by President Buhari.

According to him, the relationship between our countries is very good. We just have to build on it.

“We share a lot of similarities in different areas. We need to enhance bilateral trade and economic cooperation.

“We are willing to do a lot more with Nigeria and will continue to work on investment opportunities of mutual benefit,” he added.

The Emir, who was on one-day official visit to Nigeria, has since returned to Qatar.

By Ismaila chafe

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