PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has called for action from countries of the Lake Chad Basin to urgently resuscitate the lake and save it from extinction.
Speaking at the opening of the high-level meeting of the International Conference on the Lake Chad Basin in Abuja on Wednesday, he stressed the need for political commitment from leaders of the countries in the basin to revive the fast-shrinking lake.
He said: “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 vigour, 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, therefore, emphasized the need for countries within the basin to collaborate with international organizations, donors and foreign countries, to achieve the goal of reviving the lake.
Buhari continued: “Let me reiterate our firm commitment to restore the Lake Chad to its former glory.
“Recognizing that our efforts will be more productive with international support, we call on our International Partners – Technical and Financial to remain unwavering in their support.”
The president said the commitment of Lake Chad Basin countries should begin with what he called the Abuja declaration, adding that whatever model was adopted at the end of the day should be the reference point for future engagements on the lake.
According to him, “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.
“It 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.
“Such a model will be useful especially for policy and decision makers, Development partners, Donors Agencies, Investors, Researchers and Institutions.”
Buhari noted the efforts of the countries affected as well as the support so far received in that regard, which he said had helped the affected countries, a lot.
He stated: “I owe a debt of gratitude to my brothers, the Presidents and Heads of State and Government of LCBC Member Countries – Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad and Niger for their invaluable contributions to the development of the Basin.
“I must also sincerely appreciate the efforts and immense technical support of the United Nations (UN) and its Agencies including FAO, UNDP and UNEP and most especially UNESCO for their invaluable contributions towards the Integrated Water Resources Management of the Basin and the organization of this Conference.
“The Banks have been our backbone – The African Development Bank, World Bank, Islamic Development Bank, China-Exim Bank; thank you all very much for your support. 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.”
He also noted that the Abuja conference was organized by UNESCO in response to his earlier appeal for support from the organization, with a view to finding workable solutions in resuscitating the Lake Chad to the benefit of all member countries of the Lake Chad Basin and to the ecological balance of a large area of West Africa.
On Nigeria’s effort, Buhari said: “We are also implementing all LCBC programmes aimed at safeguarding the ecosystem of the Basin and the development of our people.
“Likewise, the Government of Nigeria has initiated several measures to cushion the plight of the people living on Nigeria’s side of the Basin. Notably among these include the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE); North East Recovery and Peace Building Assessment in Collaboration with World Bank, EU, and UN; and the North East Development Commission (NEDC) recently established by law.
“Unfortunately, the major challenges facing the Lake Chad region still remain unresolved. Our desire as a nation to restore the sub-region to its former glory is very real as evident in my numerous appeals to the international community for support towards the Lake’s revival.”
While regretting the fate of Lake Chad, the president stressed it value saying: “The Lake Chad is very dear to our heart as it is a source of livelihood to over 45 million people living in the Basin. This Lake, which is one of the oldest Lakes in Africa, is shared by Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Niger and Nigeria. The people living in the Basin depend on the Lake Chad for Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock for their economic well-being.
“The Lake Chad region was formerly an ‘oasis in the desert,’ a hub of economic activities and food security. The farmers, fishermen, herdsmen and traders were happy because business was booming.
“The happiness and contentment contributed to the stability of the sub-region.Unfortunately, today that is all history. The ‘oasis in the desert’ is just a desert now, due to the drying up of the Lake Chad.
“This has resulted in dire consequences for our people as follows: United Nations (UN) Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that Food security has deteriorated, with more than 7 million people in the sub-region facing the threat of famine and half a million children suffering from severe malnutrition.”
Among leaders at the conference were the Presidents of Nigeria, Chad, Gabon Niger and the Central African Republic.
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