By Queenet Iheoma-Hart
It is better late than never they say. Lake Chad restoration though coming late however is a good step in the right direction and a big plus to the administration of President Mohammadu Buhari.
The challenges facing this great Lake started in the 60’s with drastic shrinkage. Several efforts have been made to arrest the menace and bring the Lake to its original status. One of these efforts is the setting up of the Lake Chad Basin Commission in 1964, by the Nigeria government and three other neighbouring countries housing Lake Chad namely Chad, Niger and Cameroon.
This Commission which was charged with the maintenance of the Lake to ensure sustainability however, could not achieve this aim as there has been a continuous call for the need to resuscitate the Lake’s original level.
Before the shrinking challenge of Lake Chad started in 1970, the water level of the Lake was considered normal at 40.3km3; However between 1970 and 1975, the lake started experiencing untold drought that led to its reduction in size to 27.3km3. Subsequently from 1980s through 1990s, the size of the lake took another dramatic decrease to 17.7km3& 12.7km3 respectively. As at the time of this report, research has it that the lake is one tenth of its original size. This calls for concern.
Successive Nigerian governments have shown futile concern on the unfortunate condition of the Lake. During the democratic dispensation that saw former President Obasanjo to power, so much was budgeted and contracts awarded with little or no result to show for it.
As a concerned and focused leadership, in 2015 when the current administration came into power, the then Auditor-General of the federation was made to account for the contract. It didn’t end there, the same leadership went as far as taking the issue of Lake Chad to the world forum.
During the 2015 Paris Conference, President, Mohammadu Buhari despite other environmental Hazards facing the country, presented Nigeria’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) in COP21 with particular mention of the revival of Lake Chad which at the moment is almost facing extinction and fast becoming a hub for insurgent activities. Receiving the world’s attention, Lake Chad’s condition was declared an ecological disaster by the entire world representatives.
This goes without saying that the world acknowledges the importance of this great Lake to Africa and to the entire world. The resuscitation of Lake Chad’s fresh and non-polluted water becomes paramount to achieving the vision of international community in reducing greenhouse gas and other gas emissions in the world by 2040, hence the call for its urgent restoration.
Economically, Lake Chad is a centre for agricultural activities and aquatic life from its fresh water. There is no doubt that agricultural activities have greatly reduced due to drought and desertification affecting Lake Chad. This is seriously affecting the living condition of the people within the region; led to high rate of unemployment; increased famine and poverty in the area making those affected vulnerable to the conflict. Herders have lost their animals due to drought. Wild animals, birds and many various species of fish have been lost.
Due to excessive drought and desertification around the Lake, numerous islands have been created leading to unbridled migration, influx of “good and ugly” and exchange of ideas, desired and undesired goods and services such as proliferation of arms and increased capacity of the insurgent group. This has greatly aided the high rate of insurgency in Nigeria and neighbouring countries. The condition of this Lake has also been identified as the reason why herders are moving southwards in search for green vegetation for their animals which more often than not has led to conflict between them and farmers. An ugly trend that is currently ravaging the entire nation and needs to be urgently tackled.
The administration of President Mohammadu Buhari as a follow up on the challenges the current status of the Lake is posing on its numerous citizens has taken another bold step to convene an international conference which no doubt would see to the solution of the Lake Chad crisis, enhance the economic lives of the citizens and boost the international community’s vision of clean environment. On this one, it is only logical and reasonable to give kudos to the Federal Government of Nigeria.