President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday gave a warning to the international community, saying the world would pay dearly if the Lake Chad was allowed to go into extinction.
Buhari, who spoke at the opening ceremony of the International Conference on Lake Chad which was hosted by Nigeria in Abuja, warned against unilateral decisions by member-countries with respect to revitalising the depleting lake.
Represented by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, the President told delegates at the event that the cooperation and collaboration that underpins effort to save the Lake Chad should not be allowed to fail.
He said, “The world would pay a steep price if stakeholders choose to resort to unilateral actions in the pursuit of selfish interest if we collectively fail to rise boldly to this challenge of recharging the lake.”
Buhari lamented that the lake which was once the sixth largest in Africa, providing livelihoods for over 40 million people from Niger Republic, Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria and Central African Republic, had shrunk by over 90 per cent of its size, from about 25,000sq km to currently 1,350sq km.
He pointed out that the implications of the menace of the shrinking lake and intensification of desertification had caused several people who were dependent on the lake for irrigation, farming and drinking water for cattle to be left to suffer.
The President said migration and resettlement had intensified as farmers and fishermen had been confronted with leaner harvest, while pastoralists were in search of water and food for their cattle.
According to him, the menace had led to clashes in Nigeria between farmers and herdsmen.
He added that the North-East, where the lake is, had become the epicentre of Boko Haram insurgency, as the insurgents were able to draw recruits from desperate, idle but yet growing population.
Buhari lauded efforts by multinationals to replenish the Lake Chad by pumping water through the Ubangi River.
He commended the international community for not only seeing the issue as a global challenge but also taking steps to actively support member countries of the Lake Chad Basin Commission.
On what it would cost to revitalise the lake, the Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, while speaking on the sidelines of the event, stated that a working figure of $14bn was submitted to the LCBC in 2012.
He, however, expressed doubt if the sum would actually cater for the massive work required in the region.