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So that Lake Chad will flow again

Shrinking Lake Chad
Shrinking Lake Chad

Following the success of the 2018 inaugural meeting of the Lake Chad Basin Governors’ Forum (LCBGF) in Borno State, the forum, Civil Society Organisations and other international stakeholders met in Niamey, Niger Republic last weekend for a second meeting as part of measures to resolve the crisis and revive the old glory of the region.

Background

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According to the Global Resource Information Database of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and other reports, the famous Lake Chad has shrunk by as much as 90% from around 1963 to 2013.

At one time considered to be the sixth largest lake in the world, the old glory of the lake is such that its economic importance include providing water for over 30m people living in Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria.

Apart from the debilitating Boko Haram insurgency that led to a massive humanitarian crisis, the UNEP and Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) said inefficient damming and irrigation methods on the part of the countries bordering the lake are partly responsible for its shrinkage.

The Niamey conference

The just concluded second conference in Niamey organised by the LCBC with the support of the African Union (AU) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was the outcome of the Regional Stabilization Strategy (RSS) for recovery and resilience in areas affected by the Boko Haram insurgency in the Lake Chad region.

The Executive Secretary of LCBC and Head of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), Ambassador Mamman Nunu, said the three-day event held from July 16-18 had its main objective, for the governors and key stakeholders to provide strategic inputs and recommendations on the approach to the development and implementation of the Territorial Action Plans (TAPs) and shape policy towards a common regional approach to the overall stabilization of the region.

The inaugural meeting held on May 8 and 9 2018 in Maiduguri was hosted by former Borno State governor, Kashim Shettima, supported by the UNDP and the governments of Germany, Sweden and Norway.

The eight governors involved in the event from Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad were the governors of Extreme North and North Region of Cameroon, governor of Diffa in Niger Republic, governors of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe in Nigeria, and governors of Hadjer Lamis and Lac Region in Chad.

Speaking at the opening of the conference, the Assistant Secretary General and UNDP Regional Director, Regional Bureau for Africa, Mrs. Ahunna Eziakonwa, said there must be a new approach to ending the crisis in the Lake Chad as the over 19m people living in the region cannot be left to their fate or that of criminal manipulation.

She said the Boko Haram insurgency in North East Nigeria and neighbouring countries of Cameroon, Chad and Niger had resulted in displacements, destruction of basic infrastructure and environmental degradation on the lake, severely impacting communities across the region.

“The conflicts have eroded, and in some cases ruptured the bonds and relationships within groups and communities, with the poor bearing the greatest brunt. Extremists target public spaces, forcing people to make difficult choices between risking death by going to work to earn a meager living and risking the very survival of their families. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Lake Chad Basin with over 2.8m  people displaced across four countries.

“The Lake Chad Basin countries have always been an important focus of the UNDP. The eight provinces/regions of the Basin are home to 19m people, sharing borders, cultures, languages, currencies,” Eziakonwa said.

The Prime Minister of Niger Republic, Mr. Brigi Rafini, while formally declaring the summit open, commended President Muhammadu Buhari for providing strategic leadership and commitment to the stabilization of the region.

According to him, it was the President Buhari plan launched in 2016 that has now become a global strategy in addressing the menace of insurgency and restoring livelihoods of the victims.

He also commended the Nigerian government for moving the command and control centre to Borno State, leading to the creation of Operation Lafiya Dole that has largely contributed to the successes recorded in operations against the Boko Haram insurgency.

The Executive Secretary of LCBC and Head of the MNJTF, Ambassador Mamman Nunu, said unless the four countries directly affected by the Boko Haram insurgency collaborate, the move to end insecurity in the region would be fruitless.

He urged leaders of these nations to collaborate through a common approach by buying into the RSS which he said has nine pillars and 40 strategic objectives aimed at bringing the crisis in the region to a quick and lasting end.

Borno State Governor, Prof. Babagana Zulum, while handing over the headship of the commission to his Niger Republic counterpart, assured of Nigeria’s commitment to resolving the Lake Chad crisis and returning development to the region.

$100m Lake Chad stabilization project

Lake Chad basin governors, the UNDP and other partners afterwards formally launched a $100m regional stabilization facility aimed at ending the humanitarian crisis and scaling up the region’s stabilization intervention.

The facility will start operating from September 1 for two years, till August 21, 2021 in the eight regions of the four countries.

It will serve as a rapid response mechanism to help local authorities curtail the Boko Haram insurgency by restoring and extending effective civilian security, and improving the delivery of basic services and livelihoods.

Speaking at the signings, Mrs. Eziakonwa said: “With the Regional Stabilization Facility, we have a unique and time-bound opportunity and a collective obligation to restore hope to affected populations, especially women and youth who have been most affected by this scourge. If we respond appropriately to grievances and end the spiral of insecurity, forced displacements and conflict, the situation in the Lake Chad Basin can be stabilized, and the foundations of recovery and development established.”

She commended the donors for their pledges, saying the contributions showed the confidence reposed in the UNDP to run the project and assured of the judicious use of the funds.

The government of Sweden at the event signed a cost sharing agreement amounting to 80m Swedish Kronor as a contribution.

Others who pledged to deploy funds to support the project which will be monitored by the UNDP and the AU include the government of Germany which pledged 40m Euros and the regional governors of Borno, Adamawa, Yobe (Nigeria), Hajder-Lamis (Chad), Diffa (Niger) and Far North and North regions in Cameroon.

The UK also said it would provide 2m pounds as its initial contribution while the EU said it would inject at least 5m Euros to support the facility.

The Governor of Diffa, Mohamed Mouddour, who was elected as the new governor of the regional governors’ forum, thanked all the donors for their support, adding that the governors were also raising funds for the facility.

Cameroon to host 3rd forum in 2020

The forum announced Cameroun as the host of the third forum of the body in 2020, with the Governor of Extreme North, Cameroon, Midjiyawa Bakari, expected to play a leading role in hosting the summit.

Lake Chad states to control $100m rescue fund

The LCBGF, the UNDP and other global multi-level in the communiqué of the summit resolved that the eight states of the four countries of the region would jointly control the $100m regional stabilization facility.

The communiqué said the LCBG forum recognized the achievements realized since the inaugural meeting of the forum in May 2018 in Maiduguri, and also appreciates the acceptance of the chairpersonship of the LCB Governors’ Forum by the Governor of Diffa region, Niger.

The conference resolved to remain firmly committed to enhance cross-border security cooperation to facilitate cross border trade, enhance economic recovery and boost livelihoods.

It resolved to take up the rehabilitation and reintegration of victims of the Boko Haram insurgency, empowerment of women and youth, increasing engagement of the civil society, including traditional and religious leaders in stabilization initiatives, to convene the LCBG forum at least once a year and maintain frequent communication for effective cooperation and sustainable impact.

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