By Kolade Gbolagade
President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday ordered that the report of a audit initiated by former President Olusegun Obasanjo on the shrinking of Lake Chad be made available to him without further delay.
Buhari gave the directive shortly after the Auditor-General of the Federation, Mr. Samuel Uruka, presented the report of an environmental audit of the Lake Chad to the President at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He said he was disappointed that the Auditor-General did not mention the earlier report in his presentation despite the fact that Obasanjo spent $5m on the study.
He said he was interested in the report because the former President had commissioned the study based on an article by a professor in the University of London on the matter, which he (Buhari) read and handed over to Obasanjo.
The President said, “I have to digress here based on personal knowledge of this. I saw an article in the journal of National Demographic in 1978 that a professor in the University of London in 1925 has foreseen what we are just seeing.
“I handed over the article to Gen. Obasanjo and I understand that Gen. Obasanjo took the initiative sometimes ago. It is on record that he is the only Nigerian that has presided over the country for more than 11 years.
“He gave $5m to the study, and the study’s report was that unless some of the rivers from the Central Africa Republic are diverted to empty into Chad Basin, Lake Chad will dry up.
“I understand that this report, which was sponsored by Nigeria, has been submitted. I am a bit disappointed that in the speech of the Auditor-General, there was no mention of this report; whether my own report was correct that $5m was given.
“One of the recommendations was that at the time the report was submitted, the cost of diverting one of the rivers to empty into Lake Chad would be between $13bn and $15bn.”
He added, “I will like the Auditor-General to comment on this, whether they have received this report or it was sent to the Ministry of Water Resources. I think this government will like to see this report and see how we can ask our foreign friends how they can help us.
“This is because if that river is diverted to empty into Chad Basin, I think it will affect at least two million Nigerians and another two million from Cameroon, Chad and Niger to resettle, and, perhaps, that will help us to stop Boko Haram around that area.”
Uruka however told Buhari that the report was not made available to the group that conducted the latest study, saying it was only made available to the Lake Chad Basin Commission.
A representative of LCBC who was at the presentation however told the President that the report had since been in the public domain.
The LCBC official said, “The situation is that the study had been completed. The cost estimate for the project is $14.5bn.
“We have been consulting the Congo Basin to allay their fears on the environmental impact assessment they want us to add and we need some additional political support to be able to convince them that it is also in their interest to see that this water is diverted to Lake Chad.
“We have made efforts with the Champion of Save Lake Chad, former President Obasanjo, to sensitise the international community, particularly Europe, whom we perceived have some unfriendly attitude towards the transfer.”