There is a glimmer of hope for the revival of the shrinking Lake Chad after the United Nations yesterday agreed to help in efforts to raise $50 billion for its recharge.
President Muhammadu Buhari revealed yesterday that U.N. Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, had accepted to co-chair a special fundraising session to raise $50 billion (or £38.65 billion) for a project to help revive the drought stricken Lake Chad.
LEADERSHIP reports that President Buhari had written to the UN scribe to co-chair the fundraising session with him, which the UN chief accepted.
The response of the UN Secretary-General was presented to President Buhari by the president of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, at the State House, Abuja yesterday.
In a statement by his media aide, Garba Shehu, Buhari said such a special forum was necessary in view of the size of capital required for the project, which was unavailable to the Lake Chad Basin countries.
"President Muhammadu Buhari has welcomed the acceptance of the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres to co-chair a Special Session to raise $50 billion to fund the inter-basin water transfer from Central Africa to revive the Lake Chad," Buhari said in the statement.
LEADERSHIP reports that the Lake, which borders Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon, has lost 90 per cent of its size due mainly to climate change, leading to fear of famine and throwing the economic life of the 30 million population around it into jeopardy.
The shrinking of the Lake is also fingered as part of the reasons why insurgency and terrorist activities thrive in the region, with militant groups including Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) and Boko Haram having their strongholds there.
The president also expressed delight at the successes recorded in the four years of Dr Adesina's tenure at the Bank. Adesina was minister of agriculture in the Jonathan administration.
President Buhari specifically cited the Bank's contribution to the growth of Nigeria's agriculture and infrastructure, and commended what he called "its critical gesture in 2016 during the difficult period of economic recession through the issuance of $600 million budget support facility."
The president also used the occasion to highlight the successes achieved by the administration through the implementation of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
He stressed that his focus would continue to be on diversifying the economy and making it more inclusive as well as the creation of jobs in critical sectors like the Information Communication Technology (ICT) and manufacturing so that "young people will earn a decent living."
While noting that a lot is being achieved in providing guaranteed off-takers for farmers, and in the provision of infrastructure that include airports, rail, roads and waterways, President Buhari, however, admitted that "we still have significant work ahead in the provision of power, small scale industries and promotion of the agro-industrial zones coming up in the country."
He then asked for AfDB's continued support in this regard.
In his presentation, Dr Adesina thanked President Buhari for his support, without which, he said, he would not have been AfDB president.
He listed his record of achievements in the last four years to include lending to critical sectors of the Nigerian economy grew to an unprecedented $4.3 billion.
Adesina told President Buhari that the fortunes of the Bank had significantly improved, earning global ratings in accountability and transparency, improved incomes and for making impact on the lives of millions of its target population.
The AfDB boss sought Buhari's support for a "general capital increase" to fast-track the development of the Bank, to which President Buhari gave all assurances and directed the Ministry of Finance to engage and expedite action on the issues brought to the government by the AfDB.
... PMB Woos Qatar For Investments, Recharge Of Lake Chad
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday in Abuja invited Qatar to invest in Nigeria's petroleum, power, aviation, agriculture and railways sectors.
Femi Adesina, the President's Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, disclosed this in a statement issued after a meeting between President Buhari and the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-thani, at State House, Abuja.
Also on the front burner was the recharge of Lake Chad with water from the Congo Basin so as to grant succour to the more than 30 million people adversely affected by the shrinking of the lake over the years.
"We invite you to invest in our refineries, pipelines, power sector, aviation, agriculture, education, and many others, so that you can have your management here to oversee the investment. We need your expertise," President Buhari said.
On the receding Lake Chad, he noted that of the over 30 million people affected, more than half were in Nigeria, adding that the shrinking of the Lake has contributed greatly to illegal migration, as innumerable youths dare the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea in order to find safer shores in Europe, with a large number dying in the process.
Buhari said, "We need help with the recharge of Lake Chad, as it is not a project that the concerned countries can handle alone.
"Recharging the lake will bring back fishing, farming, animal husbandry, and the youths won't be attracted by insurgency or illegal migration. We want Qatar to be involved because of the humanitarian nature of the endeavour."
In his response, Sheikh Hamad Al-thani said he was honoured and happy to be in Nigeria for the first time, stressing it was a reciprocal visit to the one paid to Qatar in 2016 by President Buhari.
"The relationship between our countries is very good. We just have to build on it.
"We share a lot of similarities in different areas. We need to enhance bilateral trade and economic cooperation.
"We are willing to do a lot more with Nigeria, and we will continue to work on investment opportunities of mutual benefit," he said.