Sunday, 12 June 2016

Reviving the Niger Basin Authority

Written by the Editorial board of The Guardian Newspaper 

With the depleting water resources across the Sahel region of West Africa, the move by the member states of the Niger Basin Authority (NBA) to revive the basin is a step in the right direction.

Reviving the Niger Basin will improve the lot of the population whose livelihood is dependent on the river. Agriculture, fishing and livestock farming would be boosted. Besides, there would be improved access to hydro-power generation, among other benefits.

Therefore, the initiative should be supported by the international community as a means of reducing endemic poverty in the sub-region.

President Muhammadu Buhari, the other day, in Abuja, made the disclosure during the opening ceremony of the Niger Basin Authority’s Council of Ministers. He decried the deteriorating state of the basin, which he attributed to climate change and irrational human activities.

Buhari noted that the combined impact of the two phenomena have heavily compromised the future of the ever increasing population of the Niger basin through the intensity of environmental, social and economic problems that are being induced.
While expressing concern at the security situation within the basin and the entire West and Central African region, he was optimistic that the implementation of the Operational Plan of the basin would provide job opportunities for the youths in the areas of livestock, fisheries and conservation of the basin natural resources.

The President said the investment outlay was developed with the active participation of representatives of the member countries, who chose 350 investment and capacity building actions for the benefit of the countries and the basin’s secretariat.

The NBA is an inter-governmental body established to foster cooperation in managing and developing the resources of the River Niger basin. Founded in 1964, the members include Guinea, Mali, Niger Republic, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Benin and Nigeria. The body is there to ensure integrated development of the basin’s water resources such that no member country is disadvantaged in any way.

While centering of water and hydroelectric power maybe individual country’s riparian rights, under the NBA framework, the countries harmonise the development of energy, agriculture, forestry, transport, communications and industrial resources pertaining to the River Niger basin. That creates harmony and rational utilisation of the water resources.

Over the years, the NBA has worked to promote Integrated Development Plan of the Basin. Consequently, the seeming unilateral decision by Niger Republic, for instance, to build the Kandadji Dam that is not in Nigeria’s interest raised concerns.

But available information shows that the Kandadji and Tauossa dams in Niger Republic and Mali respectively were part of the NBA’s “2008-2027 Investment Programme of the River Niger Basin”.

At the 8th “Summit of the Niger Basin Authority Heads of State and Government” held in Niamey in April 2008, the body agreed to implement several projects, of which the Kandadji Dam is one. The others are the “Water Charter of the River Niger Basin” and the 2008-2012 priority five-year plan, among others. Ministers representing the Authority’s members held the meeting.

However, it is not clear whether these projects are part of the 350 investment and capacity actions jointly selected by the member states under the Operational Plan.

Without collaboration, any country could unilaterally decide to implement projects that are injurious to the rest of the riparian states? That explains the need to review the original terms of association to foster peace and harmony.

Hopefully, the latest initiative would address nagging issues that have hindered intra-basin cooperation among the riparian states.Funding has been a major obstacle to project implementation as most of the member-states are unable to fulfill their financial obligations.

Under the new Operational Plan, the member states are to commit $6.44 million towards reviving the basin. It is important that this fund is raised in order to implement the earmarked projects.

To this end, Chairman of NBA Council of Ministers and Nigeria’s Minister of Water Resources, Suleman Adamu, appropriately stressed the need for members to contribute at least 10 per cent of the funding of the Operational Plan.

There is no doubt that among the countries that make up the NBA, Nigeria makes the biggest financial contribution, which should give her an advantage in the body’s decision making process.

Besides, the World Bank and the International Development Association (IDA) have also donated to development projects in the basin.

Certainly, the revival of the Niger Basin and the Lake Chad in this poverty-stricken region would go a long way to ensure peace and prosperity.

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