President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the Ministry of Environment to dust up a 1920 report and rely on it for solutions to the rapidly drying up of the Lake Chad waters.
Speaking after receiving a briefing on the challenges facing the Ministry of Environment, the president noted that the security and economic challenges faced by member countries of the Lake Chad Basin Commission could be substantially ameliorated with an improvement in the economic value of the lake.
The permanent secretary, Nana Fatima Mede, had informed President Buhari that Lake Chad had shrunk considerably from the 1960s when it covered an area of more than 26,000 square kilometres to less than one-tenth of that size at present.
In his response, the president directed the ministry to undertake a rigorous study of the Lake Chad with a view to bringing up proposals on how best to reverse the shrinking of the lake which currently serves as a major source of livelihood for many.
Buhari also urged the Ministry of Environment to take up the challenge of researching cheaper ways of sourcing energy for cooking apart from firewood.
Mede told journalists after the meeting that the president expressed worry that the drying up of the Lake Chad waters was affecting farmers, fishermen and the surrounding communities relying on the lake for their livelihood.
She said, “The president is also concerned about the fact that Lake Chad is receding from the 33,000square kilometres about two decades ago to just 300 square kilometres, which has affected the farmers, fishermen and the livelihood of the people around that area.
“So he has directed that we should go and look at the report that was submitted 1920 about how to prevent Lake Chad from drying up so that the communities around, even border communities including the countries benefitting from activities of fishermen and livelihood based on Lake Chad, are not adversely affected.”
Mede noted that Buhari was also concerned about environmental degradation in the country, which was affecting over 43 percent of the population, and directed that the ministry put more measures in place to address the situation, including the use of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) for cooking, especially in the urban areas of the country.
“It (the meeting) went very well because the president is concerned about the environmental degradation in the country. He knows that the sustainability of the country will depend on how well we manage the environment.
“He has also directed that we arrest the deforestation that is going on; if you drive going to the northern part of the country, the extent of decertification and afforestation is alarming.
“Currently, over 43 percent of Nigerians are affected by the effect of decertification and you see the conflict that comes up between the herdsmen and farmers because of forced migration – moving away from the dessert to the South West where they can get grass to feed the animals.
“So, the president has directed that to reduce the rate at which wood is being cut down for fuel for cooking, we should look at promoting the use of LPG, especially in the cities; in the villages it will be difficult.
“For instance, if everybody in Abuja is using LPG gas to cook, the rate at which people cut down wood to sell will be reduced. So, he has directed that we should bring up that report immediately and see how we can promote the use of LPG to reduce the rate at which trees are being cut down.
“He was also concerned about the level of environmental management, solid waste, erosion control, pollution, air quality, climate change, the general environmental situation in the country.”
On the Clean Cooking Stove initiative launched by the last administration to provide cooking stoves for thousands of rural women across the country, Mede noted that only little progress had been made on the project.
She said the contractor handling it had dragged the federal government to court over its possible cancellation.
“The matter is in court right now; so, there is a limit to how much I can talk about the issue of cooking stoves. The contractor took government to court asking the court to grant an injunction for government not to terminate the contract.
“We will go there and argue our case. The government will go. We have briefed the attorney-general’s office. The issue that led to the contractor taking us to court, it will be explained and the court will decide,” she stated.