President Muhammadu Buhari faulted the environmental audit reports on the Lake Chad presented to him by the Auditor General of the Federation (AGF), Samuel Ukura, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The encounter was at the Council Chamber of the Aso Rock Villa shortly after Ukura presented the audit reports on the drying-up of the Lake Chad water to the president.
President Buhari, who observed that the report presented did not reflect the feasibility study carried out by a team under the tenure of former President Olusegun Obasanjo for which Nigeria committed about five million dollars, said he was disappointed at the report, asking the Auditor-General to explain the omission.
“I have to digress here based on personal knowledge of this. I saw an article in a journal in 1978 that a professor in the University of London in 1925 had foreseen what we are just seeing. I handed over the article to Gen. Obasanjo and I understand that Gen. Obasanjo took the initiative sometime ago. It is on record that he is the only Nigerian that has presided over the country for more than 11 years.
“He gave $5million to the study, and the study was that unless some of the rivers from the Central African 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 $5million 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 $13billion and $15billion. I will like the Auditor-General to comment on this, whether they have received this report or 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,” he said.
But Ukura claimed that the feasibility report was not made available to him by the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) for the purpose of the audit report, passing the blame on the LCBC, the custodian agency of the report.
“The report was not made available to the group, it was only made available to the Lake Chad Basin Commission, may be they will be in a better position to comment on it. It was not made available to us during the study,” he said.
Buhari, however, asked the Executive Secretary of the LCBC, Ambassador Sanusi Imran Abdullahi, to give his side of the story.
Abdullahi, in his reaction, explained that the document in question was already in public domain.
He said: “The report is a public document actually; it has been in the public domain since the study was concluded. Departments of government of Nigeria and other member states have received copies. The situation is that the study had been completed. The cost estimate for the project is $14.5billion.”
He said the commission has consulted the Congo Basin to allay the 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 effort with the Champion of Save Lake Chad, former President Obasanjo, to sensitise the international community, particularly Europe whom we perceived has some unfriendly attitude towards the transfer,” Abdullahi added.