By Tosin Kolade
The Federal government says no fewer than 130 million people will benefit from the Niger-Basin project when it is completed.
The Minister of Water Resources, Mr Suleiman Adamu, at the opening of the 37th Ordinary Session of the Council of Ministers of the Niger Basin Authority on Friday in Abuja, therefore, urged member nations to pay up their contributions.
According to him, the call became necessary following continued strain and inability of the authority to meet the growing needs of the basins’ population,
“Luckily Nigeria is not owing, though we have lots of economic challenges.
“Many countries are members of so many international organisations and they find it tough sometimes because of the economic situations.
“Most of the members of the NBA are among the poorest countries in the world and sometimes it’s very difficult for them to make the payments; they are trying their best.
“But we must also appreciate that without these contributions, it’s going to be very difficult for the NBA secretariat to execute its mandate.
“So we are going to continue to appeal to member countries to prioritise NBA in their budgets.’’
Adamu said it was paramount to ensure the integrated development of the Niger basin in areas of energy, agriculture, livestock, fishing, fish farming, and forestry.
He said one of the problems facing the authority was the delay in passing the budgets in member countries, noting that “even when deadlines are given, it may not be feasible’’.
The minister also said that Nigeria had shown maximum commitment for trans-boundary water activities through programme implementation and goal of effective regional cooperation and coexistence.
For his part, the Executive Secretary of the Council, Mr Abderahim Hamid, said commitment from member nations was needed to ensure improvement of livelihoods.
He urged member countries to take the need of the region seriously, noting that though the financial capability of the authority was improving, it was necessary to manage all available resources.
Hamid said with the needed financial resources, the goals to provide structured investments in the basin’s resources in agriculture, livestock, fishing, energy and inland transportation will become a reality.
“For the last four years, the River Niger Basin is subjected to the degradation of its ecosystems which, today, has reached the alert level.
“The consequences of the population growth and the effects of climate change are increasingly alarming.’’
The executive secretary said that the authority was putting modalities in place to implement the Programme for the Integrated Development and Adaptation to Climate Change in the Niger Basin and the Programme for Developing Resilience to Climate Change.
He said the programmes would improve the resilience of communities in the nine countries through sustainable management of natural resources and reduce silting processes to improve agriculture production.
He urged participants to review the issues critically, so as to come up with workable recommendations that will help to improve climate resilience for improved livelihood for the basin’s survival.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the nine-member countries are; Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Cote D’ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Niger and Nigeria.
The overall population of the basin is approximately 130 million, of which 70 per cent are in rural areas with life expectancy of 50 years.
Due to its ecological and socio-economic importance, the Niger basin is an essential for the development of the sub-region. (NAN)