Nigeria’s Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, says past leaders of countries bordering the Lake Chad Basin foresaw the crisis in the region when they established a development commission in 1964. Osinbajo said this in Abuja on Wednesday while opening the Ministerial meeting on protection in the Lake Chad Basin during the three-day regional dialogue on the Lake Chad Basin.

He, however, stated that the legacy is being threatened by humanitarian and ecological challenges. “The people of the Lake Chad region face problems of existential proportions, loss of lives, livelihoods, malnutrition, out of school children. “The protection issues are complex, varied and numerous. “But it is for such a time as this that the visionary leaders of Niger, Cameroon, Chad and Nigeria established the Lake Chad Basin Commission in 1964.

“Those pioneers expected that working together as brothers in the commission, the ecological, commercial and social lives of the Lake Chad basin stood a much better chance of survival. “They expected, even then, that there would be challenges, but they knew that the most daunting challenges are conquered by men and not spirits.

“And they trusted in the creativity and hard work and the unbending will of their descendants to preserve the legacy that they left behind. “That legacy is facing the most important threat today. “The question is whether the twin challenges – the humanitarian and the ecological – will defeat the will, creativity and patriotism of this generation of leaders of the Lake Chad commission. “If this were to happen, then in a few short years, the commission would probably, only exist on paper. “God forbid.’’ Osinbajo said the Lake Chad Basin had always been a place of great hope and expectation for the peoples’ survival, but in spite of the shrinking of the lake, Boko Haram terrorists had created humanitarian crisis needing urgent international attention.

“In the last seven years or so, the ecological disaster has itself been overshadowed by a major humanitarian crisis in the region. “Hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons, fleeing the scourge of mindless mass murders, maiming and destruction of Boko Haram, giving rise to a humanitarian and protection problem of enormous proportions in Nigeria and the Cameroons, Chad and Republic of Niger. “It is estimated that in Nigeria alone about 1.8 million people are displaced and hundreds of thousands of IDPs and host communities are living in areas, which are inaccessible to humanitarian actors due to insecurity,’’ he said Osinbajo stated that the situation was not better in Cameroon, Chad or the Republic of Niger, which also have sizable IDP populations. He said their problem was further compounded by the large influx of Nigerian refugees into the neighbouring countries with the attendant protection and human rights issues arising therefrom.

He, however, expressed gratitude to Cameroon, Chad and Niger for receiving and hosting Nigerian refugees in their respective countries, saying that such open-handedness clearly demonstrated the oneness of countries in the region. Osinbajo declared that the Federal Government “will make necessary arrangements for the return of those, who fled to neighbouring countries as soon as modalities for that exercise is jointly agreed by all’’.

The acting President said the international response to the crisis in the region was weak. According to him, it is for that reason that the regional dialogue is apt and timely. “But if as it is, the expectation and hope of the millions, who have entrusted power into our hands will rise to the occasion, rally ourselves, friendly nations and compatriots in the development community, this looming darkness will only be the precursor to a glorious new dawn.

“We simply cannot afford to fail; the outcome of this conference will be an important building block.

 “In the creative solutions to all the protection issues and the humanitarian issues that have already arisen we hope that this conference will not only answer these problems but plan for the future.’’

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