Ambassador Mamman Nuhu is the Executive Secretary of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, which oversees natural resource use in the region. He is also Head of Mission of the Multinational Joint Task Force, which is made up of military units from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria and is tasked with ending the Boko Haram insurgency. He spoke with Africa Renewal’s Kingsley Ighobor about the situation on the ground.
On environmental challenges: We are losing a lot of plant life and animals, including fish species. Farmers, herders and fishermen have lost their livelihoods. It’s a real crisis for us.
On defeating Boko Haram: We have made progress. Some territories have been recovered, and now Boko Haram is only in a few places around Lake Chad, but it still has capacity to cause harm. What we need to do as the Multinational Joint Task Force [MJTF], which we are already doing and seeing good results, is to have continuous military operations. Previously, we had operations for a limited period and then there was a lull. Troops from Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin constitute the 10,500-strong MJTF.
Progress on addressing humanitarian challenges: The humanitarian challenges are still there. About 10.7 million people need humanitarian assistance. Another 2.4 million people are displaced and are yet to return to their hometowns and villages. We have made some progress. Some of the displaced people in neighbouring countries are returning voluntarily, and we are reintegrating them into their communities. A lot of reconstruction is going on-schools and marketplaces are being rebuilt, and civil authorities are gradually going back to the places that are safe.
On the regional strategy: We have a robust regional stabilisation strategy crafted in 2018 by the Lake Chad Basin Commission, with the assistance of the African Union and the UN Development Programme [UNDP]. It is an all-encompassing approach with nine pillars, including education and skills acquisition, socio-economic recovery, environmental sustainability, and empowerment and inclusion of women. These are the robust ways we will address some of the regional issues in a non-violent way. The regional stabilisation strategy has not yet fully come on stream. In 2019 a UNDP facility helped raise $60 million, which is what we are currently using to address some of the humanitarian challenges.
On the African Union’s “Silencing the Guns by 2020” campaign: It will take sustained pressure on Boko Haram, along with interventions that address the root causes of the problems in the Lake Chad Basin. For example, poverty and hunger are caused by drought and the shrinking of the lake. If we address the developmental issues, we will be able to silence the guns. Imagine: in the 1960s, the lake occupied 25,000 square kilometers; currently, it is 4,500 square kilometers. Over the same period, the population increased from 7 million to about 50 million.
Efforts underway to address some of these issues: We are addressing the human aspects such as unsustainable methods of farming, which consume a lot of water. We are introducing drought-resistant crops and new farming techniques to enable farmers to use water more efficiently. There is also a sensitisation campaign to educate people on sustainable ways of farming.
Final message: The cordial relationship among countries of the Lake Chad region should continue. We also need the support of the international community so that we can mobilise the needed funding for these interventions. The countries of the region are not in a financial position to handle these huge projects on their own.
Kingsley Ighobor is a public information officer for the United Nations, New York. He is the managing editor at the Africa Renewal.