For three days, eight governors from Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad met in Niamey, Niger, alongside several civic groups and global partners to deliberate on the humanitarian crisis rocking the Lake Chad region and also offer solutions to the unending Boko Haram crisis.
The governors included the Governor of Extreme North, Cameroon; Governor of North Region, Cameroon; Governor of Diffa, Niger; Governor of Adamawa, Nigeria; Governor of Borno, Nigeria; Governor of Yobe, Nigeria; Governor of Hadjer Lamis, Tchad and the Governor of Lac Region, Tchad.
The second meeting of the Governors Forum was co-chaired by these governors whose areas are most affected by the deadly Boko Haram insurgency which has led to insecurity and displacement in the Lake Chad Basin.
The event, which has attendance from global partners, was hosted by the Government of Niger between July 16 and 18.
The Forum was convened by the Lake Chad Basin Commission with technical support from the African Union (AU), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the Crisis Management Initiative (CMI). Financial support was provided by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The high point of the event was when the governors, including global partners, signed a $100 million regional stabilisation facility aimed at ending the humanitarian crisis in the region.
The project is expected to be implemented between September 1, 2019, and August 31, 2021.
Those who pledged to deploy funds to support the project, which will be monitored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the African Union (AU), include the governments of Sweden and Germany and the regional governors from Borno, Adamawa, Yobe (Nigeria), Lak, Hajder-Lamis (Chad), Diffa (Niger) and Far North and North regions in Cameroon.
Pillars of the facility
The facility has two specific objectives and several pillars to guide implementation.
The first is the immediate ‘stabilisation’ of targeted parts of the ravaged areas in the region, building on the UNDP’s experience in Iraq and other war-torn areas.
The aim of the facility, according to a strategy paper seen by PREMIUM TIMES, would be to increase the effectiveness of delivering such relief packages to such areas in the region in a ”rapid and flexible manner.”
The other objective is to ensure enhanced regional ownership of the projects, cooperation and coordination among the stakeholders.
In achieving this, the partners said they would focus on some pillars which include: community safety and improved security; provision of essential infrastructure and basic services; access to livelihoods opportunities for affected households in the region; improving the ability of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) to manage the implementation of the Regional Stabilisation Strategy through the provision of technical services and a dedicated LCBC stabilisation division.
It also includes offering of financial support to the LCBC to carry out cross-border stabilisation activities for the first two and half years and equally providing operational structures to the affected states in order to key into the regional strategy.
Technically, the LCBC will both be a partner and a beneficiary.
Building on the UNDP and the African Union Commission (AUC) collaboration in facilitating the consultation process and drafting the strategy paper, the UNDP’s primary partner in supporting capacity development of the LCBC to implement the process will be the African Union.
Also, local communities are seen as the ultimate beneficiaries while national governments of the region are viewed as partners ”with rights as well as obligations in regards to the design, funding and implementation of the strategy.”
The UNDP also said the facility would contribute towards the operationalisation of the Regional Stabilisation Strategy, including a quick response mechanism to support recovery activities in the eight affected regions and states.
It would also support the leadership role of the LCBC with the African Union.
The agency also said the facility would coordinate civil-military relations, “efficient and fast operations following special procedures and autonomous decision making.”
The facility is expected to run for 24 months with two key objectives. The fully staffed structure will act as a rapid response mechanism “to allow authorities extend and re-establish legitimate civilian authority in the region, the rule of law, security, local services, trust in local institutions, employment generation and livelihood.”
Above all, it will support the formulation of the Territorial Action Plan (TAP), adopted by the governors at the end of the conference.
Since 2009, the Lake Chad Region has been severely impacted by the crisis triggered by the Boko Haram insurgency and the interplay of other causes, causing massive internal and cross border displacement, destruction of properties and human rights abuses.
But more alarming is the fact that the Lake has shrunk by over 90 per cent since the 1960s, basically due to climate change, an astronomical increase in the population and unplanned irrigation.
Its once blossoming basin, which covers parts of Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon, has been a water source for close to 30 million people from the affected nations.
Experts say the decrease is mainly due to shifting climate patterns over the past 40 years. The Lake Chad drainage basin depends on monsoon rains to replenish its water, and this rainfall has dropped dramatically since the early 1960s.
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the LCBC, which regulates the use of the basin’s water and other natural resources, maintain that inefficient damming and irrigation methods on the part of the countries bordering the lake are partly responsible for its shrinkage.
The unrelenting onslaught by Boko Haram insurgents in the region has also led to the deaths of thousands and the displacement over 2.5 million persons with the attendant socio-economic pressure on the regional governments.
Worried governors, partners
In light of these challenges and recognising the need for cooperation and harmonisation of measures to respond to their impact and to effectively address these, the governors of the eight worst-affected areas in Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria met in May 2018 in Maiduguri, Nigeria, to establish the Governors’ Forum for Regional Cooperation on Stabilisation, (“the Governors’ Forum”).
For the first time, governors from the LCB region jointly discussed common challenges, and potential measures and crafted policies to resolve them.
The meeting was attended by governors from Borno and Adamawa (Nigeria); governors of Diffa and Zinder (Niger); governors of Lac and Hajder Lamis (Chad); and governors of the North and Extreme North (Cameroon).
It was also attended by civil society representatives from the four LCB countries, donor countries of the Forum and other supporting countries, international and regional organisations, the Nigerian military and the MNTJF.
The inaugural meeting concluded with a stated commitment, in the form of a joint communiqué, in which the governors expressed their wish to play a central role in regional stabilisation.
They equally recognised their unique leadership position to advance regional stabilisation, recovery and resilience in the LCB region.
Meanwhile, the just concluded 2019 forum built on the inaugural meeting in Maiduguri with an added political endorsement of the Lake Chad Basin Regional Stabilisation, Recovery, and Resilience Strategy.
The main objective of the meeting was to further institutionalise the Governors’ Forum as a formidable platform to tackle the challenges in the region.
The three-day event had 300 participants, and delegates from national institutions and governments, UN agencies, continental and sub-regional bodies such as the African Union, armed forces, MNJTF, ECOWAS, ECCAS, civil society groups, think tanks, academia, and private sector from the region.
The next meeting is expected to take place in Cameroon in 2020.
The trip to the Lake Chad Governors’ Forum in Niamey was sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)