BusinessDay

Nigeria commits to UN water treaty

Africa’s most populous country has taken a significant step towards ensuring the sustainable management of its cross-border waters with a milestone commitment to join and implement a United Nations treaty known as the Water Convention.

This commitment, guided by a road map, will be the key outcome of the ongoing National Workshop on the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes.

“As the most populous country in Africa where the majority of our over 206 million people depend on water that we share with neighbouring countries, Nigeria attaches significant importance to transboundary water cooperation,” said Suleiman Adamu, minister of Water Resources in a statement.

Adamu stated that the Nigerian government would commit to a road map for its accession to future implementation of the United Nations Water Convention, while encouraging all nations with which it shares water resources to accede to the treaty and ensure its full implementation.

“This offers a crucial means for us to work together to strengthen the foundations for peace, stability and sustainable development in the Lake Chad and Niger basins, for the mutual benefit of our populations and natural environment.”

Nigeria shares at least one transboundary water body with its neighbouring states. The Lake Chad Basin is the largest inland drainage area in Africa and covers an area of 2,434,000 km2, equal to 8percent of the total area of the African continent.

The basin extends through Algeria, Cameroon, Niger, Nigeria, Central Africa Republic, Chad, and Sudan. In Nigeria, the basin drains about 20percent of the country.

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Damming, over extraction, climate change, and drought are contributing to the rapid depletion of Lake Chad, which has decreased in size by 90percent over the last 60 years. It has led to significant unemployment and insecurity challenges in the region.

Nigeria is also home to about 80percent of the 100 million people residing in the basin of the Niger river, which crosses Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Chad before emptying through the Gulf Guinea into the Atlantic Ocean.

“With these shared waters increasingly threatened by water scarcity linked to climate change, pollution, and rising demands on their use, transboundary water cooperation is crucial for peace, conflict prevention, sustainable development and human well-being,” the Sonja Koeppel, secretary of the Water Convention.

“This is particularly relevant in regions such as the Lake Chad and Niger basin where water is closely related to security, livelihoods and regional stability. As an effective global legal and intergovernmental framework and platform for cooperation and sustainable management of shared waters, including ground waters, the Water Convention helps countries to address key challenges”, Koeppel stressed.

Catalyzing strong momentum for Africa’s water cooperation

Nigeria’s accession would help consolidate the fast-building momentum for water cooperation in Africa and, given its role as the largest economy in Africa and position in key shared basins, prove a catalyst for more countries to join and reap the benefits of implementing the Water Convention.

Chad, Senegal, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau and Togo have joined the Convention since 2018 following its opening to accession by all UN member states. Cameroon is on the cusp of becoming a party, following the President’s signature on accession earlier this month.

More than 15 countries are in the process of joining, most of which are in Africa. Nigeria’s accession could be particularly crucial as, together with Cameroon, it would help reach a critical mass of Water Convention Parties in the region that share the same water resources.

Unlocking benefits

Current water challenges in Nigeria are due to the rapidly increasing demand as a result of rapid population growth rate, increased urbanization, irrigation farming and industrialization.

These challenges have been exacerbated by persistent drought and have resulted in greater dependence on groundwater resources. Nigeria also experiences perennial flooding, which can have multi-billion dollar consequences. Effective transboundary cooperation can help address these challenges. In this regard, Nigeria has signed several transboundary agreements over its shared water resources. Notably, Nigeria is party to the Lake Chad Basin Commission and the Niger Basin Authority.

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