The Sleeping Giant and its International Waters: The Challenge of theLagdo Dam
The two reports below and several others in Nigerian newspapers lately as well as electronic media prompted the comments below.
The current series of floods in the North-eastern part of Nigeria is the symptom of a disease – non-integrated management of water resources in the Benue River Basin.
The Benue River Basin is part of the drainage Basin under the management of Niger Basin Authority (NBA), an International Waters body to which Nigeria belongs.
The Articles of the international convention of the NBA require member states to give enough notice to any other member state that may be impacted by any planned action just like Article 4 of the Nigeria-Niger Joint Commission which calls for each contracting party to inform the other in advance of undertaking a project, a programme or plan for the implementation of agreed-upon equitable sharing determinations, or that is likely to have an appreciable impact on any such determination. A flaw of this agreement is that the length of the advance warning is not stated.
The NBA defines its purpose as the promotion of cooperation among member countries to ensure integrated development of resources. The organisation originally defined its mission as the cooperative management of water resources, most notably, but not limited to, the Niger River. While centering of water and hydroelectric resources, the NBA nations use the organisation to harmonise development of energy, agriculture, forestry, transport, communications, and industrial resources of the member nations. The NBA has worked to create an “Integrated Development Plan of the Basin”, especially focusing on cross boundary projects. The NBA itself has been ceded no sovereign power over resources or management, and therefore all regulation must be imposed by individual sovereign governments.(Wikipedia).
It appears there is a disconnect between NBA’s stated mission and the short notice given before the Lagdo Dam water was released. That Cameroon gave just a 24-hour notice before releasing excess water from the Lagdo Dam is morally wrong even if it is covered under any international convention of international waters, and if the NBA has no sovereign power over resources or management. Releases from any dam ought to be done in line with acceptable engineering practice and cooperation with other riparians.
Some questions are pertinent here – Was Nigeria represented on the body that considered the engineering drawings and design of the Lagdo Dam since it affects the flow of one of the major tributaries of the River Niger? What does the Niger Water Charter say on the responsibilities of upstream riparians?
With all the promise that Niger-Hycos have, why was it not possible for Nigeria to foresee the current flooding ahead of its occurrence, especially considering the statement credited to NIGER-HYCOS Project Coordinator, Faramade Oyeniyi, that the project would further enhance water management in the country. “It is a regional project of the Niger Basin Authority (NBA); it will help us to manage our water resources very well and to know the quantity of water to be harnessed at a particular time and for a specific purpose. “With that, we can adequately plan based on the available hydrological information.
This can help us predict flood occurrence as well as monitor water releases from countries upstream of the Niger Basin in West Africa. “It will also help us to know the quantity of water required for irrigation, hydro-power generation and navigation, among others,” (BusinessDay September 13, 2010)
Wikipedia notes that this is not the first time of the occurrence of such a flood, but that the government of Nigeria is yet to find a solution. This is unacceptable and the Government must hold any agency responsible for the management of its International Waters accountable. Savenije, P. et al.(2000) note that the foundation of sharing international rivers is the realization that the management of water resources should be done in a fully integrated fashion.
That Nigeria must ensure that its international waters are managed in a fully integrated manner is underscored by the fact that Nigeria is a downstream riparian on most of its important international waters. Now it is the Lagdo Dam, sooner it will be the Kandanji Dam on the River Niger. A battle for control over the Nile has broken out between Egypt, which regards the world’s longest river as its lifeline, and the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, which complain that they are denied a fair share of its water (Vasagar, J. (Guardian (UK), Feb. 13, 2004). It has even been said that Egypt will consider it a declaration of war if enough flow does not reach the Aswan Dam. Why is Nigeria dragging its feet in finding solution to this problem on the Benue River?
Lagdo Dam Deluge: Cameroun Gave 24-Hour Notice – NEMA
Chuks Ohuegbe, John Mkom and Pembi Stephen-David
Sat, 15/09/2012 , Leadership Newspapers.
The flood disaster that hit some riverine communities in Adamawa State recently, after the Cameroonian authorities discharged water from the Lagdo Dam, could not be avoided because Nigeria was alerted to the water release only 24 hours before the action was taken.
The director-general, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA),Dr. Ahmed Sani-Sidi, disclosed this yesterday in Abuja during a visit to the corporate headquarters of LEADERSHIP Newspapers.
Cameroon to release excess water from Lagdo Dam
Editor, For the Truth and Justice Blueprint | Sep 10, 2012
Some Nigerian setlements along the banks of Lagdo Dam
Office of the High Commissioner of the Republic of Cameroon in Calabar has expressed intention of the Central African country to release water from the Lagdo Dam “because the dam has overflowed its banks as a result of excess rainfall,”Blueprint has learnt.
In a statement from the office of the Cross River state Commissioner for Information, the High Commissioner said the notification became necessary to forestall untoward circumstances.
“As a safety measure, and to avert imminent danger, the Government of the Republic of Cameroon has signaled its intention to release the excess water from the Dam.
“The essence of this information is therefore to alert Nigerians, particularly the communities that reside in and around the River Benue which is contiguous to the Republic of Cameroon to take proactive measures in order to forestall the envisaged disaster.
“Due to this, chairmen of local government areas, in whose domains such communities are located, particularly Obanliku, Boki, Etung, Akamkpa, Bakassi and Akpabuyo; officials of the State Emergency Management Agency, opinion leaders and other people of goodwill, are by this public information, requested to educate people within the aforementioned communities and advise evacuation where necessary,” the statement said.
He advised those residing around the threatened zones to report any threat to the relevant government agencies.