Category Archives: Transboundary Waters Agreement

International Year of Water Cooperation: World Water Day 2013

Water cooperation underpins the core of Integrated water Resources Management  principles – downstream-upstream user cooperation, cooperation between multi-sector actors in water, cooperation between water suppliers and water users, cooperation with government with respect to pollution control, etc. Even in the use of the waters of small streams or rivulets all micro riparians need to cooperate in order to avoid conflict.

The Komadugu-Yobe Basin exemplifies what is possible if all riparians in a basin cooperate. The flooding in the downstream part of R. Benue, downstream of Lagdo Dam, last year shows what happens when there are no meaningful cooperation in the management and utilization of the waters of an international drainage basin.



On 27 August 2012  at Stockholm A three-hour seminar to officially launch the UN International Year of Water Cooperation and World Water Day 2013 took place. It was indicated that all were warmly invited to attend! Furthermore, it was noted that The Netherlands will host the global event for World Water Day in 2013.

In December 2010, the United Nations General Assembly declared the year 2013 as the United Nations International Year of Water Cooperation following a proposal submitted by a group of countries, initiated by Tajikistan. Members of UN-Water agreed that World Water Day on 22 March 2013 should also be dedicated to the same theme. In August 2011, UN-WATER officially appointed UNESCO to lead preparations for both the International Year of Water Cooperation and World Water Day in 2013, in cooperation with UNECE and with the support of UNDESA, UNW-DPC and UNW-DPAC.

Water cooperation is multi-dimensional in nature and encapsulates cultural, educational and scientific factors, as well as religious, ethical, social, political, legal, institutional and economic dimensions. A multidisciplinary approach is essential in order to grasp an understanding of the many facets implied by the concept and blend them into one holistic vision. Moreover, for water cooperation to be successful and sustainable, it requires a common understanding of the needs and challenges surrounding the issue of water. As a result, 2013 being the International Year and World Water Day (22 March 2013) will focus predominantly on attempting to build a consensus around the adequate responses to such issues.

World Water Day 2013 and the International Year of Water Cooperation are great opportunities for the different organizations active in the water sector to promote actions at all levels on subjects related to water cooperation. It calls for a major effort to disseminate the key messages resulting from this global exercise and to involve stakeholders coming from different backgrounds and contexts.


The Sleeping Giant and its International Waters: The Challenge of theLagdo Dam

The Sleeping Giant and its International Waters: The Challenge of theLagdo Dam

Depo Adenle

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.

“Dumped tyres, plastic waste threatening River Niger”

The newspaper article below gives an indication that although there is already a Federal Government Agency that caters to managing water resources in an integrated way (Nigeria Integrated Water Resources agency – NIWRA), the major source of surface water resources in the country is not yet being managed in an integrated manner. Could this be due to the fact that this new agency is just about four years old (established in 2007 and just backed by a bill in 2011), and its impact is yet to be felt by various stakeholders in the water sector?

In most developed countries, major rivers are used for multipurposes and all stakeholders in the valley of such rivers are involved in their management. From the article below it is clear that the power company is not helping issues by not coordinating water releases from its hydroelectric installations with the activities of the National Inland Waterways Authority  (NIWA) to ensure the minimum flow required for navigational purposes during the dry season. The activities of NIWA and all other stakeholders in Nigeria’s part of the Niger River Basin need to be coordinated by NIWRA.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Environment should be involved in the management of the River Niger as well as all riparian States’ Ministries of Environment and Water Resources.

The stakeholders in the Niger Valley need to be on top of advocacy campaign against pollution. It is also important that it is high time something was done about enacting the Nigeria Water Law and Environmental Law so that a law exists that would take care of polluters although it is one thing to enact a law while it is another thing to enforce its statutes. Enforcement of laws requires much more than putting the law together. The government will need to do all that is necessary with respect to enforcement when the Bill becomes law.

River Niger is an international water course and Nigeria happens to be at its most downstream part. Diversions from its upstream part will surely affect what is available for navigational as well as other uses down the river’s course to the sea.

NIWA needs to be aware of the statutes of the international compacts about River Niger and the regulatory roles of NIWRA and the Ministry of Environment. By so doing it will know where to direct its concerns about factors adversely affecting navigability of the Niger.



“Dumped tyres, plastic waste threatening River Niger”

by Shehu Abubakar, Weekly Trust, Saturday, 24 March, 2012

The dumping of refuse into the River Niger, especially tyres, plastic containers and sacks constitute a serious threat to smooth navigation in the river as unwanted islands are built around the dumps, General Manager engineering services of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Engineer Mike Dike said. “The two worst offenders causing serious siltation are tyres and sacks and these are things people dump into the river very often. If you dump tyres and sacks and live them there for a year, an Island will develop,” he said.

One of the contractors dredging the river, Mr. Abiye Amadi the Site Manager of Van Oord Nigeria Limited said shortage of water in the river, especially during dry season, is also hampering smooth navigation. “The blame of the acute shortage of water in the river during dry season should go to irregular release of water by Jebba and Kainji dams that ought to be feeding the river,” he said.

Dike said the third-year maintenance dredging of the river could not commence because the water level is now low, adding, “When we carry out the maintenance dredging now, we may not get the desired result. We have to allow the flood season to come first because the flood will allow all these dumping, tyres, sacks, plastics and all that. Then after that, you will see that the channel has hilted up. So, we now take up the maintenance dredging. We’re suppose to do first, second and third year maintenance after the capital dredging. But because of problem of funding, we only planned to do the first and second year maintenance.”

On the issue of effective use of the river for commercial maritime operation, Amadi said the river is not a popular mode of transportation in the north, adding, “But when you go to Ndoni (in Rivers State), you will see many boats and barges moving. You will see barges taking oil from one oil field after Abo down to Port Harcourt and Warri. There are about 10 oil tankers using the dredged portion of the river daily.” He added: “Even down here, there are barges moving tiles from Ajaokuta to Onitsha. There are some businessmen, young guys moving a trailer load of yam in their boat from Benue to Baro. They said it takes them five days because of the Benue River that is yet to be dredged. But once they link up with the dredged river Niger, they have smooth sail. When the river ports at Baro and Lokoja become operational, the activity in this part will also increase,” he said.

But the Chief Executive Officer of Fung Tai that dredged the Niger Delta portion of the river from Warri to Bifurcation, Sir Isaac Chukwu, said the channel in the LOT he dredged has enough water in the river. He said in some areas the channel is as deep as three times what his company was asked to dredge as even in the dry season when the water level in the river is low. He told Weekly Trust: “My company is making a program now in Lagos where the products of our industries there in Lagos can be transported and marketed through the river to the east and north parts of the country. We are planning to use flat base vessels for the transportation of our products. But beyond that, government should hasten to develop more river ports along the Niger and also invest in the maritime transportation as they are doing in the case of Government Mass Transit Buses on road transportation. Investors will have confidence to invest when government is involved. When we start transporting goods through the river, the prices of goods will come down because it will not only be cheaper to transport them through the river but is also safer. NIWA also has to make a lot of promotion on the inland waterways because that is going to give them a lot of revenue.”

But Captain Suleiman Okpanachi and Dr. Saleh Mohammed said Nigerians may not be comfortable to invest their money in the inland waterways transportation business when government has not shown any form of commitment by buying passengers boats, vessels and barges, so private businesses can follow suit.

Okpanachi said maritime transportation is capital intensive. He added: “Government must show commitment by introducing the transport system physically. That way, people will be prompted to invest in that business.”

Dr. Mohammed said it is a good venture that if well-managed can be able to serve as a major source of revenue generation. “The management of that sector may be the problem going by the trend, but it is a very wise decision dredging the river,” he said.