Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja
Nigeria and eight other countries along the River Niger belt are to converge on Abuja in September under the aegis of African Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions Working Group on Environmental Auditing (AFROSAI WEGA), and one of the major items billed for deliberation is how to avert the possible drying of Africa’s third longest river-the River Niger.
Although Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Benin Republic, Cameroun, Algeria, Chad and Cote d’Ivoire are not the only countries in AFROSAI WEGA coming for the meeting in September, but they, alongside Nigeria, are along the River Niger belt and will be brainstorming on how to prevent the drying up of the river..
Experts had warned that the river faces the danger of drying up in a few years if urgent remedial measures are not taken to arrest man-made activities and the threat of climate change, among others, which are inimical to the existence of the Niger.
The Auditor-General of the Federation (AuGF), Mr. Samuel Ukura told journalists in Abuja yesterday that an environmental audit of the river to determine its level of dryness, is imminent.
But Ukura, who made the disclosure when the Edo State Auditor-General, Mr. Bernard Aigbe and members of the Edo State Public Accounts Committee were on a study tour of his office, said the decision on the river’s audit would be concluded in September at the AFROSAI WEGA meeting in Abuja where the matter is to be discussed with eight other countries.
According to him, the initial investigation of the river indicated that the decline of its flow was occasioned mainly by climate change, industrial waste and population growth problems.
He disclosed that during the meeting, he would discuss ith his counterparts from the other eight African countries to arrive on a date when the environmental audit of the river will commence, adding that the audit will be executed under the African Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions (AFROSAI), with Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Benin, Cameroon, Algeria, Chad and Cote I’voire playing pivotal roles..
The Auditor-General noted that it was necessary for governments of the affected nations to address the issue so as to avoid a repeat of the negative impact of the drying up of Lake Chad, with the attendant socio-economic fallouts.
“Within a few decades, River Niger will completely disappear. There are certain things in the preliminary investigation we discovered that are happening. People have been building dams without authorisation along the river. And the law establishing the River Niger Basin Commission states that before you do any serious activity along the River Niger, you have to tell other countries. But these activities are taking place without authorisation.
“Also the river is being misused. There are certain activities that will cause the river to dry up, like dumping waste. People dump certain things like toxic waste and it destroys our aquatic system. So we will look at these things to see what can be done to stop its drying,’’ Ukura said.
The Niger River has a total length of about 4100 kilometers and is the third longest river in Africa, after the Nile and the Congo-Zaire Rivers.
It spreads through ten countries and is estimated that about 110 million people live in the river’s basin.
On the Audit Bill, which is before the National Assembly, Ukura urged the lawmakers to pass it into law, adding that there were certain international ratings that the country cannot attain without an audit law in place..
“The audit law was created in 1956 when the main sources of revenue were from the sale of cocoa, soya beans, groundnut, timber, palm oil and the rest. So this needs to be looked at. Also, the audit law, when passed, will give the Office of the Auditor-General more power and some hidden forces do not want this.
“This is because the new law will give the office the power to sanction and disallow certain expenditure and some people do not want that,’’ Ukura alleged.
Speaking on the study tour to the AuGF, the Edo State Auditor-General, Mr. Bernard Aigbe said he and members of his office were there to see how to keep abreast with the reforms at the federal level and how to bridge the gap between the two offices.
According to him, the Auditor-General of the Federation had introduced certain strategies at the federal level to ensure efficient use of government resources, which Edo State was desirous of introducing, noting that emphasis was on the.
Treasury and Performance Audit, Aigbe said, strives to monitor and evaluate government expenditure on capital projects to ensure completion.