Humanitarian, protection challenges of Lake Chad remain urgent – Osinbajo

 

OPENING SPEECH BY PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, AT THE 2ND REGIONAL PROTECTION DIALOGUE ON THE LAKE CHAD, TUESDAY, 29TH JANUARY, 2019.

Protocol

I am very pleased to join you today at this 2nd Regional Protection Dialogue on the Lake Chad Basin. This event also happily converges with the launch of the 2019- 2021 response strategy for North East Nigeria and the 2019-2020 regional response refugee plan.

I heartily welcome all participants from our sister countries in the Lake Chad Basin: Chad, Cameroun and Niger, as well as delegates from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), and other Development Partners here present.

On the 6th – 8th June 2016, we gathered here in Abuja for the first Regional Protection Dialogue on the Lake Chad Basin. At the first dialogue, a number of resolutions were reached, as captured in the twenty-four-point plan, that is known as the “Abuja Action Statement.”

This document provided a roadmap and framework for all concerned countries and stakeholders’ towards tackling the many issues confronting us in the Lake Chad Basin.  This second Regional Protection Dialogue is intended to update us on the progress so far made on the implementation of the outcomes of the first Dialogue and to galvanize even greater support towards ensuring a lasting solution to the humanitarian, economic and security challenges in the Lake Chad Basin.

One especially worrisome development in the Lake Chad Region, of course, is the dwindling fortunes of the Lake Chad itself and the consequent loss of lives and livelihood in the Lake Chad region.

It is now evident that the Lake Chad itself has become considerably reduced in size, to about a tenth of its former size. And of course, the implications of that is for all of the economic activity around the Lake Chad, are in itself, on a point of climate change and all of the related problems have played a significant role in diminishing the economic opportunities around the Lake Chad Basin. So, many of those who live around there, are adrift and largely impoverished.

But of course also, as we’ve heard already, clear links exist between the weak socio-economic state of affairs in that area and the Boko Haram insurgency over the last decade. As part of what has become a vicious cycle, the insurgency has itself worsened economic conditions through the destruction of lives and property, the disruption of livelihoods, and a catastrophic humanitarian crisis that has thrown up large numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs).

It is clear that the collaboration and coordination of governments, humanitarian actors, and development partners aiming to meet the commitment of the Global Compact on Refugees and the Abuja Action Statement, should be the main thrust of the 2019 Nigeria Regional Refugee Response Plan for and in the affected countries.

In collaboration with ourneighbors, we have consistently degraded the ability of the insurgents to hold territory as they had done barely four years ago. Although it is by the very nature of asymmetric warfare, this has not stopped the spate of opportunistic attacks, especially in Northern Borno. While we assist displaced persons to return to their homes and communities, we are mindful of the need not to prioritize return over the safety of the displaced persons.

I must say that the current rate of return of these IDPs and refugees is encouraging, and this is due to improving security in many areas that were once completely out of bounds. The respective Agencies of Government have been very up and doing in this regard. Let me alsospecially commend the UNHCR and other development partners for their efforts in ensuring the safe return of the IDP and Refugees. Our challenge now is to ensure that improving security extends to the other areas where we have witnessed recent unfortunate attacks and in some sense reversals in what used to be stable areas.

Perhaps the most important message of our gathering today is that the humanitarian and protection challenges presented by the crisis in the Lake Chad remain urgent and require our active collaboration to bring stability and succour to the region.

This is why the strategic objectives of this second dialogue are so apt. Especially the “reinvigoration of the consensus around protection considerations and principles, boosting strategic partnerships to enhance protection and solutions through coordinated and complementary responses. And also, enhancing visibility and continuing resource mobilization to support and expand the scope of ongoing efforts to raise awareness and responses in that area.”

As we gather here today, we must not be lulled into dealing with these issues as academic or just requiring more words and speeches. This crisis involves actual lives and livelihoods of men and women like ourselves and worse still so many innocent children, young girls who are exposed to sexual and existential dangers. Besides, this is a crisis that has taken the lives even of aid workers, some taken hostage and some brutally murdered.

Your Excellencies, there is, therefore, an urgency here. Every day means more lives endangered. Let us, our governments, our development partners, our local businesses and the private sector generally recommit today to a speedy implementation of all the objectives of this second dialogue and of course, the first. The challenges in this region are an opportunity to change the narratives of misery in the Lake Chad Basin.

Let us seize the moment.

Thanks very much for listening.