Connecting The Dots In The Construction Of A Brand New Rail Line From Port-Harcourt To Maiduguri

The Oasis Reporters

January 31, 2020

Oyo Governor, Seyi Makinde (left), Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amaechi. inspecting the Lagos-Ibadan rail project. File Photo.

Before the Boko Haram insurgency that is seeming insurmountable today, young boys and girls from the South south admitted into Federal Government Colleges in Maiduguri, Azare and other locations in the North East would gather at the Maiduguri railway terminus to be taken back home during the holiday season. College authorities would have booked a couch or two in advance for the students.
That was in peaceful North East Nigeria.

Today, lawmakers from nearby Plateau and Benue States are sponsoring bills to ask Universities in their home region to absorb all their students in the University of Maiduguri.

Why ?

Boko Haram islamists who are predominantly North Easterners have made it a past time to kidnap and execute University of Maiduguri students who are indigenous to the Middle belt States of Benue and Plateau States in full glare of cameras and beamed all over the world to show how brutal the insurgents can be. Worse still, some of the executioners are about eight years old, but can operate an AK47 rifle with the dexterity of an old soldier. And that the North East is not a safe place to be in.

Meanwhile, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), and former National Publicity Secretary of the defunct New People’s Democratic Party (nPDP), Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze has lauded the approval for the construction of a Rail line and other accompanying infrastructure from Port Harcourt-Maiduguri by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi had stated on Monday that the Federal Government will reconstruct the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri rail line with capacity to transport 11 million tons of cargo.

He said the entire stretch of the rail line will be rebuilt, adding that a railway industrial park in Port Harcourt will be part of the design.

It is obvious that the rail will carry cargo to Maiduguri, which is laudable, but who are the human traffic on the rail going to be ?
Southern parents would balk at the thought of their children going to school there, or even to work there.

But people in Maiduguri would be only too glad to escape to Port Harcourt using cheap train rides. Would the influx from the insurgency belt of Nigeria be welcomed with arms wide open or would there be some apprehension and reservations ?

Questions being asked about Nigeria’s North East include why and how the once upon a time watering hall suddenly becoming a massive outpost for global terrorism and instability.

One reason is Lake Chad that has become the face of Nigeria’s worsening humanitarian crisis
according to a script by Leon Usigbe in which he says that “Lake Chad, once one of Africa’s largest freshwater bodies and a source of livelihood for about 30 million is the face of Nigeria’s worsening humanitarian crisis, with no solution in sight.

Located in Northern Central Africa, Lake Chad borders four countries — Chad, Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon. But the Lake Chad “Basin” that covers almost 8% of the continent, spreads over seven countries: Algeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Libya, Niger and Nigeria.

The water body has diminished by 90% since the 1960s due to overuse and climate change effects. Conflict between herders and farmers has become common as families who relied on the lake started migrating to other areas in search of water.
That the lake is vanishing fast is no longer breaking news. What is new is the unique and complex humanitarian crisis around the basin, which is among the most severe in the world.

“The widespread violence has left 10.7 million people across the Lake Chad region in need of emergency assistance. Most of these people were already contending with high poverty rates, poor provision of basic services like education and healthcare, and the devastating impact of climate change.

The Boko Haram terrorist scourge which Nigeria has been battling with since the last five years is the graphic representation of the vanishing lake, leaving in its trail, food insecurity, conflicts, population displacement and other types of devastation”, little wonder that those who can leave, are doing so in droves.

Leon Usigbe throws in some graphic tears invoking stories like this one:

“Twenty-year-old Phoebe Musa remembers the day Boko Haram militants stormed her village of Gwoza in Borno State, northeast Nigeria, five years ago. They came in on horseback, motorbikes and screeching military vehicles and attacked everyone in sight. Amid bursts of gunshots, they set fire to dozens of homesteads.

The fighters then abducted Ms. Musa from her home, blindfolded her and dragged her deep into the nearby Sambisa forest, where she remained until she was rescued by Nigerian troops earlier this year.

“I was forcibly married to three terrorists at separate times that resulted in three children,” Ms. Musa told Africa Renewal during an interview at the Durumi camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. With her lastborn child strapped on her back, she explained that her two older children had died of starvation in the bush.

Ms. Musa’s predicament represents the face of the worsening humanitarian situation in the Lake Chad Basin. About 10 million people living there are in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The UN agency says that thousands of IDPs being sheltered in various camps in the region lack adequate accommodation, food, water and sanitation.

That Lake Chad, once one of Africa’s largest freshwater bodies and a source of livelihood for about 30 million, is vanishing fast is no longer breaking news. What is new is the unique and complex humanitarian crisis around the basin, which is among the most severe in the world.

“The widespread violence has left 10.7 million people across the Lake Chad region in need of emergency assistance. Most of these people were already contending with high poverty rates, poor provision of basic services like education and healthcare, and the devastating impact of climate change.

Now 2.3 million people across the region are displaced; over 5 million are struggling to access enough food to survive; and half a million children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition,” said UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed during a high-level event on the humanitarian situation in the region.

Located in Northern Central Africa, Lake Chad borders four countries — Chad, Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon. But the Lake Chad “Basin” that covers almost 8% of the continent, spreads over seven countries: Algeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Libya, Niger and Nigeria.

The water body has diminished by 90% since the 1960s due to overuse and climate change effects. Conflict between herders and farmers became common as livelihoods were lost. Families who relied on the lake started migrating to other areas in search of water”.

The writer further explores the theme of tackling the challenges, and he has this to say :

“Governments of the affected countries are now battling on several fronts around Lake Chad. First, they are conducting a military offensive against the terrorists. A joint multinational task force made up of troops from Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, Chad, and Benin continues to launch military strikes against the terrorists.
Second, the governments want to end the violent conflict between herders and farmers over water and pasture.

Third, they are trying to find a lasting solution to the drying of the lake, which is exacerbating poverty in the region. An ambitious plan to restore the lake to its former glory involves a multibillion-dollar project that will channel water from the Ubangi River in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is 2,400 km from the lake. A feasibility was already underway in 2018.

The lake’s replenishment effort is being led by Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, and supported by the eight countries that are members of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, the regional regulatory body of the basin’s water (Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Algeria, the Central African Republic, Libya, and Sudan).

President Buhari raised an alarm over the disappearing lake at an event in New York on the margins of the UN General Assembly in September 2019.

“Lake Chad is shrinking while the population is exploding. It’s a challenging situation. With less land, less rainfall, these are very unique problems for the country,” said President Buhari.

The United Nations’ engagement in the Lake Chad Basin has taken the form of humanitarian assistance, development aid, human rights, justice and law enforcement, as well as preventing and countering terrorism, according to Deputy Secretary-General Mohammed.

In the last two years, the UN has co-hosted two back-to-back international donor conferences, the first in Oslo where donors pledged $672 million in emergency assistance, and the second in Berlin, where donors announced $2.17 billion, including $467 million in concessional loans, to support activities in Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria.

Nigeria’s National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, the lead agency charged with the welfare of IDPs, maintains that IDPs’ durable options are to return home or be settled in host communities.

If the challenges are effectively tackled, perhaps the new rail line might not become a gateway for the exportation of the catastrophe, including Islamist insurgency to the South South region.

credits:

https://www.un.org/africarenewal/magazine/december-2019-march-2020/drying-lake-chad-basin-gives-rise-crisis

Greg Abolo

Blogger at The Oasis Reporters.

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