Abubakar A. Nuhu-Koko of the Sokoto Energy Research Center (Energy Commission of Nigeria), Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, is a researcher in petroleum policy and economics, and founder and pioneer executive director, The Shehu Shagari World Institute for Leadership and Good Governance, Sokoto, Nigeria. He can be reached on +234 706 330 6887 or email@example.com
The above title is drawn from the title of a six-page memorandum written 73 years ago, in October 1959, by a British colonial officer, Mr. D. G Owen, then serving as secretary for irrigation, Ministry of Agriculture, Northern Region, Kaduna, and forwarded to the then northern Nigerian regional government for necessary action. The memo was about a factual assessment of rivers in the catchment areas of the Sokoto above Yelwa and Chad Basin; and other rivers of Nigeria that were dying rapidly when the normal life of man, seventy years is used as a yardstick. Mr. Owen stated in his memo that, “What was once a complete river system discharging into the River Niger just to the north of the region’s border with French West Africa, and called by various names such as Foga, Dallol, and Mauri is now a dead river system.” According to him, a dead river system is one which has no longer a defined weather course or a wet weather flood plain. It can be identified by non-continuous depressions following what was once the defined course. In the wet season these depressions may fill with water and, if the degradation has not gone too far, water may spill over from one depression to the next; but eventually even this spilling will disappear and finally with the deterioration of the intensity of rainfall, even the depressions will not fill with water and the river is finally dead for good and all.
In his memo, Owen claimed that there was sufficient evidence in Nigeria and adjoining territories to predict the future course of events. And, also, that the measures required to halt the chain of events and to reverse it are clearly defined and of proven effectiveness and, finally, the need to institute these measures is vitally urgent to the northern and Nigerian economies. The event being referred to in the memo is the dying of rivers Sokoto and Rima system due largely to wind erosion, soil and gully erosion and other naturally occurring and anthropogenic physical phenomena in the early 1950s. For example, he further elaborated by way of example, with Maradi river, which flows mainly in French territory but enters northern Nigerian territory to join Sokoto river, that “within the last thirty years this river has deteriorated from a defined river course and now has a series of isolated pools which, in the wet season, spill over into the next one downstream and only becomes a single stretch of water in the very height of the wet season. The Maradi has, therefore, reached a very advanced stage in the process of dying and will in the next thirty years be isolated without difficulty.” This observation and prediction has come to be valid at the moment (2023).
- ‘Panicking’ as policy option to stem Nigeria’s FX crises
- Business activity in Nigeria plummets to 3-Month low on soaring costs
- Seedbuilders Nigeria expands digital skills programme to empower 100 Nigerians
- Financial experts debate solutions to revive Nigeria's ailing economy
- Risk-based approach as an imperative for insurance market development in Nigeria
In the same memo, Owen described succinctly the factors causing the rapid degradation within the Nigerian boundaries. The main reasons at that time, being soil erosion occasioned by both physical natural processes of wind and human and animal activities. He pointedly asserted that the processes that lead up to the death of the Maradi Tributary of the Sokoto River contributes in a major fashion to the degradation of the Sokoto River itself. At one time when the river was in a well-defined course, its discharge of water into Sokoto contributed significantly to the flow in that river. However, today the story is different; the Sokoto River is dry or dead, especially in its western valley just around the first gate of the Usmanu Danfodiyo University Highway. The downstream communities that rely on it for dry season farming and livestock rearing are gradually being impoverished and rendered very poor.
In considering the contemporary and future trend of events; especially now compounded by climate change and population pressures of both humans and livestock in the Sokoto and Rima Rivers valleys, there is no reason to suppose that the general destruction of the river should not follow the same course as the Maradi in the Republic of Niger already mentioned above. Undoubtedly, according to Mr. Owen, different physical features and climatic conditions will produce different rates of degradation but there is no visible evidence that the same end condition does not await the River Sokoto in the not too distant future. It seems history is about to repeat itself 73 years after Mr. Owen’s memo, unfortunately.
He concluded the memo by sounding a note of warning, that unless rectification measures are put in place, the northern region can look forward to nothing but the wasting away of its means of sustaining life. Gladly, the then Northern Region government escalated the implementation of the suggested or recommended rectification measures by the Northern regional government and the following native authorities; Sokoto, Gwandu, Argungu and Yauri native authorities. Above all, the memo was escalated up to the national level where it was accommodated into Nigeria’s National Development Plan in the First Republic which led to carrying out full scientific and technical studies of the Sokoto and Rima river basins and the subsequent construction of the Bakolori and Goronyo Dams and irrigation projects in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
In conclusion, it is imperative for the appropriate authorities of the President Bola Tinubu’s Renewed Hope administration to review the contemporary situation in all the inland river basins systems of Nigeria; especially the major watersheds in the Sahel zone with a view to putting appropriate measures to address this issue of dying rivers, streams and pond/watersheds and remember that the local economies of these catchment areas, and to a larger extent, the national economy of Nigeria, are very largely dependent on the inland water basin systems for food security like the oil and gas in the onshore and offshore waters for energy security. Therefore, unless these inland water basins can be preserved, and conserve their very rich natural resources inheritance through appropriate modern management practices using modern scientific and technical know-how, the gradual impoverishment of the ever growing human and animal populations is absolutely inevitable. It is true that the problems of soil, wind and gully erosions and the drying up of rivers and ponds (Tabkis) are national ones and will have to be dealt with by the appropriate national authorities and the National Assembly, the fact remains that the subnational level authorities, international development organisations (Bilateral and Multilateral) should equally play their expected roles in ensuring the nation’s food security by addressing the issues of dying and drying up of inland river basin systems of the country.
- business a.m. commits to publishing a diversity of views, opinions and comments. It, therefore, welcomes your reaction to this and any of our articles via email: firstname.lastname@example.org