The Federal Government, yesterday, raised alarm over imminent drying up of River Niger due to climate change and dumping of industrial waste.
The Auditor General of the Federation, AGoF, Mr. Samuel Tyonongo Ukura, raised the alarm during a meeting with the Edo State Auditor-General and members of the Edo State Public Accounts Committee in his office in Abuja.
Ukura, however, assured that Nigeria was in the process of conducting an environmental audit of the River Niger to determine its level of dryness.
Meanwhile, AGoF has called on the National Assembly to pass the Audit Bill into law. He said there were certain international ratings that the country cannot attain without passing an audit law.
Ukura explained that the initial investigation of the River Niger showed that the decline of the river’s flow was mainly due to climate change, industrial waste and problems caused by population growth.
River Niger has a total length of about 4100 kilometres and is the third longest river in Africa, after the Nile and the Congo-Zaire rivers and spreads through ten countries. It is estimated that about 110 million people live in the river’s basin.
Ukura said the audit will be done under the African Supreme Audit Institute (AFROSAI), with Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Benin, Cameroon, Algeria, Chad and Cote I’voire taking centre stage as they are directly affected.
He said it was necessary for government to address the issue so as to avoid a repeat of the negative impact of the drying up of Lake Chad. “Within a few decades, River Niger will completely disappear.
There are certain things in the preliminary investigation we discovered that is 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 toxin waste and it destroys our aquatic system. So we will look at these things to see what can be done to stop its drying,” he said.
He said that the countries plan to hold a meeting to this effect in September, here in Nigeria. On the call on the National Assembly to pass the Audit Bill into law, Mr Ukura said there were certain international ratings that the country cannot attain without passing an audit law.
According to him, “The audit law was created in 1956 when the main sources of revenue was from the sale of cocoa, soyabeans, 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,” he said.
In his remarks, the Auditor-General, Edo State, Mr Bernard Aigbe said that the he and members of his office were there to see how to bridge gaps between the two offices.
Aigbe noted that the office of the Auditor-General of the Federation had introduced certain strategies at federal level to ensure efficient use of government resources which he planned to introduce in Edo state.
Their focus he said was on the Treasury and Performance Audit which tries to monitor and evaluate government expenditure on capital projects to ensure completion.