A workshop held in Abuja, Nigeria at the end of July culminated in Nigeria’s commitment to a roadmap to accede to the Helsinki Convention – otherwise known as the Convention on the Protection and use of Transboundary Waters and International Lakes. The Nigerian government had already indicated its interest in acceding to the Convention in 2017 by attending a meeting of Parties to the Convention, and formally announced its intention to do so in 2019. However, the workshop served to inform Nigerian stakeholders about the Convention, discuss the accession process, outline the road map for its implementation, and respond to queries about the consequences of adopting the framework. The workshop was jointly convened by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources of Nigeria and the Secretariat of the Helsinki Convention.
At the workshop, Nigeria’s Federal Minister of Water Resources, Engr. Suleiman H. Adamu, stated: “Nigeria attaches significant importance to transboundary water cooperation ... […] ... Nigeria this week will commit to a road map for its accession to and future implementation of the United Nations Water Convention. The government of Nigeria encourages all nations with which it shares water resources to accede to the Water Convention and ensure its full implementation. This offers a crucial means for us to work together to strengthen the foundations for peace, stability and sustainable development in the Lake Chad and Niger basins, for the mutual benefit of our populations and natural environment.”
The Helsinki Convention was adopted in 1992 – in Helsinki, hence its name – and entered into force in 1996. It was originally only adopted by UNECE members and provided a framework for transboundary water management and protection in the European region. However, it has extended its state party scope beyond the UNECE since 2013, opening the Convention to accession by states outside the European region, and this significantly enhances its potential to become a source for international water law. The Convention has recently gained a significant hold on the African continent, as Chad, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Senegal and Togo have already acceded, while Chad and Uganda are also expected to accede soon.
Nigeria’s surface water resources are primarily contained in the Niger River Basin (shared with Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Mali and Niger) and Chad River Basin (shared with Algeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Libya, Niger, and Sudan). The waters of Lake Chad have been a matter of international concern for some time, as a combination of overexploitation and climate change have resulted in a 90% reduction of the surface area of the lake.