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40yrs after, FG’s N2trn Mambilla power project yet to begin

…N2.6bn budgeted for compensation, others The 3050 megawatts (MW) Mambilla hydropower project in Taraba State, with a contract cost of N2.1 trillion is yet to…

  • …N2.6bn budgeted for compensation, others

The 3050 megawatts (MW) Mambilla hydropower project in Taraba State, with a contract cost of N2.1 trillion is yet to begin, over 40 years after it was initiated, Daily Trust investigation revealed.

The project has also been delayed two years after the Federal Ministry of Power got a Certificate of No Objection for it and promised it would commence shortly. It was initiated in 1973 and stalled; a botched contract was awarded in 2007 by former president Olusegun Obasanjo, but cancelled by late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua.

After the several legal hurdles were cleared, records at the Bureau of Public Procurements (BPP) show to be completed in 60 months.

Although it was scheduled for completion in 2012, Sunrise Power and Transmission Ltd, a bidder shortlisted on bidding for the project, initiated legal action against the Federal government in 2007, which stalled the project.

The federal government insisted on finishing the project in 2015 but the contractors contested that. By 2012, the project capacity increased to 3,050MW. China EXIM promised 75 per cent funding after the cost rose to $3.2bn, with CGGC and Sinohydro Corporation as the contractors.

As of that time the contract under President Muhammadu Buhari, was finally awarded as a Joint Venture (JV) to Messrs CGGC/SINOHYDRO/CGCOC JV for $5.792 billion (about N2.1 trillion) in 2017.

BPP issued an updated Certificate of No Objection for the project on August 1, 2017. It said that ‘superseded’ a previous version referenced BPP/S.1/Vol.XII/16/051 granted to the then federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing on June 16, 2017.

Details of the certificate indicate the federal government is getting a ‘Source of Funding’ of $5.495bn (about N2.0trn) from the China Export Import (EXIM) bank as a concessionary loan. This is about 85 per cent of the sum. The federal government is expected to provide the counterpart funding of 15 per cent.

FG earmarks N2.6bn for part-funding, enumeration

In the 2020 Budget proposal, the ministry allocates N2bn as counterpart funding for the project. Besides this, the ministry has pegged N600 million for four consultancy services.

Consultancy services to enumerate and valuate the affected communities and persons will take N150m, consultancy for the land survey will take another N150m; the engineering design, project management and supervision will take N150m. A constituted federal government/ Taraba State Mambilla project implementation team will have N150m for their activities.

Ministry officials say the federal government after the valuation will pay the compensation claims. The payment of claims for the 710MW Zungeru hydropower project which began in 2013 in Niger State is on-going, with N200 million captured in the proposed 2020 budget.

Impact: Mambilla project, larger than 6 power plants 

Daily Trust reports that there are six hydropower stations in Nigeria with 2,876MW energy capacity. However, the 3050MW Mambilla project which is yet to kick-off is 174MW larger than the combined capacity of these hydro projects.

While three are operational, three others are at construction stage and could be called into the national electricity grid soon. Both Kainji and Jebba hydropower plants are in Niger State. Kainji dam which was commissioned in 1968, has 922MW capacity; the 564MW Jebba hydro was completed in 1984. The former flows to the downstream of Jebba, about 100 kilometres apart on the River Niger.

Shiroro hydropower is built on River Kaduna, still in Niger State; it has 600MW nameplate capacity and began operation in 1990.

The Zungeru hydropower has 710MW capacity and its construction began in 2013 in Niger State. It was awarded to Chinese firms – CNEEC and Sinohydro Corporation at $1.2bn. As at 2017, the Federal Ministry of Power said it was at 47% completion stage.

There are two other lesser capacity dams. The 40MW Gurara hydropower in Kaduna State is near completion. The 40MW Kashimbilla hydropower plant is said to be awaiting commissioning. It is in Taraba State, where the 3050MW Mambilla hydropower is being planned.

The daily operational broadcast in the power industry shows that Nigeria gets an average of 3,500MW, while the highest generation has been 4573MW. If the Mambilla is built, it could take peak generation to 8,103MW capacity which is the current transmission wheeling capacity for Nigeria.

Can generate half of 21 gas-fired plants’ energy

The total power generation capacity of the operational Generation Companies (GenCos) at the moment is put at 7,652MW, the daily broadcast reveals. Of this, 1,515MW is generated by three hydropower GenCos – Kainji (440MW), Jebba (475MW) and Shiroro (600MW). The remaining 6137MW is generated by 21 gas-fired GenCos, all in southern Nigeria, except Geregu Gas and Geregu NIPP in Kogi State.

The 3,050MW Mambilla hydropower project, when completed and operating at full capacity, can produce 50 per cent more energy than the three operational hydros of 1,515MW capacity.

It can also produce about 50 per cent of the 6,137MW energy capacity being generated by the 21 gas-fired GenCos.

Project yet to start, communities await compensation

Our correspondents visited the proposed project area on the Mambilla Plateau and found that there was nothing on ground to indicate commencement of site clearance for the project.

It was gathered that the about 10,000 communities would be affected by the project in Sardauna Local Government Area of Taraba State, and are waiting for the payment of compensation for their lands and for relocation to begin.

The residents who are mostly farmers and pastoralists said their lands have been marked for the project but no official has engaged them on the compensation plans.

Further checks show that there was no presence of contractors from the Chinese firms in the joint venture at all the sites marked for the project spanning several kilometers along River Donga, River Turai and Mayo Rafi on the Mambilla Plateau.

The areas to be affected are mostly in Nguroje Constituency in the LGA, and part of Agbon area in Kurmi LGA of the state.

The main project site at Baruf where three Rivers: Donga, Turai and Rafin meet and formed a big waterfall is still fallow. There is no proper access road from the nearest Kakara community to Baruf, while the waterfall itself is in a thick forest, Daily Trust observed.

A resident of Baruf, Ismail Idiris Mbokaltiya, who worked with different consultants on the project between 2007 and September, 2019, said the entire area marked for the project has been surveyed.

He said the consultants and engineers; some Chinese, French and Nigerians, inspected the area in August 2019 up to Agbon in Kurmi LGA, where the turbines would be installed.

Mbokaltiya said residents of the affected communities were eager to see the project commence but insist that they must be compensated first.

Alhaji Ibrahim Suleiman at Ingital village has his land marked for the project. He said: “We are happy that there is good sign that the project will be executed now but all we want is that we should be fully compensated before the start of work.”

Abdurahaman Jidda said he once worked with a local consultancy that conducted the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the 11 wards in the area. He said the forms were distributed to affected land owners through the District, Village and Ward heads.

Jidda however said although the assessment was done two years ago, nobody has been paid any compensation. “Nobody will allow the project to start without getting payment for the land taken away,” Jidda noted.

Daily Trust gathered that a feasibility study was done by an Italian firm between 1973 and1975 which resulted in the Mambilla Tea Company at Kakara near the hydropower project site.

Investigations further revealed that key government officials and politicians in the state have purchased lands behind the Kakara Tea Company close to the project site so that they can get compensation too.

At Gembu town, the headquarters of Sardauna LGA, an office provided for the project, has been left empty and in bad shape.

Historic squabbles over project

Records accessed by this paper indicate that there have been series of contract squabbles over the project. According to a 2013 China Aid Data report on the Mambilla project, the contract was first awarded in 2007 to CGGC and China Geo-Engineering Corporation (CGC) at $1.46 billion (about N527.8bn). It was to generate 2,600MW and to be completed in 60 months.

Although it was scheduled for completion in 2012, Sunrise Power and Transmission Ltd, a bidder shortlisted on bidding for the project, initiated legal action against the Federal government in 2007, which stalled the project.

River Donga, where the Mambilla hydropower project will be built
River Donga, where the Mambilla hydropower project will be built

The federal government insisted on finishing the project in 2015 but the contractors contested that. By 2012, the project capacity increased to 3,050MW. China EXIM promised 75 per cent funding after the cost rose to $3.2bn, with CGGC and Sinohydro Corporation as the contractors.

As of November 2018, the hurdles remained despite government signing off the new contract to three firms under the joint venture. Mr Leno Adesanya of Sunrise Power instituted a case, saying he was removed from the latest transaction. But in a swift response, the then Minister, Babatunde Fashola, said there was no injunction stopping the project.

In a statement, Fashola gave reasons for removing Sunrise Power saying: “President Buhari is saying we are dealing with legitimate businessmen and the period of percentage and brokerage is over. That is the truth. There is a court case but there is no injunction.”

Fashola, in January 2019 also sued Mr Adesanya for character issues. It is not clear whether that case is still in court.

The minister had allayed fears of Adesanya’s case stalling the project’s flag off as he said: “I went with the former Minister for Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, to negotiate with the China EXIM Bank and we brought up this arbitration issue and they said it wasn’t an issue for them. But in structuring the finance, there is going to be some hurdles to cross because it is a big project.”

The former Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, had also said government included the counterpart funding in the 2018 and 2019 budgets.

“Our contribution to even start the early works, planning the surveys, resettlement is going on. The President has approved that, part of that money should come from the Infrastructure Development Fund, funded by the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA),” Fashola had said in November 2018.

Fashola, who is now the Minister of Works and Housing, had said the project after the ground breaking, is expected to be completed in 60 months. During the period, 116 local firms expressed interest to provide finance consultancy, logistics and security services within the six year construction period.

The Federal Ministry of Finance then was negotiating with the Chinese EXIM bank for the 85 per cent funding.

Stakeholders speak on project

A former member representing Nguroje Constituency at the Taraba State House of Assembly, Hajiya Rashida Abdullahi, said the entire people on the Mambilla, are happy with the project because it has been on the drawing board for over 40 years.

She however joined the call for the federal government to compensate the affected persons as soon as possible.

Engr. Ahmad Zakari Nguroje, from Nguroje town in Sardauna LGA, told our correspondent that some people were working hard to sabotage the project.

“We are also aware that there are some Nigerians who are in collaboration with some foreign partners, who do not want that project to commence. This is very terrible, because some people are looking at it as the achievement of President Muhammadu Buhari and that is very unfortunate,” he said.

He said the project is a viable one that could add value to the country in terms of education, science and technology and even agriculture, stressing that the host community was eagerly expecting construction work to commence on the site.

“We know that electricity cuts across all facets of life, therefore, I see the project as a very necessary one and it is for the good of all Nigerians. I believe that if that dam is constructed it will relieve citizens of the problem of lack of power,” he said.

Although, the communities are eager for the project, Nguroje said the residents are not getting enough information from the federal government.

“Our people are very interested in the project, but they are not properly informed of what is happening.

“The host communities have not been given adequate information about what is going on but they are very willing to support it. Everybody within that location is willing to relocate to allow the project take-off, so if there are lapses, I think that will be on the side of the government,” he said.

Nguroje further said communities are in the dark on the issue of compensation.

“The host community is disappointed that the compensation is taking so long,” he said.  He lauded the President for picking the Minister of Power from Taraba State, saying it will help to actualise the project.

Nguroje advised government to set up a committee to engage, sensitise and educate members of the host communities on the need to embrace peace and be ready to host the construction company.

CGGC pledges cooperation

The China Gezhouba Group Company Limited (CGGC) which is one of the firms in the joint venture to handle the project has pledged its readiness to work with others towards delivering the project.

In a post on its website after the contract for the project was signed in 2017, it said: “CGGC will take the Project as an opportunity, to sincerely cooperate with Sinohydro and CGCOC to fully play its advantages in technical management, create the world’s excellent hydropower projects and help Nigerians achieve their dream of accessing the electricity pursued for over half a century.”

We’re urging agencies to finish arrangement – China envoy

In an interview with the Ambassador of China to Nigeria, Dr. Zhou Pingjian, a fortnight ago, he disclosed that the two sides are still working on the project.

Responding on the updates, he said: “You can see it is always in the news. It is such a giant project. There are always lot of issues to be sorted out. And Nigeria is working very hard to sort out all the issues including some left over from history.

“And from our side, the government is encouraging the relevant agencies and Chinese companies to work together to complete the specifics of the arrangement,” the ambassador said.

FG awaits Chinese funding to begin work – Minister

The Minister of Power, Engr. Sale Mamman, said the federal government was set to execute the 3050MW project.

The Special Assistant on Media to the Minister, Mr Aaron Ardiwas, told Daily Trust, that the minister has prioritised the project. He noted that before now, nothing was done on the Mambilla Plateau. He further referred our reporter to a recorded interview the minister recently granted to the BBC Hausa Service.

Engr. Mamman, who was interviewed in Hausa, said the first thing he did on assumption of office in August 2019, was to ensure that people visited the site to see where the project will be executed.

‘‘This will mean ensuring that the place is cleared ahead for the project.

“I believe that by God’s grace in the coming days, you will see  people going to the site to start something. It will not be long for that to happen. Recently, some Chinese officials who are to execute the project were at the site for inspection.

“We are expecting the Chinese government to release the first tranche of the loan support to finance the project which will enable us to begin the work,” Mamman said. The minister confirmed that there were saboteurs and politicking on the project’s execution.

“It is about leadership and a lot of politics because there are people who do not want to see this project succeed. There were hiccups with the previous contractors that were supposed to handle the project, but by God’s grace that has been resolved and work will soon begin,” he said.

Mamman also said the first process is for officials to meet with residents in the affected communities at the dam site to compensate and relocate them.

“The next step is to clear the site and bring in people to construct housing for the workers and an airstrip for aircraft landing. It is a huge job to do before the actual project begins,” he said.

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