Residents of Dadin-Kowa, the host community of a hydropower plant, have expressed displeasure over the delay in inaugurating the project, over a year after its completion.
The power plant, which was initiated in 1959 and located in Gombe State to generate 40 megawatts of electricity, was completed and ready for commissioning in the last quarter of 2019.
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It was expected to attract small, medium and large scale industries to the area, which in turn would provide employment opportunities for thousands of jobless youths, in addition to generating more revenue for the state.
To leverage on the power plant, the Gombe State Government has already earmarked 1,000 hectares of land near Dadin-Kowa for the establishment of an industrial park.
However, the joy of the people, who have waited patiently for many years for the completion and subsequent inauguration of the plant, was short-lived when the advent of COVID-19 in March 2020 delayed an earlier scheduled commissioning of the project by President Muhammadu Buhari.
A resident of the community, Bala Mai Unguwa, said they were very sad that authorities failed to fulfill their promise to inaugurate the project last year after many years of endless waiting.
Mai Unguwa, who is also a traditional ward head in Dadin-Kowa town, lamented that the community had been experiencing blackout despite being host to the power plant.
“We are facing challenges. Had it been the power plant was commissioned, there would have been more development in this community and the masses would not suffer. And companies would have established businesses here, which would provide job opportunities to our youths. I am really saddened by this delay,” he said.
The chairman of Welders Association in Yamaltu/Deba Local Government Area, Malam Madu Walla, lamented that he spent an average of N4,000 daily to fuel his generator. He said the delay in commissioning the project and putting it into use was badly affecting his business.
“Last year, we were told that President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Inuwa Yahaya would commission the project, but up till today, we are yet to start benefitting from it,” he said.
Other residents of Gombe State, especially barbers, tailors, welders, operators of cold rooms and other people whose occupation rely heavily on electricity, decried the delay in commissioning the project and the exorbitant cost they incurred while running their businesses on power generators. They appealed to the Federal Government and other relevant authorities to investigate the current status of the power plant and fast track its commissioning.
Governor Yahaya had, during an inspection of the proposed site earmarked for industrial park, said the initiative was to create job opportunities for the teeming youth in the state, in addition to boosting the state economy.
It was gathered that the proposed site for the industrial park is located within the vicinity of the hydropower plant, near the Dadin-Kowa dam, located 5km north of the town.
The government said it was expecting investors to set up mega factories and medium scale industries that would generate over 10,000 direct and 100,000 indirect jobs when completed.
On the economic gains of the industrial park to the state when it finally takes off, the governor said it would tap into the hydro electric power plant. He said by the time the Dadin-Kowa hydropower plant is put to use, the industrial park would be a hub for trade and investment in the state and the North-East sub-region.
He said his administration had mapped out plans and other economic strategies that would enhance economic growth in the host community, the state and the country in general.
It was also gathered that the economic development initiative would pave way for both local and large scale farmers to sell their farm produce to interested investors in their farmlands.
Governor Yahaya added that job creation for the teeming youths in the state was another beneficial aspect of the initiative, as well as revenue generation to the state.
The contract for the Dadin-Kowa hydropower plant was handled by MABON Energy Limited, an indigenous company. The project was completed after 60 years of setback.
The managing director of the company, Mr Cyril Christopher, had already invited Governor Yahaya, who subsequently invited President Buhari to commission the power plant.
However, for over a year since the contractors said the project was 100 per cent completed, it is yet to be commissioned.
When our correspondent visited the site, located 37 kilometres from Gombe, the state capital, only few workers were seen.
However, when Daily Trust visited the place last year, it observed a beehive of activities in preparation for the takeoff of the power plant. System engineers and other supporting staff were busy at the site.
This year, it was observed that the power house for the twin turbines was under lock, while few security personnel in plain cloths were seen around the premises and nearby transmission station.
When Daily Trust Saturday visited, access to the power plant was very difficult as security personnel there were very strict.
The environment was calm as there was restriction of movement, and no visible work going on within the premises. However, sounds of some engines could be heard inside the buildings.
A member of staff of Power China, a company subcontracted by MABON Energy Limited to operate the plant, said almost all the engineers and other workers were asked to go home since March 2020 after the COVID-19 pandemic was recorded in the country. According to him, before the place was shut down, the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading (NBET) had given MABON Energy Limited the go-ahead to connect the 40mw generated to the national grid.
“The company has made all efforts for the power plant to be commissioned by President Buhari, even if it is virtually, in order to make the place functional, but to no avail.
We have been at home for the last seven months, receiving only 50 per cent of our salaries because we are not doing anything as the plant was shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he lamented.
‘Light at the end of the tunnel’
However, there are indications that the long wait for the commissioning of the hydropower plant may soon be over.
Another staff member of the company who also spoke with Daily Trust on Sunday on the condition of anonymity said they had received a signal to return to office in order to resume work at the plant.
“Those of us at home have received a message from the company that all members of staff should resume work so that we would start generation. In effect, it means that they got a signal to connect to the national grid.
“I am one of the system engineers, and I can assure you that the work is completed and 40mw of electricity is being wasted at the plant in a country that very badly needs power for development,” he said.
When contacted, officials of China Power and MABON Energy Limited declined to speak on the matter. They directed our correspondent to seek clearance from senior officials of the companies in Abuja.
Despite assurances from the government and the company handling the project that it had been completed and ready for commissioning, residents of Dadin-Kowa and Gombe State in general are still wondering when they would start enjoying electricity.