The commissioning of a 40MW hydro power station in Kashinbilla, Takum Local Government Area of Taraba State two months ago was seen as a solution to the electricity needs of people in southern Taraba.
However, the hope of over 900,000 people in the central senatorial zone comprising five local government areas, who hoped to be linked to the power station, was dashed.
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The five local government areas – Bali, Gassol, Kurmi, Gashaka and Sardauna are not linked to the national grid.
The population of the five local government areas stands as follows: Bali 290,607; Gassol 337,515; Sardauna 308,941; Gashaka 120,039; and Kurmi 125,708.
The power project was awarded by former president, Goodluck Jonathan, for many purposes including flood control in River Katsina Ala, irrigation, tourism and power. It has a capacity of generating 40MW.
The hydro power station is also to serve as a corridor for evacuation of power from the proposed 3,050 Mambilla hydro power project. In its design, power generated from the station will supply electricity to southern Taraba which comprises Takum, Donga, Wukari, Ibbi and Ussa local government areas.
The areas have already started enjoying power supply from the state through a 132kv power line while power is also being evacuated to Yendev in Benue State and to the FCT, Plateau and Gombe states.
Findings revealed that the nearby Central senatorial zone of state was not part of areas to benefit from power supply from Kashinbilla hydro power station.
Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that the Kashinbilla hydro power project was influenced by General T.Y. Danjuma during former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.
It was further learnt that other parts of the state and Taraba central senatorial zone were not part of areas to be linked to the power station.
This according to some observers was wrong because a greater part of the area is not linked to the national grid.
For example, apart from the five local government areas in the central zone which has no access to electricity, Karim Lamido local government area is also yet to be linked to the national grid. Similarly, many towns and villages in the state are not linked to the national grid.
To the dismay of people of the state, 40MW of electricity generated from the Kashinbilla hydro power is being evacuated to Yendev in Benue State, Plateau, Gombe and Bauchi states, while the state is faced with epileptic or no power supply from the national grid.
A source at the Yola Electricity Supply Company told Daily Trust on Sunday that sometime, the entire Jalingo receives between 8MW and 9MW of electricity.
“You see, if part of power generated from Kashinbilla hydro power station is supplied to Taraba State, electricity supply problem there will be addressed. Instead, power from Kashinbilla is evacuated to other states which is not supposed to be,” a Jalingo resident Dauda Jibril said.
The project, according to Daily Trust findings, was completed two years ago and power is now being evacuated through 132kv transmission line to Yendev.
Communities in five local government areas are now enjoying uninterrupted power supply.
Idi Ruwaya, a resident of Wukari, told Daily Trust on Sunday that the town now enjoys uninterrupted power supply since the commissioning of the power supply line from Kashinbilla to Wukari town.
However, communities in the central senatorial district of the state are not connected to the station or any other power source.
Findings further showed that only Suntai, the home town of late former Governor Danbaba Suntai, is enjoying light from Kashinbilla hydro power station now.
The town, which shares boundary with Donga Local Government Area in southern Taraba which is currently enjoying power supply from Kashinbilla power station, was connected through Maraba Baissa when the late governor was in power.
Mutumbiyu is the second town in the central senatorial zone enjoying electricity from the national grid. Mutumbiyu, the headquarters of Gassol Local Government Area, is the home town of the present deputy governor of Taraba state, Alhaji Haruna Manu. The town allegedly got connected through the influence of the deputy governor.
“The zone has a population of 900,000 and land mass bigger than some states in the country yet the people do not have access to electricity,” a resident of Bali town, Musa Sale, said.
“How do you expect any economic development in the zone when there is no electricity to power industries and other economic activities,” he asked.
Musa Sale said in Bali LGA, despite agricultural potentials and other resources, there is no single industry due to the lack of reliable source of electricity.
“We wonder what our national legislators – senator and member House of Representatives, are doing at the National Assembly. Electricity is vital to economic development of any society but our representatives have failed in addressing the problem,” he said.
Daily Trust on Sunday findings revealed that some of the local government areas in the zone like Bali and Sardauna were created in 1978, while Taraba State was created in 1991, but there were no efforts by previous administrations to supply electricity to its people, especially in the rural areas.
Businesses, including banks, rely on generators for electricity; a situation that makes running of businesses, institutions and hospitals very expensive.
Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that the Federal Polytechnic Bali spends millions of naira to buy diesel and petrol for its generating plants.
The institution, with many equipment in its Engineering departments, as well as offices, hostels and staff houses, spends a fortune to generate electricity, leading to increased cost of running the institution.
The chairman governing council of the institution, Alhaji Sani Bala Kangiwa, called on the federal government to connect the town with electricity from the national grid to ease power problem and reduce the cost of running the polytechnic.
In Serti, headquarters of Gashaka, the problem is same as all businesses are run by generating plants.
The town plays host to an army battalion while Gashaka Gumti National Park is also located in the area. It is only Gashaka Gumti National Park, among all the national parks in the country that is not connected to the national grid.
Lack of electricity, according to the former conservator of the park, Kabir Mohammed, is costing the park a lot of money to run.
He said the tourist camp in Serti town and the main park inside Gashaka village were all run by generating plants.
Kabir said recently, an NGO provided solar system which is providing electricity to the main park.
The Chief of Gashaka, Alhaji Zubairu Hamman Gabdo, in an interview urged the federal government to link the area to the national grid.
He said lack of electricity is slowing down economic development of his chiefdom.
According to him, the chiefdom is witnessing increase in human population but lack of electricity has hampered social and economic development.
Gembu, the headquarters of Sardauna Local Government Area is also without electricity.
The area, adjudged as the best interms of tourism attraction in the entire country, is not making any impact in revenue generation from tourism compared to Obudu Ranch which is an extension of the same terrain of Mambilla Plateau.
“We are supposed to be a leading tourism centre in the country but absence of electricity has hampered development of tourism potentials of the Mambilla Plateau,” a resident said.
Findings revealed that all the hotels in Gembu and other areas rely on generators which makes running of businesses very expensive.
“With diesel selling at N700 per liter, we now spend more money in operating our generators to give our guests light,” one of the hotels owners told Daily Trust.
Findings further revealed that the rural electricity supply system in the affected local government areas are not functioning due to high cost of diesel and maintenance.
The giant generating plants supplied in the 80s have all collapsed because the state rural electricity agency and local government councils that used to supply diesel are no longer supporting the system.
The few industries located in the zone like the Mambilla Tea Company; the Baissa Timber company; Baissa Palm oil processing company; all use independent sources of electricity supply system.
The Highland Tea Company for example operated on generating plants for many years resulting in constant closure due to high cost of operation, until recently when the Taraba State government and an international agency jointly built a 400kw hydro-power plant at Tunga Dam which is now supplying electricity to the company.
Tunga Dam, according to our finding was initiated by the United Nations Industrial Development organization (UNIDO), UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and several other United Nations agencies and the Taraba State government.
Through the initiative, a small hydro power plant was installed at Tunga Dam in Sardauna Local Government Area and the company located at Kakara was supplied electricity as well as surrounding villages like Kusuku, Galadima, Nguroge and Furmi.
The project was intended to accelerate economic activities for a population of about 50,000 who mainly depend on growing of tea and other farm produce for their livelihood.
With the small hydro-power plant, constant power is now being supplied to the tea factory while surrounding villages and towns also get electricity supply, thereby boosting the economy of the area.
People interviewed said the absence of electricity in the area would have been addressed if their representatives at the National Assembly have the interest of the area they are representing at heart.
The late Senator Aisha Jummai Al-Hassan (Mama Taraba), it was gathered, had linked some communities to the national grid through her constituency project.
Similarly, the present senator representing Taraba North in the Senate, Alhaji Shuaibu Lau, was also said to have linked many communities to the national grid through constituency projects.
“It is only in Taraba State that a whole senatorial zone with a population of over 900,000 people is yet to be linked to the national grid,” a resident said.
Saidu Nguroge, a resident of the area, said Taraba central zone is bigger to many states in Nigeria in term of population, land mass and natural resources.
According to him, the area had always depended on generating plants for electricity supply.
“The Gembu Power House was built several years ago, so also is the one in Nguroge and Mayo Ndaga and such plants cannot supply electricity to big industries,” he said
Saidu explained said though supply of electricity to local government areas was the responsibility of federal government but previous administrations in the state had failed to impress on the federal government to supply electricity to rural areas as was done in other states.
“We are aware that in states like Kaduna, Kano, Gombe, Jigawa and in many others, local government headquarters and ward headquarters were connected to the national grid many years ago but not in Taraba State” he lamented.
Senator Yusuf A. Yusuf, the Senator representing Taraba Central in the Senate and Mubarak Gambo, member representing Bali Gassol in the House of Representatives could not be reached for comment on the issue as they did answer calls and reply to SMS sent to them by our reporter.
A source at the Federal Ministry of Power, who would not like his name mentioned told Daily Trust on Sunday that contract for the installation of 132kv power supply line from Maraban Baissa to Bali and Serti to Gembu was awarded.
He said the power supply line is to evacuate electricity from Kashinbilla hydro power station to the Central zone of the state which is currently not linked to the national grid.