-By Jen Jibrin
One of the most pronounced and popular infrastructural projects in Nigeria has been the Mambilla Hydroelectric power project.
The Project which encircled the Donga River between Sardauna and Kurmi Local Government Areas of Taraba State still remains on paper by the successive Governments in Nigeria.
Recently during the 2021 budget defence, the Nigerian senate frowned at the minister of power for not slighting capital allocation in the appropriation bill for the Mambilla Project.
The chairman senate committee on public procurement who is also a member in the senate Committee on power, Sen. Shu’aibu Isa Lau was top among senators to have contended that the federal government is paying lip service to the abandoned Mambila project in Taraba State.
Sen. Lau who is representing Taraba North in the senate said “Nothing in the 2021 appropriation bill that concerns Mambila, showing that there is no commitment from the federal government. The truth about the project going by glaring realities on ground in the last 20years, Mambila project will not see the light of the day.”
Sen. Lau further said “There is no access road to the Mambila project site, how do you transport personnels to the area? The first time a team of Chinese contractors went to Mambilla, they were seen going to the project site on motorcycles. Let’s be honest about this project, let’s stop deceiving ourselves and Nigerians.”
Mambilla hydropower project is said to be central to Buhari’s administration with the approval of $5.72billion to be financed by Chinese Export-Import (Exim) Bank in providing 85% of the project cost and 15% funding cost to be provided by the Federal Government.
The EPE contract for the Mambilla Power Project was awarded to a joint venture between three Chinese companies, sinohydro Corporation of China, China Ghezouba Group Corporation of China and China Geo-Engineering Group Corporation in 2017.
According to several media reports, the contract was awarded in 2017 after the federal government secured a loan approval from the Chinese Exports Imports (Exim) Bank to finance the project.
However, it was a setback when the Chinese halt interest in financing the project owing to a lawsuit at the International court of arbitration in Paris between Nigerian Government and Sunrise Power accusing the Federal Government for breaching a contract agreement in 2003. The court in Paris resulted in the arbitration award of $200million against Nigerian Government.
In March 2020, the federal government led by the Minister of justice Shehu Malami reached a settlement of disputes with Sunrise Power over the Mambilla power project and agreed to pay the sum of $200million awarded as damage compensation by the international arbitration court in Paris. The development came in addition to restoring Sunrise Power PLC as local content contractor in the Mambilla Project.
It is unthinkable what the Minister power, Engr Sale Mamman said during 2021 budget defence before the senate Committee on Power. It is also unthinkable to hear the minister told the senate that the Mambilla project is yet to take off and admittedly trying to convince President Buhari on it.
Unfortunately, according to the minister, a special fund in the sum of $200million targeted for the Mambilla project is still in the office of the Chief of Staff to the President. While the 15% counterpart fund that is $18million for the Mambilla project yet to be provided by the Federal Government during 2020-2021 fiscal year.
So far, the federal government has spent the sum of N800million on survey and N500million on sensitization exercise bringing a total of N1.3billion for the Mambilla project through a joint partnership between the federal ministry of power and the Taraba state government.
In September 2019, the Chinese ambassador to Nigeria informed the Federal Government that China will not support white elephant project in Nigeria. Unless all legal disputes involved in the Mambilla project are resolved, therefore funding for the Mambilla project from the Chinese Exports Imports (Exim) bank will not be accessible.
It is now absurd for the main characters in the Mambilla project, the minister of power and President Buhari talk disjointedly and particularly the minister uttering thematic lineup words to the Nigerian Senate that says “Trying to convince the President.”
The minister’s lineup sum words is a dangerous signal and yet the denials there is a dismaying sense of failure on the part of the Federal Government to deliver on its campaign promises of Change Agenda in 2015 and subsequently the Next Level Agenda in 2019 presidential elections respectively.
Paradoxically, President Muhammadu Buhari should not allow himself to fall into the shoes of his predecessors. The alarm raised by the senate over the Mambila project should also be his saving grace to critically reexamine the Mambilla project and what went wrong under his watch. The federal government must be committed to its promise of completing the Mambilla project.
Unless President Buhari is determined to address the general power transmission problems confronting the national grid, god forbid, the statement by senator Shu’aibu Lau and the should not come to reality over the Mambilla project. Let alone a white elephant project being coined by the Chinese ambassador to Nigeria.
Jen Jibrin, a Public Affairs analyst writes from Asokoro District, FCT, Abuja.