By Henry Umoru – Abuja
The Senate has expressed shock and disappointment has it discovered that the much talked about Mambila Power Project was not allocated a Kobo by the Federal Government in the 2021 Budget.
The Mambila Power Project was designed to help improve power generation and supply in Nigeria.
Mambila hydropower project is a 3.0GW hydroelectric facility on the Dingo River in Kakara Village in Taraba State and it is with 85% investment from China while the remaining 15% is expected to be supplied by Nigeria.
It was however shocking to the Senators that despite how the current administration had celebrated the idea of bringing to life the Mambila Power Project which was originally conceived in 1972; there was no mention or allocation for the 15% counterpart funding in 2021.
The setback in the power sector was uncovered in Abuja when the Minister of Power, Mamman Saleh appeared before the Senator Gabriel Suswam, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Benue North East led Senate Committee on Power for the defence of the budgetary allocation of N195 billion for 2021.
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Speaking, the Minister who was not able to explain to the lawmakers why there was no allocation to kick start the implementation of the Mambila hydropower project, said that he met with the President who according to him was not interested in the “blackmail” going on regarding the project.
Trouble started when the Senators listened with disbelief as the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN, Sule Abdulaziz explained to them that out of the N165.8bn it required for the implementation of capital projects in 2020; the Ministry came up with just a meagre envelope of N4 billion.
The Mambila hydropower project which is expected to begin operations in 2030 will be Nigeria’s biggest power plant, producing approximately 4.7 billion kWh of electricity a year and a cost of roughly $5.8bn.
President Muhammadu Buhari had at a Joint National Assembly session in October when he presented the 2021 Appropriation Bill, emphasized the importance of the project.
There are strong indications that with unfolding scenario, all seem to have come to nothing after the Senators discovered that there was no provision for it in the country’s budget.
At this point and when it became apparent that there was no reconciliation of the poor funding with the record of successes churned out by the Minister in the Power sector, a former Minister of Power, Senator Danjuma Goje, All Progressives Congress, APC, Gombe Central asked if there was any hope for Nigeria to achieve power, just as he bluntly told the Minister that he was not sure that the project was on his priority list.
Responding, the TCN boss who replied in affirmation, however, dropped the buck squarely on the table of the lawmakers to use their power of Appropriation to come to the rescue.
Meanwhile, his response did not go down well with Senator Goje who said it was evident that it will take Nigeria about 41 years to achieve steady power supply.
His counterpart, Senator Adamu Aliero, APC, Kebbi Central expressed similar sentiment that the hope of steady power supply in Nigeria is dashed.
During the budget defence, the strongest anger and bitterness came from Senator, Shuaibu Lau from (PDP), Taraba North who told the Senate panel that there was nothing on the ground in Mambila to show for the project, just as he said that the whole talk about Mambila Power Project is a waste of time, adding that based on the current status of the project; he doubts if “it will even see the light of the day”.
“When will this project take off. As we speak there is noo road to Mambila at the moment. Even to transport personnel there is no road. There is no project and this project will not see the light of the day.”
The Senator also drew the attention of the panel to a lingering legal battle that was yet to be resolved before there could be any meaningful progress concerning the Mambila hydropower project.
In his contribution, Senator James Manager, PDP, Delta South advised that Nigeria needs to show greater commitment to the project especially as regards the contract it had entered with China.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Power, Gabriel Suswam offered a more plausible excuse for the omission of the Mambila hydropower project from 2021; but quickly explained that he expects the executive to come forward with allocation.