…System could collapse anytime
By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief
Residents of Abuja, the nation’s capital face a possible outbreak of an epidemic that could spell doom, if the Federal Capital Territory Sewage Treatment Plant, located at Wupa District is allowed to collapse.
The plant which was designed to treat the sewage from phases one, two and three of the Federal Capital City (FCC) is currently working at only about 25 per cent installed capacity due mainly to inadequate power supply and low sewage inflow.
Vanguard investigations showed that the plant which was commissioned by the then President Olusegun Obasanjo, has been running on generators since inception. The generators which were meant to be stand-by electricity sources now provide power for the plant 24/7.
It was learnt that the plant which was constructed by SCC Nigeria Limited, was supposed to have a dedicated electricity transmission line to power the huge machines.
Rather than spending such huge sums of money on the generators as sources of powering the plant, it was learnt that top officials of the Federal Capital Development Agency (FCDA) and their colleagues at the FCTS met and agreed to construct a new 132/33KV dedicated line from Kukwaba 231/33KV Transmission Station to the Sewage plant.
It was gathered that the procurement process for the contract for the construction of that dedicated line had been completed, with Certificate of No Objection issued by the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) dated June 13, 2019.
The BPP Reviewed Project Cost at that time was put at N1. 366 billion. An initial N200 million provision had even been made for the project in the 2018 budget of the FCTA because of the urgency that the administration attached to the project. However, the procurement process continued into 2019 before the Certificate of No Objection could be issued by the BPP.
In spite of that, it was learnt that the memo for the contract has never been presented to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for approval because of “certain bureaucratic bottlenecks” in the FCTA.
In addition, it was learnt that an attempt was made by the FTC administration to include it in the 2020 budget but by the time the budget returned from the National Assembly, that project had a zero allocation, making it impossible for the Minister, Alh. Mohammed Bello to do anything on it.
An official who was well briefed on the contract for the proposed dedicated 132/33KV Transmission Line questioned the rationale for spending billions of Naira on maintaining the generators on annual basis when the government could have constructed the power line at less cost and which would provide the plant sufficient electricity to perform at full installed capacity.
A source that is very conversant with the issue said, “Certainly, there are questions begging for answers at the Wupa Sewage Plant. Is the Minister aware of the cost of running the plant on diesel-generators? Is he aware of the extent to which the procurement process for the award of contract for the dedicated line has reached? I think something is wrong somewhere.
“I have my doubts that the minister has been sufficiently briefed because I don’t see how the administration would spend over N2 billion Naira to keep two generators running at the plant when it will cost less than that amount to construct a dedicated electricity transmission line that would give higher power supply to the plant.
“I believe that if Alh. Bello, as a responsible public officer, is well briefed on the plant, he would make the construction of the transmission line a priority. Mind you, we are talking about public health.
“Don’t forget that the more the project is delayed, the higher the cost of construction, given the jump in the exchange rate and inflation.
“With the high cost of running generators to power the plant, why have we not connected to the national grid for so many years. Somebody is refusing to do his job. The affected government officials are putting the lives of all of us who reside in Abuja at great risks. I can assure you that lack of funds cannot be an excuse in this case because the government does not have to pay the entire contract sum at once.
“The government policy on contracts is that you cannot pay more than 15 per cent as mobilization fee. That means you can stagger the payment. The mobilization fee is to show commitment. Then you can pay as the project progresses. I am afraid, somebody is short-changing Nigerians here.”
Major Trunk needs urgent rehab
It was learnt that after commissioning , the plant was handed over to the contractors who constructed it for operation and maintenance on a contract basis.
SCC, ran the plant for over 10 years, from 2007 to 2017 when the government felt that Nigerian engineers had acquired sufficient experience to run the plant and handed the plant fully to Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB).
The team currently operating and maintaining the plant is made up of Nigerian engineers of various categories: Water, Civil, Chemical, Mechanical, as well as, Electrical.
After many years, it was learnt that the Sewer Interceptor needs urgent rehabilitation. The plant was originally built for 700, 000 PE (Population Equivalent) and expansionable to one million PE. Abuja Federal Capital City (FCC) has since grown far beyond that figure, with attendant pressure on the sewage system.
Currently, as investigations showed, a lot of the sewage goes out of the trunk due to various forms of damage occasioned by collapsed manholes and construction activities, among others.
As a result, leakages on the sewage lines have become a common sight in Abuja. With predictions that the rains may come early this year, the city could face a fresh epidemic if the sewage lines and the dedicated electricity transmission line are not urgently fixed. Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Abuja have been rising. The wastes from the COVID-19 Isolation Centres are sent into the sewage, which would pose a greater threat to the health of residents.
It was learnt that as a result of collapsed manholes in various parts of the city, during rain season, storm or flood water, all kinds of materials, debris and sand flow into the plant, thereby hampering its efficiency.
Loss of methane gas and hydro-electricity
Investigations showed that as a result of leakages, the volume of the sewage from the interceptor has become low, thus, hindering the biodigester from converting the sludge to methane gas and others, including cooking gas.
With a turbine, the methane gas which could be produced by the sewage plant could equally be turned into electric power.
Besides, the inadequacy of the sewage has robbed the plant of its hydropower generation.
Currently, the treated water at the plant is injected into the river. The hydropower capacity of the plant alone, as investigations have shown, could have provided enough electricity for the plant, making it self-sufficient in electricity generation, with an excess that could have been sold to communities around it or injected into the National Grid,
It was learnt that several investors have indicated interests in taking over the sewage plant under a privatization arrangement but backed out mainly because the flow into the plant was considered “not encouraging.”