By Obas Esiedesa
WHEN in November 2017, the Federal Government formally signed a $5.8 billion contract for the Mambilla Hydroelectric Power Project in Taraba State, it was seen as a watershed in the long history of the project that was billed to become Nigeria’s largest electricity producer with an installed capacity of 3,050 megawatts.
With the engineering, procurement and construction, EPC, contracts awarded to a consortium of Chinese companies, led by China Gezhouba Group, 85 percent of the financing for the project was to be provided by the China Exim Bank, while the Federal Government was expected to bear 15 percent of the cost. Despite the contracts agreement, work on the project has been delayed following legal issues and other bureaucratic bottlenecks.
But following the intervention of the Minister of Power, Sale Mamman, most of these issues have now been resolved through the work of Mambilla Project Delivery Committee, PDC, and work is set to commence on the project first conceived 35 years ago. The first concrete evidence of this is the commencement of demarcation and survey of lands for the project, following the release of N700 million last year for the purpose.
Speaking on the latest milestone, Mamman, an engineer who hails from Taraba, said the commencement and completion of the Mambilla Hydroelectric Power Project should be a source of pride for not just for the people of Taraba State, but all Nigerians.
He explained that since his assumption of office in August 2019, the Mambilla Project has been top on the agenda at the Ministry of Power, adding: “Our priority has been to see that the project is a bankable one for Nigerians. My dispensation initiated the land and aerial survey enumeration currently taking place, which when completed, will give a valuation of the land assets and lead to the formal acquisition of the land titles”.
In an update on the current scope of the project, he explained: “The project has been redesigned down from three dams to two dams. This will not change the annual energy yield of the project when completed. We are increasing plant factor from less than 20 percent to around 40 percent. Tariffs from the power plant nameplate capacity will come down by half to achieve cost efficiency.
“By conducting a project review, we have had a significant deduction of over N1 billion from the overall project sum, saving Nigerian taxpayers a lot of money,” he added. He further stated that President Muhammadu Buhari has recently directed the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, NSIA, to undertake value engineering review of the redesign of the Mambilla project carried out by the Mambilla Project Delivery Committee, which is expected to facilitate release of funds for the project “pre-commencement Activities” to start on site.
He said the Ministry last year also signed an MOU with the Taraba State Government and also recently completed the Local Content Strategy, which involves manpower sourcing, local resources utilization and stakeholders’ coordination with host communities.
The Project Implementation Manual, PIM, for the Mambilla project has since been developed by the PDC to guide financial, operational, technical, administrative and stakeholders’ management of the project to ensure transparency and accountability in line with best practice.
He said the project’s “pre-commencement activities have been defined, which involves access roads to dam sites and Power House, air strip construction and contractors’ camps; these are awaiting release of funds from the involved parties”.
In order to ensure that the project gets the required local manpower, the Ministry in January began the training of 500 youths under the Youths Empowerment and Skills Acquisition Training, YESAT, for the Mambilla Hydro through the Mambila Project Delivery Committee.
The minister who officially flagged off the training in Taraba explained that the programme will address the MHEPP’s manpower development needs and adequately prepare host communities and the entire state to derive maximum benefits from the project.
He said that YESAT was designed to train and empower 500 youths from each state of the federation, beginning with Taraba. “The training shall be under five core courses, namely: electrical house wiring, ICT essentials, catering management, masonry, bricklaying and plumbing as well as pipe-lifting for plants and buildings.
The training shall be carried out in four batches of 125 participants each. The selection into the four batches of training will be based strictly on merit and distributed among the local government areas of the state,” he said.
Mamman explained that the application process will be done online and shall be opened for three weeks for applications while participants for each training will select the courses of their choice.
Meanwhile, the intervention of the minister has also led to the completion and commissioning of the Gagarawa 2X60MVA, 132/33KV Substation Jigawa State built by the Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN, to boost power supply to the area. Mamman said the completion of the project was another demonstration of the Muhammadu Buhari administration’s desire to reposition the nation’s energy sector for maximum performance.
He explained that the project was designed to upgrade power supply to the industrial hub of the area, in order to promote economic activities and increase revenue generation in Jigawa State and its environs.
“In our efforts to address challenges of the critical power infrastructure in the country, the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Power, has inaugurated several projects such as the recently commissioned 150MVA 330/132KV Kumbotso transmission Substation in Kano; the construction of a 132/33KV Transmission Substation at Kabba, Kogi State; and the commissioning of the132KV Katampe-National Stadium transmission line project and the new 330/132/33KV substation, New Apo, Abuja,” he stressed.