*FG mulls special security outfit for site protection to complete vital power project
…China loses $20million due to delay
By Wole Mosadomi
A serious setback is frustrating the completion of work on the multimillion Naira Zungeru Hydro Electricity Power Dam in Niger State. The trouble with the ongoing works in the dam project, which is the fourth of its kind in the state, is due to the incessant attacks by bandits and terrorists who have turned Niger State into a battleground and driven away workers, farmers and individuals from their work places, farms and natural habitats.
Niger State also hosts Jebba, Kaini and Shiroro dams, which are the mainstay of power supply to the country.
It was in a deliberate design by the Federal Government to increase power generation that it planned and awarded contract for the construction of the Zunguru power generation dam, whose work began in earnest but has seen repeated attacks by bandits and terrorists within a short interval.
Twice, the bandits stormed the construction site and kidnapped and killed many, including some Chinese contractors, who are handling the construction of the dam and some Nigerians, who were working at the time of the invasion by the terrorists.
To worsen matters, in January this year, three Chinese and two Nigerians who were working at the site, were shot dead by terrorists who invaded the site, throwing others into mourning and despair.
The situation at the site has become very destabilizing with apprehension on the rise as a result of the worsening security in the area coupled with the fact that apart from the frequent devastating assaults on the dam site, the Minna-Zungeru- Kontagora Highway, which traverses the axis, has become an operational area for bandits and terrorists, who regularly unleash attacks from that route at will without respone from security agents.
Consequently, work on the critical energy infrastructure has virtually been stalled as the workers and the community in which the project is located are in constant fear of invasion. Indeed, uncertainty over their lives and property has become the watchword for the workers and the residents of Zunguru. Construction work at the site has virtually been shut or drastically slowed down.
The good news at the moment is that government is at last contemplating taking steps to arrest the situation. During a recent visit to the state by the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Chui Jianchun, the Niger State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, informed that the Federal Government would soon be beefing up security at the site and the adjourning communities so as to see to the completion of the project in three months.
Governor Bello announced that the Federal Government “is designing a robust security architecture around the Zungeru Hydro Power Dam to ensure its speedy completion within the next three months”.
According to the governor, a multilevel security backup is being arranged to ensure the safety of the Chinese working on the site as well as protect the facilities and despite the overwhelming security challenges in the state, the Federal Government is putting up heavy security presence and is committed to the successful completion of the facility already at 95% level of completion.”
Governor Sani Bello however frowned at the activities of some illegal Chinese miners in the state, pointing out that this will not be tolerated, but stressed that government is willing to partner with legally recognized mining companies in the business and would very soon clamp down on those operating illegally.
“The state government is willing to welcome and partner with recognized mining companies but we will not tolerate acts of illegal mining activities in the state especially in places of historical monuments and ecologically harmful environment,” he declared.
Besides the mining sector, the Governor said that the state government is also seeking the collaboration of the Chinese government in the areas of agriculture, livestock, mining, infrastructure and capacity building among others towards a mutually beneficial partnership.
Earlier, the Ambassador, Mr. Chui Jianchun, said he was in the state to inspect the level of work at the Zungeru Hydro Power Dam.
He expressed satisfaction with the level and quality of work at the dam but regretted the incessant insecurity in the area which he said has given a setback to the completion of the project by almost seven months.
“Besides the loss of time, the Chinese government has also lost a huge amount of money to the tune of $20m due to the delay in the completion of the facility but with the expected support at the site, work should be completed in three months’ time,” the Ambassador declared.