•With no access road, people find it easier to access Cameroon than Nigeria — Mambilla chief
By Femi Bolaji
SITTING above over 5000 feet above sea level, the Mambilla plateau, in Sardauna Local Government Area of Taraba State can be described as a goldmine, which remains largely untapped. From the lush vegetation that is reflected in the large trunk of fruit trees and cash crops produced to the endless natural resources, the Plateau and its inhabitants however have little or nothing to show for this seeming abundance in natural resources for decades.
It is a case of a people richly blessed with vast natural resources whose nataives sleep with empty stomachs due to the inability and the unwillingness of the successive administrations at federal, state and local levels to leverage substantially on the vast resources and harness them for the overall wellbeing of the inhabitants.
A case in point that would have given the residents of the Mambilla Plateau a comparative advantage in economics and stand them out as an economic empire is the fact that it is the only place in Nigeria where tea grows and a huge tea industry would have been spreading wealth for the people long before now. The area is blessed because it is an elevation with a unique climate that promotes abundant agriculture and would have been most ideal for tourism in Nigeria.
Besides, the inhabitants of the Mambilla Plateau, who are mostly farmers and herders, are living with fading hope that their situation will be made better than what their forebears had when they were joined through a plebiscite to Nigeria in 1961. From that time till date, no significant transformation has taken place in the landscape and wellbeing of the people of the Mambilla in the present Taraba State of Nigeria. Penury, lamentation, squalor and hopelessness now stare the people in the face daily as the basic amenities that will add value to their lives are not yet provided. They continue to live in hope rather than on reality every day that passes.
Till date, the Mambilla communities, with close proximity to Cameroon than Nigeria, are yet to be connected to the National grid. They live and operate in darkness as primitive people. Sadly, Sardauna Local Government Area where it is situated, is one of the biggest local government areas of Taraba State, which also hosts the abandoned multimillion Naira Mambilla Hydro-electric Power Project, which has been in the pipeline for over 40 years.
Aside the Tunga Hydro-power station, an investment of the Darius Ishaku administration which supplies 24-hour electricity to the Mambilla Beverage Limited, and some villages along that road, majority of the adjoining communities in that axis are still wallowing in perpetual darkness.
From the estate gate of the beverage company down to Kakara communities, one can only see electric poles but with no power lines, an indication that the area will not forget darkness in a hurry.
It was gathered that the palace of the first class chief of Mambilla, Dr. Shehu Audu Baju II, in Gembu, headquarters of Sardauna LGA, is being supplied electricity by a foreign organization while the entire Mambilla has no motorable road to the rest of Nigeria, with the collapse of the only link to the area-the Gembu-Serti Road, a death trap that was built in the military days of General Ibrahim Babangida.
The snake-like road is now in a sorry state, leading to countless loss of lives of those, who dare to play it. The journey from Jalingo, Taraba State capital which used to be very interesting and fast some few years back, is no longer the same.
Navigating the road has become herculean for commercial drivers and the N2000, which was the cost of transportation to the Mambilla Plateau some three years back, has now doubled.
They are left to depend on goods from Cameroon which has close proximity to Mambilla communities.
As at the time Arewa Voice visited, the pump price of PMS was N230 per litre.
To draw attention to the deplorable state of the road, youths from the Mambilla have taken to social media to trend the #FixGemburoad.
While this has been going on for two years, the reconstruction of the road is yet to commence.
Arewa Voice however gathered the youths have only through community efforts been filling potholes and parts of the road affected by gully erosion.
Despite all of these efforts, they are apprehensive that if the road is left to further decay, they would be cut off from other parts of Nigeria.
A farm owner in Nyiwa, who spoke to Arewa Voice said, he escaped death by the whisker two months back while plying the Gembu- Serti Road.
“I am here by the grace of God. I escaped death on that road two months back. Something drastically has to be done on that road. Many avoidable deaths would have been averted if the reconstruction was done.”
The Chief of Mambilla, HRH Dr. Shehu Audu Baju II, who also spoke to AV, said that residents of the Mambilla have easier access to Cameroon than other parts of the state and Nigeria due to the poor access road leading to the area.
He said half of their problems would be solved if the road leading to the plateau from the foot of the hill in Mayo-Selbe is reconstructed.
“Our major problem now is our road. Once we get road from the foot of the hill to this place we would be satisfied,” the chief said.
“Our link to Cameroon is very easy because once you get to Dorofi there are very good roads to Cameroon. They even bring fish from Cameroon to sell to us here,” the royal father added with discomfort.
The Chief of Kakara, Dr. Usman Samari Kakara, who also bared his mind on the state of the road, said the economic fortunes of inhabitants of the plateau would be revitalized if the road network is fixed.
He also pleaded with the state government for the extension of power distribution from the Tunga hydro-power substation to his chiefdom.
The only tour guide in Taraba state, Bethel Moseglad, who also spoke to Arewa voice, said most tourists visiting the plateau care more about their safety than the state of the road.
He pointed that if government were to be alive to its responsibilities, residents of the plateau need not beg before the road connecting other parts of the state to the plateau would be fixed.