Controversy Trails Concession, Sale of Enugu Coal Blocks

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Controversy has  trailed the alleged concession or sale of some coal blocks at Enugu Coal Mines in Enugu. This came at a time power generation has not exceeded 3,500 megawatts, MW, for a country with a population of not fewer than 150 million. Before now, Enugu State had claimed that the Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE, concessioned and sold coal blocks in the state for renewable energy. However, BPE alleged that the sale was stopped by the Ministry of Solid Minerals Development, which denied the allegation, as it insisted that it only gave Coal mine professional advice.

According to the Technical Assistant to the Minister of State, Ministry of Solid Minerals Development, Mr. Frank Odom, BPE only was given professional advice by the Ministry over mining assets at Enugu mine. He said, “Since mining assets are not like any other assets our Ministry only gave the BPE professional advise considering the evaluation of moveable and immovable assets including the coal reserve.

 

“There was nothing like stopping the BPE, rather it was cautioned based on expert advice. We as a Ministry cannot stop BPE from going on with their mandate since government has given them the go-ahead”. However, a source at BPE who chose to be anonymous because he was not authorised to speak told Vanguard that there was no sale of coal blocks as alleged by the government of Enugu State.“It is not true that BPE sold coal blocks in Enugu State”, he said. This was corroborated by the Head, Public Communication,  BPE, Mr. Yunana Malo,  who stated that the process of concession and sale of the coal blocks was in progress. He said, “At no time did the Bureau ever say that it was stopped by the Ministry to concession the coal blocks. “The Ministry rightly said it does not possess the powers to truncate the Bureau’s transactions on the coal blocks. However, the Bureau works with the Ministry as it is a key stakeholder. “The Bureau gets its approvals and guidance regarding all its transactions from the National Council on Privatisation (NCP).

“The transaction on the concession of the various coal blocks in Enugu State is in progress and at the due diligence stage. This stage involves visit to the sites, which is currently being delayed because visits cannot be made to the coal sites during the raining season.” Phone calls made to the Enugu State Commissioner for Information were not answered, neither did he respond to the text messages sent to him. Power generation has not exceeded 3,500MW in the last four months as many Nigerians complain of irregular power supply.

For some years now, the federal government has signed some agreements with companies who wanted to invest in the Nation’s coal industry, so as to shore up power generation. However, none of such agreements has come to fruition. It will be recalled that the Federal Government stated that its intention was to generate 30 per cent of electricity needed in the country from coal. Consequently, various memorandums of understanding, MoUs were signed by investors. One of such MoUs on coal to power was signed for the development of Ezinmo Coal Block in Enugu and a 1000 megawatts coal power generating plant. The MoU was signed between the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development and HTG-Pacific Energy Consortium for the development of the Ezinmo Coal Bricks. He stated that: “I welcome the growing synergy between the ministries of Mines and Steel Development and Power which is made manifest in their collaborative efforts to attract investors to coal fired oil generation opportunities. We expect the co-operations to continue until we get the desired destination in terms of our power needs.

” Ezinmo is a large coal block which ranged from Enugu State to Benue State. The Coal to Power plant was to be cited in the same location with the mine, specifically, Nsukka, thereby saving the cost of transportation. As a follow up, a Ministerial Committee headed by the Director General of Mining Cadastre office (MCO) was set up to collate and evaluate the report on coal to power initiatives with a view to establishing the status of the project. The committee was also to identify assets of the Nigerian Coal Corporation other than coal that had been privatised and identify uses of Nigerian coal in addition to power generation. The committee, which submitted its report to the minister on August 6, 2013, proffered in its recommendations, privatisation of all outstanding coal blocks, resolution of all distracting issues that could hinder the transition from a public organisation to a private enterprise, establishment of two coal fired power plants in the first phases to be powered by the Ogboyega, Okaba and Ezimo coals respectively as well as the resuscitation of the Oji River Coal fired plant among others.

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