THE Federal Government is not serious about delivering the multi-billion naira Mambilla Hydropower project despite President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval that the project must begin, Taraba State Governor Darius Ishaku has said.
He told The Nation in an interview in Abuja that it was still impossible for contractors billed to handle the project to access the site because of the lack of access road.
According to the governor, the government was yet to engage the communities that will be displaced by the project in meaningful dialogue with a view to sensitising them.
Ishaku said despite several meetings with the Minister of Power, the government was yet to come up with a workable plan on how to compensate the people living in the area.
He said: “The Mambilla Hydropower project is going to be the biggest power project in Africa and not just in Nigeria because it is going to have 3,050 megawatt, which is more than the power we are generating now. So, we are going to almost double the power that Nigeria is producing now. It is going to take between five to seven years to complete.
“I am happy that Mr. President has taken the bold step of awarding this contract and I am working assiduously to clear the encumbrances affecting the project.
“As I speak to you now, the Federal Government has done nothing in terms of remuneration and compensation for the people and getting the site cleared of encumbrances. Right now, I can’t take you to the site of the project because the access is not there.
“There is no road to where the dam will be built. People are still living in the valley of the dam as we speak. There is a Bible College right where the dam is going to be built. Will you just come and start the dam and clear the people? The people must be sensitised and made aware of what is coming.
“I am going to resettle 150,000 people in five different local governments. The area of this dam is bigger than the area of Lagos State. When people talk about the dam, they talk as if you will just drive there and start work. It is not done like that.”
The governor explained that the process of compensation takes a long time, including sensitisation. He lamented that the Federal Government had not done anything as at the moment.
“We have held meetings with the minister and till now, I have not seen any result and this will take us about one year.
“So, if you say the project will take seven years of construction and for one year, nothing has been done, especially in trying to get to the site, it means a lot still need to be done.
“I am happy with the project and we will do everything possible to make sure the project is realised to the benefit of the country and Taraba State.
“But a lot need to be done in terms of moving to site because there is no accessibility to that site. So, many thing that need to be in place before the contractor can move to site have not been done,” he said.
He said owing to the Mambilla project and the need to open up Taraba State, the first thing he did when he came on board was to open the Taraba airport. “Before now, you cannot access Jalingo with air flight. But right now, you have Overland on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays and we are hoping that by December, it will be a daily flight.
“All the engineers and contractors that will come to the state should have an easy access. It is one hour flight from Abuja to Jalingo and it takes you six hours from Jalingo to go up the mountain.
“The airport is supposed to be a cargo airport and so, we are looking at expanding it so that from there, we can export agricultural produce. If I package beef, it needs to be in the market immediately. The same applies to fruits and other agricultural produce.
“So, the first step to opening up the state was to reopen the airport which is working now. These are the things I did to unlock the state. Otherwise, we are stocked in a corner of the country. In terms of traveling by road, it takes you between nine to 10 hours from Abuja to Jalingo, depending on how many road blocks you have on the way.”