Experts and concerned Nigerians are once again, calling on the federal government, particularly, Ministry of Water Resources to save Ikerre Gorge Dam from wasting away.
The call became imperative in the face of unpredictable weather, occasioned by the climate change where environment is being subjected to all sort of vagaries, said the President, “Save the Dams for Prosperity” (SDP), Johnnie Wayne, at an event commemorating the International Women Day in Lagos, last week.
Speaking on the importance of Ikerre Gorge Dam to the national development, Wayne noted that the dam, Which is about 35 kilometres to Iseyin, in Oyo State, was designed to generate at least, six megawatts of electricity that can be linked to the national grid, this, apart from irrigation, fishing and farming.
Likened the to Akosombo Dam in Ghana, that produces about 1,200MW of electricity, Ikere Gorge Dam could do something similar or even better, stating that a natural dam cannot be compared to an artificial one.
“History had it that as far back as 1980, the project was awarded to a French company to produce electricity, but was hardly inaugurated before it was subsequently abandoned.
According to officials on site, who conducted men of the Lagos State Ministry for Environment and journalists round the expansive area, said the dam, located in Iseyin local government area of Oyo State is a major earth-fill with reservoir capacity of 690 million metric tonnes.
The visit was embarked upon aftermath of the flooding incident that ravaged parts of Lagos State in 2012, with Owode and Ajegunle axis along Ikorudu area mostly affected.
At the site were equipment estimated to cost N5million, lying fallow. “Do you know that these equipment, when they were imported cost, exactly N5millon?” said one of the dam official who could hardly concealed his disappointment over such “monumental waste”, to use his own words.
The dam, initiated by the military regime of General Olusegun Obasanjo and started in 1983 by the administration of Alhaji Shehu Shagari, was planned to generate 3750 MW of electricity, ostensibly to supply water to local communities, including Lagos, and to irrigate 12,000 hectares of land. Built in 1982/1983, work on the dam was abandoned by successive governments.
A UN Report in 2004 indicated that no irrigation had taken place so far, but efforts were being made to implement one of the five planned irrigation projects. The project was based on the sprinkler system which is difficult to manage and requires technical expertise but till date, the dam is still in comatose.
Another concerned Nigeria who has been expressing passion on the project, Mr. Joachim Ibeziako Ezeji, noted that non functioning of the project is probably due to error at the start of project execution.
“The dam was designed to have an irrigation farm of about 3000 hectares, meant not only to help Nigerians to produce more food and vegetables, but also to help in power generation,” said Ezeji, who lamented lack of access road leading to Ikere Gorge Dam.
Mr Emmanuel Oke, the vice chairman of Iseyin Elders’ Council, who, in an interview he granted the media sometime ago, said the abandonment of the project is a reflection of insensitivity of Nigerian office holders to project execution.
“As the vice chairman of Iseyin Elders’ Council which was inaugurated by our Monarch, Oba Adekunle Salau, I have been in the vanguard of trying to see that Ikere Gorge Dam does not die. Since 2004 I have been in that crusade. But my present position gives me a good opportunity to actually intensify my efforts to actualise my dream that Ikere Gorge Dam does not die. That is why I have been telling the government of Federal Republic of Nigeria to revive this dam. It is designed for electricity generation. It can produce six megawatts of electricity”.
When Nigerian Tribune sought the opinion of the supposed owner of the dam, Ministry of Water Resources, a senior official who craved for anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the issue said the Minister would soon talk on government’s plans for the Dams in Nigeria.
“It will interest you to know that government has called on bidders for the proposed dams earmarked for construction across the country and those that need upgrading.
“So, if plans are under way to construct new dams where they are needed, it wouldn’t make any sense for government to abandoned the existing ones that only require either rehabilitation or upgrading”, said the source.
Some school of thoughts are also of the view that private sector could take over, or invest in the dam project, but that the Federal Government has to provide an enabling environment and put in place, legislation that would guarantee their investment.
However, Nigerian Tribune learnt that the Ikerre Gorge Dan is in collaboration pact with the Ogun-Osun River Basin Development Authority, with the details yet unfold.
“The water level at Ikere Gorge Dam is about 38 metres deep. Akosombo Dam is 36 metres. If there is the political will, Ikere Gorge Dam could be expanded at least three times. It is a natural fortune for human beings to enjoy. It is about six miles wide and 10 miles long. It is the source of Ogun River,” officials claimed.