The Project Director of the Zungeru Hydroelectricity Power Project, Dr Johnson Adewumi has disclosed that community action around the $1.2 billion project has pushed forward its completion date by two years.
Dr Adewumi, who told the Senate Committee on Power, Steel Development and Metallurgy headed by Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe during an oversight visit of the plant said that youths in the Zungeru area, Niger State have orchestrated lots of community action against the project in the past three years.
He said that the expatriates and Nigerian staff have been subjected to kidnappings, gun attacks, blockade of roads and other forms of violence in 205, 2017 and 2017 by the local communities in a bid to extract compensations from the Federal Government.
He also asked the Senate to intervene frontally to ensure that the local community is briefed on the benefits they stand to derive from the 700megawatts power project.
The project, which was flagged off in 2013 by former President Goodluck Jonathan with a $1.2 billion loan from China Eximm Bank was originally scheduled for completion in 48 months. Which should terminate in December 2017.
But the Director said during a tour by the Senate Committee that the project is now scheduled to be completed in 2019 following series of security incidences.
He said that the Plant, which already harbours some 2,000 workers would at its peak account for close to 4,000 persons.
He said: “Unfortunately these young boys are being misguided. I told you that this project will last 80 years or more and more things would be added. Senator Aduda can attest. There was nothing here when we started. When we were doing survey here we were sleeping under the tents.”
“Now this place has become a thriving community. In fact for the state government the IGR that is coming from the PAYE taxes has become something for them.”
“If this project should come on stream, this is the place where the work is. Some of the boys are not being told the job is important. They should allow the job to go on and get opportunities to be trained. Some of them just carry stick and stay on the road disturbing everything. Some of them when they get the money they go on to buy Okada. Let us tell them that that is not important. It is not about compensation.”
“When the Minister of Power came here I told him we are going to have 11bn litres of water stored here. The land from here to Mokwa is good for irrigation. That is the kind of thing we should be talking about. The state government can also build its projects around here.”
“There are more benefits that will come but they are now delaying. When you delay if for two years, you create more problems.”
Senator Abaribe, who assured the Director and the Chinese Expatriates that their fears concerning security have been taken into consideration said that the National Assembly has provided the sum of N1.1 billion for payment of compensation(crops) and another N215 million as general compensation for the communities impacted by the project.
He said: “I took time last week, knowing that we were coming for this site visit to speak with the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Power and he assured me that for this project, whatever needed to be signed has been and that all that is remaining is for things to come from the Ministry of Finance.”
He assured the contractors that the Senate would continuously liaise with all stakeholders to stop the disruption of operations in the site.