Over 420,000 communities in the Central Senatorial District of Taraba State do not enjoy electricity from the national grid a Daily Trust survey has revealed.
The district is comprised of five local government areas and is twice the size of some states in the federation. The five local government areas in the district are Gassol, Kurmi, Bali, Gashaka, and Sardauna. It is the largest district in the state in terms of population, landmass, and potentials.
However, the only town in the district that is connected to the national grid is Suntai: hometown of a late former Governor of the state, Danbaba Suntai.
Daily Trust further gathered that even Suntai town was connected to the national grid courtesy of the late Suntai, but the other towns in the district, including the headquarters of the district, Bali, have not been connected to the grid.
Daily Trust findings reveal that some of the local government areas in the district like Bali and Sardauna were created in 1978, while Taraba State was created in 1991: which means they are older than the state itself.
According to our findings, the only local government area in the state that is not in the central district and is not connected to the national grid is Karim Lamido: which is in the Northern Senatorial District.
The remaining nine local government areas: Wukari, Ibbi, Donga, Takum, Ardo-Kola, Yorro, Zing, Lau, Ussa, and Jalingo, including Yangtu (Special) Development Area, are connected to the national grid.
The absence of electricity in the central zone has hampered socio/economic development in the area. The absence of electricity has also led to air pollution as small and big generating plants are the main sources of electricity.
Industries located in the zone like the Highland Tea Company in Kakara village of Sardauna Local Government Area, the Baissa Timber Company and the Baissa Palm Oil Processing Company in Kurmi Local Government Area, were closed down for many years due to high production costs mainly to lack of stable power supply.
The tea company, for example, was operating on generating plants for many years, with constant closure, until recently when the Taraba State Government and an international agency jointly built a 400kw hydropower plant at Tunga, which now supplies electricity to the company.
The Tunga Dam, according to our findings, was initiated by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO); UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and several other United Nations agencies and the Taraba State Government.
Under the initiative, a small hydropower plant was installed at Tunga in Sardauna Local Government Area and the company located at Kakara, as well as surrounding villages; Kusuku, Galadima, Nguroge, and Furmi are supplied with electricity. The project is intended to accelerate economic activities for a population of over 50,000 that mainly depended on growing of tea and other farm produce.
With the small hydropower plant, constant power is now being supplied to the tea factory, while surrounding villages and towns are getting electricity thereby boosting the economy of the area.
Daily Trust findings also reveal that absence of electricity in the area had hampered the development of the tourism sector which the area is blessed with: a natural plateau with accompanying good weather, a lush environment, and a game reserve: the Gashaka Gumti.
The Mambilla Plateau, located at 1800 meters above sea level, is the highest point in Nigeria and has beautiful scenery found only in Europe and Asia. However, such potential is yet to be harnessed.
A retired senior civil servant in the area, Alhaji Haruna Yakubu, told Daily Trust that the area had been neglected over the years despite its tourist attraction, solid minerals, and other natural resources.
He said the area depended on generating plants for electricity which were installed by a past government in the state many years ago.
“The Gembu Power House, managed by the then Rural Electrification Board (REB), was built several years ago, so also the one in Nguroge and Mayo Ndaga. Such plants cannot supply electricity to serious industry,” he said.
Alhaji Yakubu explained that though electricity supply to local government areas was the responsibility of the Federal Government, previous administrations in the state failed to impress on the Federal Government to supply the electricity as was done in other states.
“We are aware that in states like Gombe, Bauchi, Kano, Kaduna and Jigawa, local government headquarters and ward headquarters were connected to the National Grid many years ago,” he compared.
The Member representing Sardauna Constituency in the House of Assembly, Dr. Mohammed Jugulde, blamed the Federal Government for failing to supply electricity to towns and villages in the Central Senatorial District of the state.
He said he was aware that some states had embarked on rural electrification projects with the support of the Federal Government. However, that in the case of Taraba, the Federal Government was not favorable to the state when it came to refunding money spent by the state government to do a project which was supposed to be handled by the Federal Government.
“The Federal Government is yet to refund over N8b spent by the Taraba State Government on the construction of the Jalingo-Gembu Road, which is a Federal Road,” the lawmaker said.
Also speaking on the issue, a politician from Gassol Local Government Area, Malam Idris Mohammed, said the Taraba State Government was to blame for neglecting the central zone in terms of provision of basic social amenities; especially electricity.
He said those they elected to the state and national assemblies had not done what the electorate asked them to do because most of those elected between 1999 to date got the mandate of the people in the area because they pledged to provide basic amenities.
“I can tell you that those occupying elective positions have not fulfilled pledges they made to us during the campaign, and we would now vote people based on what they will offer to us, not empty promises,” he threatened.
The Minister of Women Affairs, Hajiya Jummai Alhassan, however, blamed the Taraba State Government for the absence of electricity in the central district. She said while some states in the federation had connected several towns and villages with electricity and also built rural roads, the story was different in the state.
The minister told Daily Trust that the present government in the state had no interest in developing the central zone for political reasons, adding that it was a shame to discover that it was only in Taraba, more than 400,000 of its people were not enjoying electricity.
“The central zone is blessed with both natural and human resources, but these resources could not be harnessed due mainly to lack of electricity,” she lamented.
Our findings also reveal that Mutum Biyu, headquarters of Gassol Local Government Area in the Central Senatorial Zone, located about 74 kilometers from Jalingo, the Taraba State capital, is also not connected to the national grid.
A generating plant installed some years back by the state at the powerhouse located at Kan Kwana in Mutum Biyu to supply electricity to the town between 6 pm and 12 pm on daily basis has not been functioning for many months due to lack of diesel.
Initially, it was the local government council that was supplying diesel to the plant, but that had stopped due to lack of funds.
“The local government council used to supply diesel and also maintain the generating plant, but now there is no money and therefore residents are not getting electricity,” a resident, Malam Garba, said.
Though contract for the electrification of the town was awarded by the Federal Government some years back, the contractor abandoned the project and electric cables so far supplied for the line have been stolen.
Daily Trust learned that Mutum Biyu, a fast-growing town, has no single industry despite potentials of agricultural resources capable of sustaining the agro-allied industry, like rice milling industry.
Kurmi and Gashaka local government areas in the zone are also experiencing slow socio/economic development as a result of the absence of electricity.
Gashaka Local Government Area, for example, is home to the largest national park in the whole of West Africa. However, the Gashaka Gumti National Park, located about 40 kilometers from Serti, headquarters of Gashaka Local Area, depend on a generating plant to light the park, a situation that is said to be responsible for its low patronage.
A resident of the area, Malam Garba Mayo Selbe, said with stable power to the park, more tourists would come because of the good scenery and wildlife found in the park.
“Serti gets electricity from a generating plant installed by the Taraba State Government many years ago and it was the local government council that supplied diesel for the running of the station. However, the local government has no money to supply diesel now,” he lamented.
The story is the same for Baissa, headquarters of Kurmi Local Government Area, where the town, as well as other towns and villages around it, are not connected to the national grid.
Baissa is home to the Baissa Timber Company, as well as the Baissa Palm Oil Company and two other companies which have stopped operation for some years now. The problem was traced to operational costs.
A resident of the area, Mr. Yakubu Garkuwa, lamented that while other towns in neighboring Donga and Takum local government areas in the Southern Senatorial District enjoyed electricity from the national grid, the whole of the central district was not connected.
“I blame our politicians; especially those representing us at the National Assembly, for not taking the issue of connecting Kurmi and other local government areas in the Central Senatorial District to the national grid,” Mr. Garkuwa said.
The Manager, Jalingo office of the Yola Electricity Distribution Company (DisCO) Mr. Hanawa, said both state and federal governments had a role in providing electricity to rural areas.
He said nine out of 16 local government headquarters in Taraba State were connected to the national grid.
The manager explained that they advised the state government to connect Mutum Biyu and Gassol towns from Jalingo, but that the state was yet to do so.
He said connecting the towns would not cost much to the government because of their proximity to Jalingo.
“The Proposed Mambilla Hydro Power Project and the ongoing Kashimbilla 400MW Hydro Power Project in Takum Local Government Area, when completed, would address the need of electricity to areas that are not enjoying power from the national grid,” Mr. Hanawa said.
Daily Trust findings, however, reveal that the tower for the supply of electricity from Kashimbilla, which is about 95 percent completed, is being erected to supply electricity to most parts of the southern and central districts.
Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Press Secretary to Governor Darius, Mr. Illiya Kwey, said the present administration in the state had done very well in the area of electricity supply to rural areas more than any other administration in the state.
He said Kakulu, Yakoko and Monkin villages in Zing Local Government Areas of the state had been connected to the national grid by the administration of Governor Darius.
Mr. Illiya Kwey further stated that other electricity projects executed by the state government included electrification and connecting of Kununi town in Lau Local Government Area to the national grid.
However, worthy of note is that both Zing and Lau local government areas are in the Northern Senatorial District and not in the Central Senatorial District which suffers gross lack of electricity.