22 December 2012

Nigeria: HYPPADEC - Grumble Over Inclusion of Benue, Plateau

Abuja/Yauri — The amendment of the Hydro-Electric Power Producing Areas Development Commission (HYPPADEC) Act to include Benue and Plateau as member states is coming under criticism. The Yauri Emirate is alleging that the core member states of Kebbi, Niger, Kwara and Kogi are being marginalised. Weekly Trust reports.

Controversy is raging over the Hydro-Electric Power Producing Areas Development Commission (HYPPADEC) bill, with a delegation of Yauri Emirate Development Association led by Professor Mahdi Adamu Ngaski Emeritus, alleging a manipulation to include states that are not part of it.

The delegation, which was in the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, in Abuja to submit a petition to him on the matter, said under the first Act, which was assented to by President Goodluck Jonathan, Kebbi State was to produce the chairman of the commission, but the status has now been changed by the Senate's amendment.

Addressing the Speaker on behalf of the delegation, Professor Ngaski said "under the present amendment, Benue and Plateau states were not even part of the commission, but are now being given priority and they are to produce the chairman while Kebbi, especially Yauri emirate, has suffered most from the creation of the Kainji Dam. We lost our land, resources and we are about to lose our position as the first area to benefit.

"Thus the core states affected by the Kainji Dam project are Kebbi, Niger, Kwara and Kogi. These states have been trying to deal with the crises of under-development of the affected communities with little success because of the enormity of the problem. They therefore decided to push forward for the establishment of the HYPPADEC, in line with the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) which was established to take care of the development of the Niger Delta region.

"The Bill to establish HYPPADEC was passed by the National Assembly in 2000 in the early years of the Obasanjo administration. This was after some members of the National Assembly visited the affected areas and saw the devastating ecological disaster being faced by the communities. The hopes of the affected communities were further raised when President Obasanjo took a helicopter ride across the affected areas and saw for himself hundreds of kilometers of flooded farmlands and settlements.

"However, to the dismay of the affected communities, the then President promised to set up a flood commission instead of the proposed HYPPADEC. This offer of a flood commission was viewed by some observers as Obasanjo's plot to kill the proposed HYPPADEC. Indeed the skeptics were proven right, as Obasanjo neither signed into law the HYPPADEC Bill nor did he establish the Flood Commission he promised up to the time he left office."

He said though the dam is located in Niger State, its devastating effect is more pronounced in Kebbi State. "This is due to the fact that generally, the negative effects of constructing any dam are more pronounced in areas located up-stream. The resettlement was carried out by the defunct Niger Dams Authority (NDA) (which later transformed into National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) following the NDA's merger with the then Electric Corporation of Nigeria (ECN) in 1972)."

Weekly Trust also learnt that most of the resettled communities are still without electricity - which is the main reason for the project. "It is disheartening to note that today, Yauri Emirate, which made the greatest sacrifice in the process of providing electricity to the nation, is not even connected to power supply from the Kainji project.

"It was only in the late 70s that it was connected to the epileptic Shiroro power station. Any visitor to Yelwa will attest to the fact that its electricity supply is amongst the worse in the country. When available, the current is so low that it cannot even power a refrigerator, not to talk of an air conditioner. The few other villages that have electricity are as a result of the rural electrification programme of the Kebbi State government," the petition read in part.

Professor Ngaski said the then authorities envisaged a number of developmental projects to cushion the undesirable effects of the project on the surrounding communities that include the construction of a ring road to connect Birnin Yauri to Malendo, Wara and Kainji, that is yet to be implemented.

He said Kebbi State is the most affected, because it harbours about 80 per cent of the lake created by the dam in addition to the fact that 70 per cent of the resettled communities fall within Kebbi State, adding, "The other 30 per cent of the affected communities are currently in Niger State, that is New Bussa, Karbonde, Rophia and Shagumi). Most of these communities were, however, in the then Kwara State (presently comprising Kwara and Kogi States) before they were curved into Niger State during the Babangida administration.

"We are here to seek your assistance to protect our interest, the interest of the people who suffered most. Our emirate has suffered a lot since 1968 when the dam was created," Professor Ngaski said.

Responding, Speaker Tambuwal said he was more interested in the "interest of the people not the politics involved" and promised to provide a level playing field when the bill comes up for public hearing."

The HYPPADEC bill was signed into law in 2010 by President Jonathan, but the government failed to finance its establishment and instead sent in amendment to the National Assembly reducing the percentage of derivation from 13 to 10.

A member of the delegation who was also the signatory of the petition submitted to the Speaker and Ajiya Minna, Alhaji Abdullahi Umar Yauri, said the main objective of the efforts being made to establish the HYPPADEC is to address the problems of the communities affected by the construction of the Kainji dam.

A copy of the petition submitted to the Speaker which was also made available to Weekly Trust, alleged that about 44,000 people within the three emirates of Yauri in Kebbi State, Kontagora and Borgu in Niger State were displaced and had to be resettled elsewhere while over 70 per cent of the resettled communities are residing in Yauri emirate at the moment.

Speaking on the actual problem of the people of the emirate that prompted the petition, Alhaji Yelwa said "in the HYPPADEC Bill passed by the National Assembly in 2000, the member states were clearly identified as Kebbi, Niger, Kwara and Kogi. As noted above, this Bill was not signed by President Obasanjo up to the time he left office. The issue of HYPPADEC therefore remained dormant.

"Until President Goodluck Jonathan assumed office, as a Niger Deltan, the latter could better appreciate the problems of the people of the Kainji area, which are similar to the situation in his home region. So when the Bill was passed again in 2010, he signed it into law. However, at this time some important amendments were made to the Bill, thus: Plateau State was added among the beneficiary states; after the Bill was modified "to include any other state where hydroelectric power is generated."

Weekly Trust learnt that early this year, the HYPPADEC Act was revisited by the Senate for yet another amendment and this time around Benue State was included as a member state.

"The inclusion of Benue and Plateau states as member states of HYPPADEC came to us a surprise, since the fundamental objective of establishing the commission is to bring relief to the communities that are annually exposed to ecological disaster because of power generation from the Kainji Dam."

"It is well known that both Benue and Plateau states do not make any significant contribution to the national electricity supply, and they were in no way affected by the Kainji dam project," the petition read in part.

"It is also not evident that any community in these states of Plateau and Benue suffers from any significant ecological damage as a result of hydroelectric power generation. To equate the level of our suffering and neglect with other states that produce negligible amount of hydroelectric power or are even yet to commence production, is unfair and unjust. What makes matters worse is the fact that in accordance with the amended Act, Benue State will produce the first MD of the Commission. This, we believe is unfair to the communities that suffered, and continue to suffer, from the Kainji dam project - which is the basis for the establishment of the HYPPADEC.

Alhaji Yelwa said "we wouldn't have raised this issue if we were living in a society in which there is equity and justice in the distribution of national resources. It is well known that in this country, any community that is not adequately represented in government risks being marginalized in resource allocation. The fear is that even if HYPPADEC is established in accordance with the amended Act, the most affected communities risk being marginalized in terms of developmental projects to be carried out by the Commission."

Alhaji Yelwa said parochial sentiments, rather than national interest, led to the amendments of the Bill to include Plateau and Benue states in the commission otherwise, Kaduna State should have been included because the Shiroro dam sits on River Kaduna, and it is not unlikely that some communities in Kaduna State located up-stream of the dam suffer some ecological damage from its construction.

Kainji Dam was the largest single project of the 1962 to 1968 National Development Plan that was completed in 1968 and commissioned in 1969, though the project was conceived to meet the increasing demand of electricity for national development. The host community said the dam has not been of much use to them as it could not even provide them with light.

The dam was designed to accommodate 12 generating turbines with a total generation capacity of 960 megawatts but eventually ended up with eight turbines generating 760 megawatts of electricity. The Kainji Lake which resulted from the construction of the dam is 136 kilometers long and 24 kilometers in width (at the widest section). It has a surface area of 1.25 million sq.m and a storage capacity of 15 billion cubic meters of water. About 80 per cent of the lake is in Yauri Emirate of Kebbi State.

Apart from power generation, additional benefits expected from the Kainji Dam project were increase in fish production from the 120km Kainji Lake, increase in agricultural production through immigration, enhancing tourism potentials and improved navigation along the River Niger. The construction of the dam was, therefore, conceived as a multi-purpose project with emphasis on both regional and national developments. The national objective was to meet the increasing demand for electricity supply. The national objective as to meet the increasing demand for electricity necessary for industrial development, as well as improve navigation on the River Niger - from the sea coast to Niamey in Niger Republic, while the regional objective aimed at developing the resources of the river basin to improve the standard of living of the people of the area.

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