20 January 2014

Nigeria: North's Biggest Power Plant Faces Fresh Hurdles

The multi-billion naira 215 megawatts power plant project in Kaduna is facing fresh hurdles after overcoming the challenges of transporting equipment trapped at the port in Port Harcourt for about two years, Daily Trust investigation reveals.

The Federal Government awarded the contract in November 2009 to General Electric and Rockson Engineering for a dual thermal plant using Low Pour Fuel Oil (LPFO) and natural gas, to be located in Kudenda, Kaduna.

It had a December 31, 2013 completion period, but the deadline was missed due to many factors, including late delivery of turbines and other equipment.

In December 2012, Daily Trust reported that the turbines and other components of the plant were trapped at the Onne Port and could not be transported up North because the roads were bad and the bridges weak. Months later, the equipment were successfully moved to Kaduna, following repairs to the affected roadways.

Sources told Daily Trust then that the planners of the project appeared not to have reckoned with the nature of Nigerian roads and quality of the LPFO produced at the Kaduna refinery, which was supposed to be used to power the plant.

With the eventual successful transportation of the equipment, the issue of the fuel to power the plant has come up again.

Between 18 and 30 trucks of diesel are required daily to keep the plant running when it is completed, Daily Trust learnt.

Given the condition of the roads and the non-completion of the new rail line, it would be difficult and costly to sustain the plant, which is meant to be the biggest in the North.

An official involved with the project said the other alternative of firing the plant, which is also expensive, is to pipe gas from Ajaokuta (in Kogi State) to Kudenda, the location of the plant in Kaduna.

"The diesel we have at the Kaduna refinery is not the type of LPFO required for the plant," he said.

"If the plant is to be a gas plant, we will have to build a link pipeline from the plant to Ajaokuta which is another project entirely because it would need additional funds as houses will have to be demolished for the pipeline to pass through, which means the owners of the houses have to be compensated."

Another official also mentioned the condition of the soil at the project site as a factor that kept delaying the work year in year out.

"The project is 68% complete. It would have been more than that but due to the nature of the soil over here, we cannot work during the rainy season, so we had to wait till after the rains before we continued from where we stopped," he said.

The project consultant, Engineer Smart Ukoma of German company Stag-Encotac, did not answer telephone calls made to him to seek for his comments on this story.

When contacted, the Ministry of Power in Abuja said the Kaduna power plant project has achieved overall 72 per cent progress and is now expected to be completed in the second quarter of this year.

In an emailed response to questions by Daily Trust, the Power Ministry said the implementation status is "Engineering: 79%, Procurement: 68%, Construction: 67%, (and) overall project progress: 72%."

It added: "The project was initially scheduled for commissioning on December 31, 2013 but due to slippages that arose from unforeseen circumstances that impacted adversely on the project implementation schedule, the delivery date of the project is now rescheduled for the second quarter of 2014.

"Some of the challenges that impacted negatively on the project implementation schedule (but are being resolved) include but are not limited to the following: I. Change of location to a green field site; II. Delay in the transportation of heavy lift items; III. Security challenges at the project site resulting in the contractor withdrawing from site for several months."

A spokesman for the Kaduna State Government said the state had fulfilled its own part, which was to build an access road and to compensate people whose lands and farms may be acquired.

"The project was awarded by the Federal Government.... The state government will play a role in the project by providing access road and compensating the villagers whose land may be used. Any farm or property where high-voltage cables will cross over will be acquired. The state has finished its part in the project," Malam Ahmed Maiyaki said.

He said the Federal Government has provided all the five turbines needed "and installation work is about to be completed."

When our correspondent visited the site of the project, it was observed that the access road leading to the plant had been completed.

However, the President, Power Plant Land Owners Association, Garba Haruna, who spoke on behalf of land owners affected by the project, said the role of the state government was actually to relocate them and not to pay compensation.

"When the government came to take over the land some four years ago, there were a lot of problems, so we formed an association and we decided we wanted to be relocated and not compensated and that is the understanding we are having with the government," he said.

"So they are relocating us and not compensating us because it is a project that every resident of the state, who craved for development, will be interested in. On the aspect of relocation, we will have to appreciate (the role of) the governor of Kaduna State in his effort to relocate us to Abuja road near Gonin Gora. The process of relocation is taking place and we (trust) the government. Our problem is that the government effort is not fast enough to relocate us because it has been over four years (since) we had the agreement with the government."

He called on the government to hasten the process, saying "some of our members have died waiting for the plots (from) the government".

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