Having resolved all grey areas, the Senate has passed the long awaited Hydro-electric Power Producing Areas Development Commission (HYPPADEC) bill, the president's accent is all that is now required to give life to the commission.
The burden which had been borne by the affected states, especially the host communities of the hydroelectric power producing dams for many years may soon be over.
This follows a promise made by President Goodluck Jonathan towards an accelerated assent to the bill which has already been passed by the Senate.
The president, while speaking during the ground breaking ceremony of the700mw Zungeru Hydroelectric Power Dam in Niger State, announced that the HYPPADEC Bill was ready and awaiting his accent.
Jonathan's announcement followed an appeal by the Niger State governor, Babangida Aliyu, seeking for an accelerated accent to the bill which has suffered many setbacks due to numerous contentions necessitating amendments, at the event.
Its eventual passage by the Senate in 2013 followed an accelerated deliberation, after the Senate agreed on a motion by the Senate leader, urging it to suspend its standing rules and concur with the House of Representatives in passing the HYPPADEC bill into law. Consequently, the bill underwent the first, second and third reading before it was passed by a unanimous resolution.
"I have been reminded that the bill for the establishment of HYPPADEC is ready, I have not seen it, but since I have been reminded by the Governor of Niger State, I will send for it as soon as I get back," Jonathan said during the Zungeru dam ground breaking ceremony.
Stakeholders prepare for take-off
To this end, findings by LEADERSHIP has revealed high hopes about its take-off this year as stakeholders have begun to make adequate arrangement preparatory to the take-off.
When LEADSERHIP visited the proposed site of the commissions headquarters, located at Abuja road, Minna, near the Niger State Secretariat, it was observed that the premises was being fenced and the landscape of the frontage, completed.
It was further gathered that some office equipment and furniture was delivered about three months ago and renovation is on-going within the compound.
Budgetary allocations which had previously been made for the commission's take-off since 2010 in anticipation of the passage of the bill were lost as the passage of the bill failed. In 2011, N350 million was appropriated to the commission and lost, in 2012 N220 million was budgeted for the commission and also lost, but expectations are high that the N250 million provided for it in the 2014 budget will be accessed.
Ministry of power support for HYPPADEC take-off
Already a committee with members drawn from the six benefitting states have been drawn to coordinate the take-off of the commission.
The senior special assistant on HYPPADEC to the Niger State government, Aliyu Koshe, who coordinates the affairs of the commission, confirmed to LEADERSHIP that they have already taken delivery of furniture for the commission.
He informed that the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Power, Mr Godswill Igali, has been working closely with the committee and helpful in making sure that all that is needed for the take-off of HYPPADEC was provided.
Koshe disclosed that apart from the donation by the Niger State Government for the take-off secretariat, the Niger State Governor had already allocated a land at the three arm zones in Minna for the permanent secretariat of HYPPADEC.
LEADERSHIP learnt that a framework for collaboration with the private investors of the PHCN successor companies to work in line with the HYPPADEC Commission in areas of interest is in place, following the privatisation of the power sector.
During one of the committee's visit to the ministry of power they emphasised that there is need for critical study of the content of the law and the need for government to ensure strict compliance in terms of application. The committee also underscored the need for the development of the common people and more importantly, the provision of infrastructural facilities for the benefit of all.
The commission was conceived to address the challenges faced by communities where hydropower stations are constructed, especially in the northern part of the country. It is intended to play a role similar to what the NDDC is doing in the oil-producing states in South.
Some provisions in the bill
The bill also provides for two persons to represent non-Hydroelectric Power Producing Areas and a representative each from the federal ministries of Power, Environment, Water Resources and Finance.
Under Section 5 of the bill, the commission is vested with powers to formulate policies and guidelines for the development of the hydroelectric power producing areas. Part of the law reads, "The commission shall carry out a survey of hydroelectric power-producing areas in order to ascertain measures which are necessary to promote its physical developments.
"Implement all measures approved for the development of the hydroelectric power producing areas by the federal government. Tackle ecological problems that arise from overloading of dams in the hydroelectric power producing areas and advise the federal and state governments on the prevention and control of floods and environmental hazards."
It is expected that the HYPPADEC, when fully operational, will impact positively on the people of the riverine communities who are mostly adversely affected by the activities of the hydro dams that provide electricity for the whole nation. Their livelihood and welfare is expected to witness a boost.
Meanwhile, the people in the states and communities to be directly impacted by the take-off of HYPPADEC says they have resigned to persuasion for government to see reasons and speed up the process of the implementation.
"We are watching to see how things unfold because Mr President has promised that the dividends of democracy will reach all the nooks and crannies of Nigeria and we are waiting to see how he handles the implementation of the HYPPADEC law," a source told LEADERSHIP.
"The Niger State governor has been very supportive. He has even provided office accommodation in the state so that HYPPADEC can start work. He has shown a lot of concern but without the federal government coming in, I don't see how HYPPADEC can take off smoothly. We await federal government quick and timely intervention," the source added.
They said the setting up of HYPADEC charged with the responsibility of managing the ecological damage caused by the country's hydro-electric dams, will ameliorate the devastation the construction of the dams has visited on the affected States.
The allege that their ancestral homelands and farmlands have been lost to the construction of the hydro-dams adding that they don't even enjoy electricity supply and good drinking water even as they can't use the waters of the River Niger for irrigation purposes.
hyppadec: Why Bill Was Delayed
Part of reasons which led to the delay in the passage of the bill by the National Assembly was prolonged discussions on funding to be set aside for the HYPPADEC by power distribution companies.
There was the contentious part of the bill which initially required power distribution companies to give 30 per cent of their total revenue to states where hydroelectric power plants are located.
Reacting to why this was not feasible, a source who is familiar with the issue told LEADERSHIP that "if 30 per cent of their revenues were given out, the companies will collapse within a year. For most of the companies, the profit made may not be up to 30 per cent of their total revenue.
"How can you expect the companies to give 30 per cent of their total revenue to the commission? The bill didn't say 30 per cent of their profit. It said revenue.
That is not workable," the source who preferred anonymity said.
According to him, giving 30 per cent of revenue generated by power distribution firms to HYPPADEC might have been considered to balance the formula which gives a certain percentage of oil revenue to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The passage of the bill was further delayed following amendments to include Benue State among the HYPPADEC states, bringing the total benefiting states to six. Initially the states listed to benefit in the bill were Kogi, Kwara, Kebbi, Niger and Plateau states but the amended bill now includes Benue State that lies in the lower course of River Benue.
Section 1 (2) of the old bill provides that the commission's headquarters be sited in Minna, Niger State; Section 2.1 (b) lists the states to be represented to include Niger, Kwara, Kogi, Kebbi, Plateau and any other state where hydroelectric power is generated.
The former minister of state for power, Zainab Kuchi, while speaking during an oversight function visit of the Senate Committee on Power and Steel, led by its chairman, Philip Aduda, to the ministry of power admitted that no investor would pay the 30 per cent requested of the owners of the hydro-power plants to fund HYPPADEC.
While soliciting the support of the National Assembly on the speedy passage of the bill, Kuchi said, "We will appreciate that you expedite action on the HYPPADEC bill currently with the National Assembly because in 2010 and 2011, we lost the budgetary allocation you gave us.
"We will appreciate if you will effect the minor amendments on the bill which is all about the downward review of the host community fund to 10 per cent because no investor will agree to pay 30 per cent as it were," Kuchi said.
Consequently, funding sources for the commission, as amended in the bill, include a 10 per cent contribution of the total revenue accruable to the power firms and 25 per cent of the ecological fund due to HYPPADEC states while the federal government will contribute 50 per cent of amount contributed by the benefiting states.