Nigeria: How to Fund the Mambilla Power Project

opinion

The Mambilla hydropower project, like the Aswan Dam in Egypt and Three Gorges Dam (3GD) in China, will hardly be funded by the major industrial powers.

Attempts to slow down on these projects often are through the background role played by international and multilateral bodies. For example, the World Bank initially granted loan facilities to the 3GD but later withdrew and joined the campaign by the industrial powers to discredit the project under the pretext that it would result in an environmental disaster, including an earthquake.

With exceptional determination and commitment, the Chinese levied its citizens and in 2012 the largest hydel power dam in the world with a capacity of 22,500MW came on stream and up to now, no environmental disaster has been recorded there.

The politics of sabotage following the construction of Aswan dam by the Russians in 1970 for which the project lasted 11 years is on record. When Egypt embarked on the widening of Suez canal recently (in 2015) at the cost of $8 billion, it did not seek external funding. Instead, it floated a national development bond to which most Egyptian citizens subscribed to and they succeeded in raising the much-needed funds to undertake the project. The project has since been completed.

Coming back to the Mambilla hydel, a company owned by a Nigerian is said to have surreptitiously been awarded the contract over two decades ago (without the demonstrable capacity to handle the complex project) now, fingered to be the stumbling block to the project unless handsomely settled for doing nothing other than getting signatures of compromised government officials on a paper.

It will be recalled, similar scheming led to the demise of the multipurpose Kafin Zaki Dam project in Bauchi State. The project, if it had been completed, would have created the largest body of water in the country to irrigate over 120,000 hectares of fertile land and provide 15MW electricity, sufficient to provide employment opportunities for the restless youths in the North East and stem the current insurgency.

The take on the Mambilla project to most of us is, if external funding cannot be assured, the government should follow the example of either China or Egypt. The former through electricity tariff while, the latter floated a development bond, as low as $100, thus affordable to the wider population.

Finally, there must be utmost commitment and dedication by the government. A technical team directly in the office of the president must work 24/7 if the Mambilla project is to take off successfully within the remaining 24 months of the present government.

Prof. S. Mustapha writes from Maitama, Abuja

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