Power deficit is one of the major infrastructure challenges confronting Nigeria. Many businesses, especially small and medium enterprises, with minimal capital outlay and which rely heavily on public power mains are taking the brunt of this shortfall.
A report released by the World Bank two years ago stated that almost 90 million Nigerians were without electricity supply, further underscoring the fact that the nation is enmeshed in serious electricity deficit.
Two years after the World Bank report, it is obvious that there has been no appreciable progress to suggest that the nation is on the verge of resolving challenges associated with provision of stable electricity for all especially residents of rural areas and urban slums.
Sadly, the story of power supply in Nigeria is riddled with corruption as humongous amount of money supposedly voted for the improvement of the sector is either mismanaged or out rightly stolen.
Of course, the need to boost power supply in the country informed the decision of government to mull the idea of the Mambilla Hydroelectric Power project, located in the present day Taraba State, over 30 years ago.
However, like most such gigantic projects in Nigeria, the Mambilla, in spite of its enormous potentials, is inexplicably neglected by successive administrations since 1982 when it was conceived.
We recall that in 1972, a preliminary report recommended the construction of a hydropower project with a rated capacity of 3,960 MW. Good enough, when the project was eventually conceived in 1982, construction was expected to take six years. However, years after its conception, the project was abandoned.
However, in 2011, government approved the award of contract for consultancy services for the detailed design and project management and supervision of a revised power output of 2,600 Mambila Hydro Electric Power project at the sum of $37, 220, 068, 72.
Since then, nothing tangible happened until 2017 when the government gave approval for the contract. However, even at that, the progress of work on this all-important project has been annoyingly slow with litigation further compounding the matter.
It is to the credit of the Muhammadu Buhari administration that the federal executive council, in August 2017, approved contract for the engineering, procurement and construction of the project.
Shortly after the approval, the Chinese government, which is expected to provide 85 per cent of the joint funding with the federal government, asked Nigeria to settle the legal dispute arising from the project or else it will not provide the needed funds.
Unarguably, most Nigerians, especially residents of Taraba State, are worried about the delay in executing the $5.8 billion Mambilla Project that has enormous potentials to revamp the economy of not just the state and indeed the Northeast but also the entire nation.
The project, which at conception, has installed capacity of 3,050 megawatts and believed to become Nigeria’s largest electricity producer, has been a victim of the absence of political will.
In 2020, the Senator representing Taraba north, Shuaibu Lau, obviously disturbed by the abysmal slow pace of efforts at completing the project expressed doubt on the possibility of it coming to fruition. The lawmaker lamented the lack of commitment towards funding the project as the power ministry made no budgetary provision for the project.
We believe, like most Nigerians that the project has the potentials to transform Nigeria’s socioeconomic development as when completed, it will have positive impact on electricity supply nationwide, enhance productivity across all sectors, generate employment, boost tourism, engender technology transfer, improve rural development, enable irrigation, agriculture and food production in the area and beyond.
Experts are of the view that the project, unarguably the biggest single power project in the country, will no doubt chart a new course of prosperity in Taraba, the Northeast and the entire nation.
This newspaper is well aware of the fact that legal issues and other bureaucratic bottlenecks are part of the reasons delaying work on the project. It is in this wise that we urge all the relevant stakeholders to step up efforts in resolving all the issues stalling the commencement of the project.
Be that as it may, the fact that the government has a responsibility to ensure the immediate take-off of the biggest plant in the country and the second-largest hydro power plant in Africa when completed, cannot be overemphasized.
Now more than ever before, there is the need for all the relevant stakeholders to accord topmost priority to this project considering its potentials to rejuvenate the nation’s economy.