THE MAMBILLA HYDRO POWER PROJECT PUZZLE
MAMBILLA HYDROELECTRIC POWER PROJECT WAS AN AMOEBA, WITH NEITHER SHAPE NOR DIRECTION TO HOLD ONTO. BUT ENGR. SALE MAMMAN IS PULLING THE PROJECT FROM THE PRECIPICE TO A STAND OF REALITY. WILLIAMS AYOOSO TAKES A LOOK AT SOME OF THESE INNOVATIVE STEPS THAT THE POWER MINISTER IS TAKING.
Before the coming of Engr. Mamman Sale on the stage as the Minister of Power, the Mambilla Hydro Power project was like an octopus that has many of its troublesome hands spread all over the places. With a shape that can best be described as the popular biology’s amoeba, it had no hope for reality; as such there was no solution in sight. For more than 40 years, the project has being asphyxiated by unbridled policy directions, such that, at a time, it was easy to conclude that the project was a mere conduit pipe that successful administrations have erected to siphon money from government treasury.
But Engr. Sale is gradually changing the narrative. With the support of the President, the Minister is bringing innovations and initiatives to bear on the power industry, with Mambilla Hydro Power project taking its fair share of the reforms. He has removed the Mambilla Power Project from the drawing board, where it has languished for more than forty years since conception, drawing it closer to the stage of reality.
In December, 2019, the Ministry facilitated the presentation of cheques for the commencement of demarcation and survey activities at the dam sites. This exercise which took place at Trancorp Hotel Abuja was conducted in the presence of stakeholders, Traditional rulers and host community leaders. In the spirit of accelerated project execution, the Minister constituted two special committees, the Ministerial Committee on the Mambilla Hydropower project and the Project Delivery Committee on the Mambilla Hydropower project. The committees were mandated to work closely with officials of the Taraba State Ministry of Power, not only for the speedy execution of the project but to boost the interest of state government in the project.
Under this collaborative engagement with the Taraba State government, land and aerial survey activities were successfully conducted. Sensitization and enlightenment activities have also been carried out with the full buy-in and participation of stakeholders and the host communities.
The Mambilla power project has suffered at different fronts. Among its mountain heap of challenges, litigation stands out as an ugly giant in the hall full of ugly dwarfs. The project was previously awarded to a local contractor, Sunrise Power Transmission and Procurement Company in 2003 at a cost of $2.3 billion. But it turned out that, the company was merely fronting for a foreign company. When the Federal Government, under President Mohammed Buhari administration discovered this lapse, it decided to deal directly with Sinohydro, the Chinese Company that was engaged by Sunrise. It was on this basis that Sunrise took the Federal Government to the International Chamber of Commerce Court of Arbitration in France. The legal tussle became a clog in wheel of the project’s progress, as the Federal Government considered the demands of the applicant a herculean task.
However, last year, relieve came on the way of the Federal Government as Sunrise accepted an out of court settlement of two hundred million dollars; the money that the Federal Government is ready to pay.
This was followed by the revocation of Sunrise Power Transmission and Procurement Company Limited contract, thereby clearing the legal hurdle that formed a barrier on the way of the project’s progress.
There are other steps that government is taking to ease the process of completing the project. Aside from the strength of collaboration which the Ministry is building with the host state, Taraba, other policy directions are being considered.
Already, President Mohammed Buhari has directed the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Agency, NSIA to re-evaluate the scope of the project, so as to make it less cumbersome and bankable in order to facilitate easy foreign financing. In this direction, the Dam will be scaled down to N1, 500MW instead of its previous status of 3.050MW. This will reduce the cost and period of execution.
Explaining the impact of this adjustment to the Nigerian Senate, Engr Mamman said:
“The idea of rescoping the project is to make it bankable. The market that we are operating today in Nigeria is different from the market that was operated when the Mambilla project was conceived.
“Today we need a project that can be paid for in the market. We are funding the project with loan from a lender who is only interested in funding a project that can pay back the loan. Most of the issues around the Mambilla power plant are on bankability of the project. What we did was to redesign the project to be bankable and acceptable to the lenders.” He said.
Not long ago, the Minister received the management team of the Chinese Firm handling the Mambilla Hydroelectric Project in his office. The team was led by the Vice President of the China Gezhouba Group International Engineering Company, Mr Yuan Baoy.
Briefing the team on the progress of the work so far, the Project Delivery Committee (PDC) Chairman, Engr. Faruk Yabo, revealed that the Ministry of Power has already committed 200 million Naira to the training of junior and mid-level artisans, ensuring the availability of manpower for the project. These include electricians, plumbers, Masons, drivers & cooks.
The $5.8 billion Mambilla power plant in Taraba State planned over three decades ago was designed to generate 3,050 megawatts of electricity. In 2017, the Federal Government approved the construction of the project to a Chinese state firm. China’s Export-Import Bank will provide 85 percent of the funding and Nigerian government will supply the remaining 15 percent for the joint venture.
There is no gain stating the obvious that with these innovative steps of the Buhari administration, under the supervision of Engr Sale Mamman as Minister, the project will soon see the light of the day.
Engr Sale Mamman went to the Works training School Yola, Kaduna Polytechnic for his Ordinary National Diploma and Higher National Diploma and then to Bayero University Kano for his Bachelors of Science and Master of Science Degrees in Electrical Engineering. He later did another Master’s Degree in Management and he is a fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, NSE.