he Mambilla Power Project acknowledged to have the potential to hugely enhance the nation’s power supply has remained a victim of policy inconsistency and absence of political will required to bring it to fruition. Designed to provide 3,050 megawatts (MW) power, which will further boost the nation’s deplorable power supply situation aside from generating employment through farming and other small-scale ventures, the Mambilla Power Project is, unfortunately, another story of motion without movement.
The Mambilla Hydroelectric Power project, which comprises four dams and two underground powerhouses with 12 turbine generator units in total, is expected to be the largest in the country, and one of the largest hydroelectric power stations in Africa upon completion. Based on its design, the hydroelectric facility, which is on the Dongo River near Baruf, in Kakara Village of Taraba State, is expected to commence operation in 2030.
But only recently, the Senator Gabriel Suswam- led Senate committee on power decried the seeming inactivity on the project in spite of the fact that budgetary provisions have consistently been made for it from 2017 to date. Specifically, the National Assembly’s committee on power described it as a mirage that has continued to eat up the nation’s budget.
For instance, while N2 billion was voted for the project in the 2020 budget; N425 million was earmarked for it in 2021. The federal government budgeted N650 million and N1.1 billion for the project in the 2022 and 2023 budgets respectively.
Curiously, in the opinion of this newspaper, and in spite of all these budgetary provisions, there is still no clear-cut date for commencement of work on the project that, on completion, will give a boost to the economy of the nation. We are tempted to ask how the annual budgets for this all-important project have been spent. Why is it taking the government this long to move this project from drawing board that it was over 30 years ago, into reality?
With a deplorable power supply situation in Nigeria, we are concerned that there is clearly no reason why the nation should not accord top priority to the completion of the Mambilla project. Unfortunately, it is increasingly becoming difficult for anyone to say with certainty, when the project would kick-off formally let alone suggesting its completion deadline.
In our considered opinion, the fact that the nation is still dilly-dallying over the Mambilla power project, even with its immense economic and political importance, after over 30 years since it was conceived, clearly demonstrates the level of unseriousness on the part of the political leadership especially its lip service to challenges posed by epileptic power supply in the country.
In our view, there is no point reasserting the fact that Nigeria’s power supply situation is appalling. Now more than ever before, the nation needs to address power supply challenges to ramp up production and manufacturing and boost small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as well as create employment opportunities.
The SMEs sub-sector is critical to the growth and development of the Nigerian economy as it provides a significant number of jobs, contributes massively to the GDP, broadens revenue base and is a major contributor to skills and capacity development.
Regrettably, in our view, the power supply deficit has been one of the greatest challenges this economic sector faces and which has continued to impede its contribution to the nation’s GDP. Indeed, addressing power supply challenges by prioritizing important projects like Mambila, is a needed panacea.
It is a good thing that the Senate committee has summoned the power ministry’s permanent secretary and other relevant officials to appear before it to explain how the yearly budgetary provisions for the Mambilla project were spent.
Unfortunately, Nigerians no longer take probes by the National Assembly seriously since reports of previous probes with damning revelations during public hearing, are often shrouded in secrecy.
The Suswam- led committee must be told in an unmistaken term that for it to be taken seriously, it must get to the root of this probe and ensure the report of its findings are made public.
That notwithstanding, we believe that beyond the probe by the National Assembly, President Muhammadu Buhari whose administration came on the mantra of combating corruption must be interested in finding out what happened to these funds, if actually, they were released.
Most importantly, in our opinion, the federal government must put all the necessary machinery in place for work to fully commence on the Mambilla project knowing fully well that the project has the potential for employment and wealth creation through an improved power supply not just for communities in Taraba state, but the neighbouring states. The nation cannot afford to abandon the Mambilla project considering its enormous potential and the huge sums expended on it already.