The Senator representing Niger East, Senator David Umaru, has indicated that provisions are already in this year’s budget for the take-off of the Hydro Power Producing Areas Development Commission (HYPPADEC). And we say, about time. The legal instrument that will energise this all-important commission was passed about seven years ago. The HYPPADEC Act was signed into law in 2010. The Hydro Electric Power Producing Areas Development Commission (Amendment) Bill of 2012 which was passed by the National Assembly in February 2012 expands the list of communities affected by the activities of hydroelectric Generating companies (Gencos). Similarly, this Act establishes the Hydroelectric Power Producing Areas Development Commission charged with the responsibility for, among other things, managing the ecological menace due to operation of dams and other hydroelectric power activities in the power producing areas. This Act also establishes the Governing Council of the Commission and management, advisory and monitoring committees for efficient discharge of the functions of the Commission. As well, the Act reduced the level of contributions to be made by Gencos to the fund to 10 per cent of revenue derived from concessions of the hydro plants and royalties paid to the federal government.
But the actual take-off has been bogged down by mindless politics and other intrigues that usually visit projects that are likely to benefit the less privileged to the extent that seven years down the line, the board of the commission is still on the table with no action being taken. The commission seeks primarily to improve the plight of people in host communities where dams and other energy infrastructure are located. As usual, at issue is the amount of revenue needed to fund the Hydroelectric Power Producing Areas Development Commission (HYPPADEC) Act.
The Senator noted that one of the obstacles to the take-off of the commission is the provision in the Act that requires Gencos to remit 30 per cent of their revenue to commission. He said this has been reduced to 10 per cent. Soon the board will be established. Considering the importance of the commission to the socio-economic development of not just the catchment areas as provided for in the Act but also to the nation at large, its take-off ought to have attracted the desired urgency.
In the past, when projects are constructed, the required Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is hardly done in a manner that will take the interest of the host community into account. Proofs are scattered across the country especially in the Niger Delta where oil exploration has literally destroyed the environment of the people in the area as they know it. This has remained a source of constant friction between the communities, the oil companies and by extension the governments leading to spates of militancy that is costing the nation enormous resources to bring under control. Even with the billions the federal government pumped into, first, the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) and is now pumping into the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the restiveness, especially among the youth who are mostly affected, is barely simmering.
The ecological impact of the dams across the country are already well known. The people in those areas have lost count of farms and other property that are destroyed each time the dams overflow. They have managed to bear their losses in the nation’s interest. But there is a limit to everything. Even in Benue, the effects of most of the hydro plants on the state are very high because the flooding that take place in some of these dams give way to excess water. More so, more dams are being built, like the hydro plant in Kashingbila, the border between Taraba and Benue State. There is already a hydro plant in Katsina-Ala River, also another one in Benue River at Abinchi, all these are projects in the pipeline which have effects on the environment.
There is also Lake Nyon in the border between Benue State and Republic of Cameron which is a potential hydro plant area. It is a very dangerous dam because it overflows most of the time and it has potentials to break through and flood the area. Managing the effects of these power projects is the driving force behind the plan to set up HYPPADEC. To say that it is strategic to the economic development of the country is like stating the obvious. It is from this stand point that we urge all concerned in the efforts to bring the commission to life to play their role effectively in the collective interest of the nation. Further delay in activating the commission will be undesirable and unpatriotic.