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Column: Mambilla Power Project (MPP) must be delivered

Column: Memo to Hon. Minister of Power Engineer Sale Mamman: Mambilla Power Project (MPP) must be delivered

Iliyasu Gadu

As I write this memo to you there is no power in the area I live. In fact there has been no power for two days now and when it does come on it hardly lasts long enough to matter. Just as many areas in Jalingo, your homestead has been in darkness for weeks. Around here most folks who can afford it use the generator as I am doing now especially at night so as to enjoy a semblance of life with power for the odd couple of hours before shutting down for the night.
It has become a normal thing in Nigeria having defied all attempts by previous administrations and which to be quite honest cannot be blamed on you. 
Nevertheless when you were appointed Minister of Power by President Muhammadu Buhari at the beginning of his second term our joy knew no bounds as Tarabans. We were beside ourselves with untrammelled joy because the president had seen it fit to appoint one of us, our homeboy, to the very powerful (no pun intended) ministry that deals with power development and supply in the country. 
I was at the reception organized for you by Tarabans which held at the Airforce Logistic Centre to celebrate the appointment. To the assembled ranks of Taraba notables and no-so-notables at the occasion aside from the joy expressed at your appointment, there were also prayers for your success at the onerous task ahead of you because everybody knew how intractable the power situation is in the country.  Am sure you are aware that more than half of Taraba, where you've spent most of your lifetime are in darkness without access to electricity, for instance the entire Central zone with exception of a very few is not connect to the National grid. 
As Tarabans our point of interest was principally on the Mambilla Power Project (MPP) which is located in our state, Sardauna Local Government Area to be precise had gone off the radar. The history and trajectory of the MPP is a litany of false starts, half starts and near abandonment accompanied by the tales of the usual shenanigans of projects of this nature. Yet it is one project that if properly harnessed would not just help to open up the vast potentials of Taraba, but the Nation as a whole underscoring the apt reference of the state as ''nature's gift to the nation''.
The numbers speak for the pivotal nature of the project; 3000 Mw capacity dam for power generation, irrigation, water supply, agriculture and tourism. For appointing you to this ministry, president Buhari must have intended that you as an eminent indigene of the state will work thrice as hard to deliver this project.
From what I have gathered contract for the project was awarded in 2003 during the President Obasanjo administration as part of its power development policies in the country. It was awarded to a little known company called Sunrise Energy which had little or no capacity to handle such a project. Two things about this Company also comes to light (again no pun intended); it was a front for China Hydro a Chinese Energy company and it was also a conduit through which funds were siphoned for the political and other runs of the administration of the time.
Between 2003 and 2015 (a good twelve years) when the Buhari administration came to power Sunrise had been sitting pretty having a good run as a cash trove under the guise of handling the Mambilla Project. But while nothing of any substance was done on the project, humongous amount of money was funnelled and carted away in the name of the project. 
For the four years that Babatunde Fashola was Minister of Power under which the Mambilla project was domiciled, in addition to his other portfolios as Works and Housing nothing much in terms of physical works took place at the site. Instead what was going on pertained to reviewing and trying to vacate Sunrise from the project. 
Now after Sunrise had been awarded 200 million dollars by court of International Arbitration in Paris which I gather will be paid very soon having been approved by President Buhari, they will be expected to hands off the project and allow a more competent contractor to handle the project. 
Now this is where the song and dance begins and where Tarabans are concerned.
We have just a couple of years left for the tenure of President Buhari to end and questions are begging for answers concerning this very pivotal project to Taraba and Nigeria.
Can you assure us that the project will be completed within the time left? What efforts are you making to ensure that all obstacles are removed towards delivering this project that is so dear to Tarabans? 
These questions are germane because I gathered that in anticipation of the imminent commencement of the project, certain powerful parties in the state have proceeded to acquire landed properties around the site so as to corner the compensation and other benefits accruing to the project. In this regard it cannot be countenanced that the sectarian crises which took place a few years back on the Mambilla is all towards scaring away the poor inhabitants of the area from the lands they occupy making it easy for wealthy and connected individuals to acquire them cheaply. 
Your ministry has reportedly budgeted and released some funds for the purpose of mobilization and sensitization for the project. This goes to show that you recognise the importance of carrying along the people who will be affected by the project. Failure to do that will of course result in hiccups and unnecessary delays in the execution of the project. 
Has your ministry done enough due diligence in this critically important area to forestall any untoward development capable of derailing the project once more?            
Honourable Minister there is no mincing words about it; the Mambilla project is your litmus test in many ways. It is a test of your character and commitment by President Buhari on whether you can deliver a very important project that is located in your own home state. For us in Taraba we cannot wait to see you successfully deliver this responsibility and opportunity handed over to you. 
Many people in the state complained that as Minister of Power, Babatunde Fashola neglected the project. He was accused of not even paying a visit to the site to assess things for himself relying only on reports from consultants to bring him abreast of the situation. Its disturbing that you are also guilty of not visiting the site even when its less than eight hours from Jalingo, where you are always frequent to. 
I have it on good authority that you intend to contest the governorship of Taraba state in 2023 under the platform of the All Progressive Congress. In preparation for that you are working seriously but under the radar to achieve the objective. 
In your present position now as Minister of Power you have a golden opportunity as well as a challenge to come to us Tarabans with a massive winner in the form of the Mambilla project; connecting many villages to National grid and ensuring the already completed  Kashimbila Dam in Takum is commissioned and put to use. Delivering these will be your greatest campaign pitch, your trump card over the equally formidable field of eminently qualified candidates now warming to clinch the ticket of the party. In car racing terms you are on pole position against them to clinch the ticket and possibly win the governorship eventually against the opposition People's Democratic Party come the elections in 2023. 
If however you do not deliver the project, then I daresay your governorship ambition will get K-leg. Your formidable opponents within the party will take delight in tearing you to pieces for not being able to deliver the project. And the opposition will take you to the cleaners as an example of somebody to whom much was given but very little was delivered. Political opportunists will feast on your campaign money but not only savage you behind your back, they will work against you. And Tarabans will troop to your campaign rallies to collect what they can and then jeer you in turn. 
Honourable Minister even if all this turns out to be mere rumour and you eventually decline to contest you will still not escape the stigma of an underachiever. Yours will be compared to a striker who confronted with a wide open empty net could not score. You will be the subject of vicious innuendoes and dark comments in all the majalisas of Jalingo, Lau, Zing, Wukari, Takum, Donga etc.
It is your call Engineer Mamman what you eventually make of it. For your sake and that of Taraba we can only pray and hope you succeed.         

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