40 years on: The magic of Nigeria’s Mambila Hydro plant


After more than 40 years on the drawing boards, Nigeria is set to make a quantum push into generating as much energy as its citizens require – at least a good number.


Decades of planning are coming to fruition as construction of the 3,050-MW Mambilla hydroelectric plant began earlier this week.

The facility, to-be located on the Donga River in the eastern Taraba State, has stalled repeatedly since its conception in the early 1980s for a number of reasons.


The landmark infrastructure project will cost the country the sum of US5,792,497,062.00 inclusive of taxes, environment utilization, works, as well as project land acquisition and compensation to about 100,000 people who will be resettled.


The specific case of Mambilla presents an interesting story, given the many years it has taken to leave the drawing boards.


As far back as 1972, a preliminary study was carried out by Moto Columbus, and confirmed by an indigenous water resources consultancy, Diyam Consultant led by distinguished Nigerian engineer, the late Malam Salihi Ilyasu which recommended the construction of a hydropower project with a rated capacity of 3,960 MW.


From then to now, various governments made efforts, or to put it in a better way, pretended to be committed to actualizing the project but nothing came of it. Sham attempts to develop the project on Build-Operate-Transfer, BOT also failed to achieve the commencement of construction.

A government revocation of a BOT approved by a former President through an anticipatory approval led to a protracted litigation that stalled the project.

In 2011, the then administration 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 USD 37,220,068,72.


The major breakthrough in the execution of this project was achieved when President Muhammadu Buhari initiated discussions at the level of the President of the People’s Republic of China in the course of his State Visit to that country.


One of the achievements of the visit was the bilateral agreement between the two governments to cooperate on the project and in particular, for the People’s Republic of China to prioritise Chinese financing of the Mambila Hydro-Electric Power Project using Chinese contractors.


The formation of the Joint Venture by the three companies, CGCC, SINOHYDRO and CGCOC under the guidance of the Chinese authorizes at the request of our government was significant in breaking the deadlock caused by litigation. It also ended needless competitor wrangling.


Following this development, a series of meetings took place to reduce the cost of the project from the projected USD 6.62 billion to the now agreed sUm of USD 5,729,497,062.00.


The importance of this project is being counted in its capacity to transform the impacted communities in Taraba State and beyond that, the country as a whole.


To quote the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola speaking on the Mambila project, “it will have a transformation on all of Nigeria’s socio-economic development.


During its construction and upon completion, and subsequent operation, it will have considerable positive impact on electricity supply nationwide, productivity, employment, tourism, technology transfer, rural development, irrigation, agriculture and food production in the area and beyond.”


This show-piece infrastructure project by the Muhammadu Buhari administration will therefore chart a new course of prosperity in Taraba, the North-East and the entire country.

It will no doubt help the country’s infrastructure. After construction, it will be the biggest single power project in the country.


Considering what this landmark infrastructure project means to the country’s economy, sociology and politics, it is hard to fathom why the past administrations delayed the Mambila power project inordinately.

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