Shiroro youths address issues concerning Zungeru dam construction.

BEING A TEXT OF PRESS CONFERENCE ON “ZUNGERU DAM CONSTRUCTION AND MATTERS ARISING, VIS-A-VIS, THE NEGATIVE MANIFESTATIONS”, BY CONCERNED SHIRORO YOUTHS OF NIGER STATE, HELD ON 27TH AUGUST, 2021, AT MINNA, NIGER STATE.

Gentlemen of the press.

This Press Conference is convened by CONCERNED SHIRORO YOUTHS OF NIGER STATE, and same is aimed at addressing issues connected with the construction of Zungeru Hydro-Electric Power Station, which include but not limited to NOMENCLATURE of the Dam and HAPHAZARD COMPENSATION of the affected people.

It is common knowledge that, Zungeru Hydro-Electric Dam has come to stay in Niger State and Shiroro Local Government in particular. We would like to categorically state that, right from onset, the construction of Zungeru Hydroelectric Power Station which is conspicuously sited in Shiroro Local Government is in all respect, and by all standard and consideration a welcome development. The 700 megawatts (940,000 hp) Hydro-Electric Dam with an ambitious expected date of completion not later than 2021, will be the second-largest Hydro-Electric Power Station in the country, behind the 760 megawatts (1,020,000 hp) Kainji Hydro-Electric Power Station. According to the blueprint of the giant project, it is estimated to generate 2.64 billion kWh of electricity a year, which will meet close to 10 percent of Nigeria’s total domestic energy need. Additionally, the project also intends to provide flood control, irrigation, as well as water supply and fish breeding facilities for the locals.

However, despite these mouth watering positivities, it is quite unfortunate that many intricacies and inadequacies have been occasioned, due to monumental scam arising from crass negligence and complacency from the combined conspiracy of the handlers of the Dam project on one hand and the affected Communities representatives on the other hand, even before the completion of the gigantic power plant. Some of these burning issues requiring urgent and speedy attention are outlined below:

HAPHAZARD COMPENSATION AND RESETTLEMENT OF AFFECTED VILLAGES

Ladies and gentlemen of the press, there are series of complaints emanating from affected voiceless victims regarding the way and manner the enumeration in the build up to the construction of the Dam was carried out. Based on our thorough findings, many people were not captured during enumeration and up till date, their issues have not been revisited. For instance, Layi is a Village under Gijiwa/Kato Ward, Shiroro Local Government Area, Niger State, and one of the many Villages affected by Zungeru Dam construction, though captured during enumeration but have not been compensated as required or expected whenever exercise of this nature is being carried out. The people therein have lost virtually all their belongings including farmlands, houses, etcetera. In the meantime, the inhabitants are without shelters; only very few of them have managed to erect makeshift huts where they are currently taking refuge. Ironically, due to Government’s inactions, crass complacency and negligence, people have become refugees in their ancestral lands without any remedy in sight. There are many other Villages facing similar fate, while the experiences of some other villages are with slight difference. One wonders whether this Dam is a blessing or a curse to us – the host Community!

After building everything in connection with the Dam construction on a wrong footing, then comes the issue of COMPENSATION proper. In respect of COMPENSATION, monumental and catastrophic scam took the centre stage by way of grossly shortchanging virtually all people directly affected by the Dam construction. It is on record that, while some people’s properties including lands and houses were grossly undervalued which resulted in inadequate compensation, some people were not compensated at all. Assessment and valuation conducted on CROPS, STRUCTURES AND ECONOMIC TREES were not in tandem with the international best practices on exercise of this magnitude. In the face of this injustice done to our hopeless and helpless people, we are lost at what the ATTORNEYS who were primarily engaged right from onset to make case for the affected people in the event of shortchange of whatever nature are actually doing to ameliorate the ugly situation.

DEVASTATING FLOODING OCCASIONED BY WATER BACKWASH

Compassionate members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm, the negative impact of the Dam have started rearing its ugly head. Water backwash as a result of preliminary blockage of water is the new sheriff in town. The ravaging, devastating and catastrophic flooding upstream have submerged and consumed our people’s ancestral farm lands as well as washing away our crops among others. The level of devastation and destruction have gone out of proportion and beyond imagination. People have been rendered homeless and are currently hopelessly wallowing in misery and inhabitable condition; desperately looking helter skelter for shelter.

The negative effect is of degrees. While some Villages have been submerged by flooding upstream and not compensated, others not compensated are yet to be submerged by flooding upstream. The villages affected include: Layi, Gaviya (completely submerged and have not been compensated). Other Villages yet to be submerged and not compensated, but prone to flood related dangers are: Fiyi, Sundna, Kokki, Rango, Turakin Kokki, Karibo, Shekadna, Gwaja, Guto, Jabukin Kasa, Jabukin Sama, Sarkin Zama, Siyiko, Maganda, Gurmana, Palalli, Kampani, Kasumi, Yelwa, Sumaila, Kwatai, Mashigin Gurmana, Gbisidna, Busnu, Giyi etc

The challenges being experienced have their respective root causes from the failure of the authorities concerned to do the needful as it relates to creating adequate enlightenment and sensitization campaign on the dangers ahead. The hitherto serene, good-looking environments with dense vegetation have suddenly metamorphosed to neighborhood eyesores. This ugly situation is enough pointer suggestive of strong and sharp disconnect between the Government and the governed. In the same vein, this unwanted and unhealthy disconnect need to be formidably and concretely bridged in earnest.

This unfortunate situation is akin to invitation to anarchy, as it is a huge understatement to aver that, our people are predominantly peasant farmers who practice subsistence farming as their basic occupation. Now that their ancestral farm lands have been taken away from them by flooding and sadly without a lasting, sustainable and workable alternatives, many consequences such as: famine, collapse of local economies, social exclusion, collapse in education, among others, are imminent and inevitable.

THE NOMENCLATURE OF ZUNGERU HYDRO-ELECTRIC POWER STATION

All the above outlined negative effects are in addition to the already super and colossal injustice meted on us as a people regarding the NOMENCLATURE of the Dam. It is great injustice done to us by the authorities concerned to have named the power plant after a community outside the Dam’s host community.

The Zungeru Hydro-Electric project site is in Gungu, Manta District of Shiroro Local Government Area of Niger State and not in Zungeru which is in Wushishi Local Government Area. For rational justice and fairness, the hydropower Dam should be named after its host village. The name should be Gungu, Manta or Shiroro II Hydro-Electric Power Station, not Zungeru hydro-Electric Power Station as erroneously being called by the Federal Ministry of Power and the consortium of China National Electric Engineering Company (CNEEC) and Sinohydro, a subsidiary of Power Construction Corporation of China (PowerChina), which is presently handling the construction of the project.

Worthy of note is the fact that, our agitation for the renaming of Zungeru Dam to Gungu Dam, Manta Dam or Shiroro Dam II is necessitated by the fact that, since the Dam is sited at Gungu; there should be a reflection of obtainable reality – this includes but not limited to name. As we all know, NAME speaks volume about every phenomenon. It is undisputable fact that, all the attendant consequences are going to be felt by the inhabitants of the Dam’s surroundings. Therefore, it is naturally expected that, all accruable benefits should be enjoyed by real host communities and not otherwise.

Moreso, we firmly believe that, our fathers did not commit any crime by donating our precious and most cherished ancestral farm lands for the construction of this gigantic power plant. Therefore, we should be paid in the same coin! In this light, the envisaged commensurate benefits of the Dam; be it economic, social and what have you should not ordinarily elude Shiroro as the host local government.

Consequently, naming the Power Station after the village it is sited will correct the historical anomaly, set the records straight, give honour to whom same is due as well as accord any possible future benefits that may accrue from time to time to the host community from the Power Station properly. For emphasis, take notice that while Gungu which hosts the Power Station is in Shiroro Local Government Area; Zungeru after which the Dam has erroneously been named is several Kilometres away from the main site and is in Wushishi Local Government Area.

In view of the foregoing, we are putting forward the following demands:

1. Both the Federal and Niger State Governments, through their Emergency Management Agencies, vis-a-vis: National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and Niger State Emergency Management Agency (NSEMA) should immediately reach out to the IDPs who are presently taking refuge in temporary Camps with relief materials.

2. We demand for a committee to be constituted with members from CSOs domiciled in Shiroro, the Fourth Estate of the Realm, and other critical stakeholders to investigate the following:

A. The amount the Federal government provided for the resettlement and to whom it was paid to.

B. The Ministry or Agency in Niger State handling the resettlement issue.

C. The resettlement sites and when the clearing, survey and demarcation took place.

3. Zungeru Dam should be renamed Gungu Dam, Manta Dam or Shiroro Dam II, as agreed by the host communities and other relevant stakeholders.

It is in the interest of natural justice that the village hosting this gigantic and very important project should have the honour of the project being named after it.

In the same vein, we are also calling on Hydroelectric Power Producing Areas Development Commission (HYPPADEC), statutorily charged with the responsibility of managing the ecological menace due to operation of Dams and other hydroelectric power stations activities, among others, to expeditiously undertake critical infrastructural projects in these affected areas to ease the perennial sufferings caused by Hydroelectric Dams. The Concerned Shiroro Youths of Niger State respectfully implore the Managing Director of HYPPADEC to undertake the following projects for the benefit of Shiroro Local Government in order to ameliorate the challenges posed by these Dams:

1. Reconstruction of Gwada – Kuta – Zumba road to provide access road for the transportation of agricultural products to the markets, State capital and other parts of the Country.

2. Construction of Pandogari – Allawa – Bassa – Gurmana – Erena road and Bassa – Erena road as well as Erena – Allawa road to ensure road network which in the long run will boost local economies.

3. Upgrading of Kuta General Hospital with to fits the 21st century’s Hospital settings.

4. Upgrading of Gwada Maternity and Children’s Hospital with more to fits the 21st century’s Hospital settings.

5. Connection of Shiroro LGA Communities with NSP grid. By provision of feeder in Zumba, this will enable the connection of Zumba – Kuta – Gyagyagbata – Egwa – Gwada towns. By so doing, it will ensure that the entire local government have constant electricity supply by utilizing the 5MW of electricity promised the LGA by the Shiroro Power Station.

6. Provision of modern boats at various crossing points of the River to prevent frequent local boat mishaps.

CONCLUSION

Compassionate members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm, in view of the issues at hand, Government should look into all the issues raised with a view to effectively addressing same. Government should as a matter of urgency and without further delay, do something to assuage and mitigate the sufferings and hardships being experienced by the affected people. Also, our leaders at all levels should brace up lasting and sustainable actions that will address these avoidable anomalies which in the long run will effectively bring succour to the affected victims. Therefore, all hands must be on deck to collectively reverse and undo the ravaging injustice. There’s no time to waste further on more rhetorics. The time to act is now!

Thank you.

Bello Ibrahim,
Co-convener, Concerned Shiroro Youths of Niger State.

Sani Abubakar Yusuf Kokki,
Co-convener, Concerned Shiroro Youths of Niger State.

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