By Usama Dandare,
Just like Lagos and Kano, Sokoto is unequivocally in the rank of Nigeria’s most luckiest states when it comes to rapid development and democratic dividends. Whoever left Sokoto state and returns after ten years must acknowledge the fact that the state has indeed attained a significant level of development, especially in infrastructure.
Since the return of democracy in 1999, the state have been witnessing stupendous developments with both previous governors putting in a marvelous performance in positively moving the state forward. From 1999 to date, several astounding projects numbering hundreds were executed in all areas of development; one of such developmental project is the construction of an Independent Power Plant embarked upon by the immediate past administration of Governor Aliyu Magatakarda Wammakko.
It is seven years now since construction work began at the site of the Sokoto state Independent Power Plant, the state government had in 2008, signed a contract with a United States based energy company, Vulcan Capital Energy, to build an Independent Power Project (IPP) which will boost power supply by 38MW at the cost of ₦3.8billion (approximately ₦100million per megawatt), and the initial plan was to complete the project within six months but contrary to other successful projects in the state, the power project kept moving lackadaisically and it’s now seemingly becoming a monumental fraud.
The project, located at Arkilla area of Sokoto metropolis, is to generate 38MW of electricity to the state, and was to be executed through an Abuja based firm, Vulcan Elvaton Limited, a subsidiary partner to Vulcan Capital Energy. The plant was initially scheduled for completion in early 2009 but having failed to meet the deadline, the completion period was for the first time shifted to September 2009, later to December 2010 and again to July 2011, it’s again extended to September 2013 and to August 2014 and since then, nothing concrete has been heard from those in authority. In this fashion, the so-called completion period kept jumping from this month to the next, due to some foreseen or unforeseen circumstances.
According to the terms of this fraudulent project, the gas turbine plant is designed to run using the very expensive ‘black oil’ which will definitely add another financial burden on the state and would therefore hold the people of Sokoto state to ransom for life. The task of maintaining a gas turbine power plant must surely consume millions of Naira monthly, and will possibly birth another new avenue to loot the state treasury in the name of buying black oil. Why gas turbine when there are other less expensive and easy to maintain sources like hydro, solar or wind?
The short-term project originally touted to be completed and produce power within six months has surprisingly stretched to over seven years and still counting with no realistic date for now. A visit to the construction site must undoubtedly leave one in dilemma and cold feet based on the slow phase at which the project has been moving since inception, despite various promises of completion and inauguration. Both Governor Wammakko, his cohorts and the construction firm have been issuing fraudulent word of honor and certainty of completing the power plant but to my uttermost disillusionment, the Plant is yet to show any signs of completion not to mention of commissioning.
Vogue and multifarious promises kept pouring in while the people of Sokoto keep waiting and waiting and waiting, but to no avail; all the dubious promises to complete the power plant as planned dust off and varnished into the sky. To set records straight for the emphasis of history, below are few among the series of dubious promises made by the government of Governor Wammakko and the contractors to complete and commission the power plant in due time;
Worried by the lackadaisical nature of the project, in 2013, Daily Trust queued up questions to the Chief Operations Officer of Vulcan Elvaton Ltd, Prince Franklyn, who assured that all the major equipments needed to complete the project were 100% on ground and that the company will promptly finish the project by the end of 2013, and will get it ready for commissioning by the first quarter of 2014. He claimed that all the turbines and generators have been installed successfully, a concrete foundation has also been built and what only remained before commissioning was for the coolant foundation to be strong enough before mounting the coolant which will possibly be ready in about 17 days as at then. I really wonder if Mr. Prince Franklyn was not mistaken 17 years for 17 days, it’s 7 years now and yet, the concrete foundation is still not strong?
In the same vein, the people’s hope of a stable and improved power supply was further guaranteed by the then state Governor, Aliyu Wamakko, on May 1, 2013, while inspecting the last consignment comprising electrical components at the IPP site, Wammakko reaffirmed; that the ongoing ₦3.8 billion Independent Power Project (IPP) in the state would be a reality in the next one month (meaning June 2013) but to my dismay, over two years now and the IPP isn’t only faraway from reality but seemingly unrealistic.
In the series of dubious promises, Governor Aliyu Wamakko, while speaking during a traditional sallah homage paid to him by the Sultan, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III on August 10, 2013, again revealed that the Sokoto Independent Power Plant (IPP) was to undergo a test-run in the following month of September. And as usual, Wammakko’s disclosure turnout to be another deceit because as of today; the IPP has never been tested not even for a second. The people of Sokoto state can confirm this.
While addressing newsmen in Abuja on March 11, 2014, a media consultant to the Sokoto state government, Alhaji Ibrahim Jirgi disclosed that the Independent Power Project (IPP) that is being developed by the state is about 80% completed and will be commission in the next two months. Here we are, almost a year and half gone and no sign of completing the project less to talk of commissioning.
Speaking shortly after inspecting the last batch of equipments for the power project – a 50 MVA transformer and its accessories – on April 23, 2014, Alhaji Sahabi Isa Gada, Secretary to the Sokoto state government and chairman implementation committee of the state’s IPP, expressed optimism and promised that the state’s independent power plant would commence operation by May of 2014. More than a years gone and the whole project is still as it was in 2009.
Again on July 19, 2014, Governor Aliyu Wamakko while speaking at the graduation ceremony of 125 youths trained in shoe- making and the distributions of Ramadan package to the needy reassured the general public that the “Sokoto State Independent Power Project (IPP) is to commence operation by the end of August 2014.”
On July 24, 2014, Governor Aliyu Wamakko having forgotten what he promised in 2013 moved on to again reassure the public that arrangements have been concluded for the take-off of the state’s Independent Power Project (IPP) and that it will commence operation very soon. At this point, one must begin to wonder why Governor Wammakko keeps on repeating promises that were meant to be false and what obstacle could be responsible for the delay in commissioning the power project despite all these promises of completion dating back to 2009?
Above are just few in the series of countless lies of the pervasive greed, fraud, and corruption sold-out daily by both Governor Wammakko and his co-travelers, all in pretense of establishing a dubious power plant while in reality, the project was mainly initiated to rob the taxpayers of their hard earned wealth and nothing but a fraud.
As i pen down this piece, the so-called Independent Power Project is nowhere near completion, the only visible things within the entire mise en scène of the project as at today is; one large-size generator, a red tank constructed for storing black oil that will run the power plant, two mango trees, two uniform military men and two civil defense officers on guard. In all sense of fairness, this is how the outlook of the locus where the so-called power plant is situated and has been this way for over two years now.
It appears a major fraud is being perpetrated against the hard-working people of Sokoto State in the construction of this Independent Power Plant (IPP), the people of Sokoto State should not be misled by stories that progress was or have being made at the job site, nothing commendable has been achieved so far and all the equipments are not new but second-hand, dated, used, and not up to standard; whoever hope of a stable electricity from this power plant should simply put it where it rightly belong (into the dustbin), the nature of work put in place isn’t what the people of Sokoto State bargained for or what they were promised.
Though there are several petitions inviting the Economic and Financial Crime Commission to come investigate the power project for alleged financial misappropriation, there’s still the need for the present government of RT. Hon. Aminu Waziri to revisit every single move involving the project in the spirit of change, and to right the wrong of the previous regime if only if the anti-corruption slogan of the APC led-government is really for the masses benefits.