- Â Cabinet approves $5.8bn for construction of Mambilla power plant
Omololu Abuja in Abuja
For the first time in five months, President Muhammadu Buhari presided over the meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) Wednesday at the Presidential Villa, where he was greeted with a resounding applause from ministers as he walked into the chamber.
The meeting was the first to be presided over by the president since March, before he proceeded to London on May 7 for treatment of an undisclosed ailment.
He returned to Nigeria on August 19, but cancelled last weekâ€™s FEC meeting.
As the president entered into the council chamber, ministers rose and clapped with excitement after setting their eyes on the president whom some of them had not seen since he returned to the country.
Briefing State House correspondents after the meeting, the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige, said the government was committed to ending the strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
Against this background, he said the cabinet had assigned Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo to take charge of some aspects of the negotiations with the university lecturers, disclosing that relevant government officials were slated to meet in the vice-presidentâ€™s office later Wednesday, after which governmentâ€™s decision would be communicated to the lecturers.
Ngige also said the constitution of the National Minimum Wage Committee approved by FEC in April had not been made public because some of the groups expected to nominate members into the committee were yet to submit the names of their nominees.
Ngige added that FEC approved a memo, in accordance with the extant laws, that would aid the monitoring and installation of industrial machines by manufacturers, with a view to ensuring that such installations comply with the laws and consequently avert the loss of lives during operations.
Also briefing correspondents, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, said FEC approved $5.792 billion for the construction of the Mambilla hydro power plant at the Mambilla plateau in Taraba State.
The project, which was conceived in 1972, according to Fashola, would generate 3,050 megawatts (MW) of electricity.
Fashola, who described the project as a joint venture between the federal government and Chinese Civil Engineering Company (CCEC), put the duration for the execution of the project at six years.
According to him, the project would comprise four dams, with 700 kilometres of transmission lines, which he said would unleash Nigeriaâ€™s potential in tourism, energy and agriculture.
The dams, according to the minister, had been grouped into four categories with various heights of 150 metres high, two intermediate dams of 70 metres high each, and the smallest at 50 metres high.
He also said the project would enable Nigeria to fulfil its own part of the Paris agreement on renewable energy at a competitive cost.
â€œThe memorandum from the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing is for the Mambilla hydro electric power plant. I believe many of you have heard about this project. Nigeria started talking about it since 1972, which is about 45 years ago.
â€œSeveral efforts have been made to bring it to reality but I am happy to announce to you that this government approved the award of the contract today (yesterday) as a joint venture with Chinese Civil Engineering Company (CCEC), including civil and electro-mechanical works for $5.792 billion.
â€œThe construction should take about 72 months, which is roughly about six years. The scope of works is very extensive. It requires the construction of four dams.
â€œOne of them is 150 metres in height, the intermediate two are 70 metres in height, and the smallest of them is 50 metres in height. Just for concept and scope, that of 150 metres is essentially the about the height of a 50-storey building because you have approximately three metres per floor. The intermediate one is roughly a 20-something storey building.
â€œIt also includes 700 kilometres of transmission lines. It will be in Taraba State in the area called Gengu. It will involve a lot of preparatory works and resettlement.
â€œIt will really unleash the potentials that have been reported about Mambilla â€“ agriculture, tourism and also for energy.
â€œIt will also help Nigeria to strike a very big blow on the climate change issue and fulfil its commitment under the Paris agreement because this is going to be renewable energy, coming also at a relatively competitive cost. This was approved by the council today,â€ Fashola said.
Fashola also explained why the 11 electricity distribution companies (Discos) reportedly rejected over 9,000MW of electricity within eight days recently, saying whereas power generation had risen from 2,690MW in 2015 to 6,800MW this month, there was a problem with distribution, which was blamed on the inability of the Discos to upgrade their equipment in lockstep with the electricity being wheeled out from the grid.
The minister, who said he was aware that an estimated 4,000MW of electricity is rejected by the Discos regularly, blamed the trend on the weak capacity of the equipment used by the Discos.
According to him, some of the equipment acquired by the Discos, upon privatisation, had become antiquated and obsolete, and hence, require upgrades to enable them to absorb and distribute electricity to consumers.
However, he said the government was committed to guaranteeing stable power supply, pointing out that the power sector reform of the federal government would address the problem.