HYPPADEC, not militant enough (1) Zainab Suleiman-Okino



The battle to rehabilitate the people and communities around the hydro-electric power stations where the nation derives one third of its 3,600 to 3,800 megawatts, according to Dr Sam Amadi, the Chairman of the Nigeria Electricity and Regulatory Commission, NERC, has been on for over 10 years. Despite the fact that the bill for the creation of a commission, the Hydro-electric Power producing Areas Development Commission, (HYPPADEC) to take care of the negative impact of hydro-power harnessing was finally signed into law and assented to by the president about two years ago,the commission is yet to take off because the president is yet to inaugurate it and there is no physical structure in place to underscore government’s commitment to the project.

HYPPADEC is conceived in the mould of OMPADEC/NNDC as an intervention agency to address the ecological devastation faced by hydro-electric power communities. The states affected are Niger, Kwara, Kogi, Kebbi, Plateau and lately Benue. According to the Leadership newspaper report of Monday, March 25, 2011, the project has probably been abandoned (or is it being relegated for political expediency?) The bill was reviewed (revived) and passed in the last legislative dispensation after ex-President Obasanjo refused to assent to it previously.

Even without a deep knowledge of the World Bank’s work on ecological cum environmental degradation resulting from construction of dams, and the efforts of the local NGOs, in particular Community Action for Popular Participation’s (CAPP) project entitled ‘damned by the dams’, environmental impact assessment is key to a project of such magnitude. It is in the light of this that HYPPADEC should be prioritised, notwithstanding the identities of the benefitting communities or their political relevance, which only count when their votes are needed.

These communities face ecological problems yearly such as floods and other environmental hazards. There is another issue of people in the New Bussa and Jebba areas that were uprooted from their ancestral homes and heritages, while the people’s economic lifewire like farming was disrupted to give way for the construction of the dams. While these communities continue to suffer the devastating consequences of the take-over of their lands, the government is playing politics with a project that has the capacity to transform the locals’ lives for good. The people also bear the painful pangs providing electricity for the nation, while they live in darkness. Where in the world is this kind of injustice obtainable?

To worsen the HYPPADEC debacle, no one seems to have an idea what is happening to the project; there is even no department in charge of it, so who do you blame or hold responsible for these two years of inertia? It is that bad.

The newspaper also quoted a senior staff of the Ministry of Power, who said that the “implementation of HYPPADEC Act never left the drawing board” and that the law was “politically motivated” as “the federal government might not have intended to implement it” This point begs the questions: Did Jonathan mean well when he signed the bill into an act? Did he do it to serve as a springboard of support of the North-central for his presidential ambition then? Or is it part of his so-called subtle soft spot for the people of the North-central in a divide and rule method to break the North?

In the wake of the rumble and tumble before the 2011 elections, I wrote a piece in The Sun in which I questioned Jonathan’s launching and raising of N3billion naira for a new university in his village, while the other eight had no take-off grants yet, and when the old universities rot away and rehabilitation work on the Army Reference Hospital in Kaduna had stopped. A respondent sent me a text and accused me of bias against Jonathan.  He said I should realise I was safer with Jonathan. He also asked what my northern brothers at the helm before, did for my state (Kogi), whereas Jonathan chose the minister of justice and the GMD of NNPC from my state and had approved the construction of a green refinery in the state. I laughed it off. I

thought that was mundane, but there are people who would take a cue from it and use it as a campaign issue. In any case, who is really safe with Jonathan today? So, if Jonathan did everything decidedly for (political  consideration), was the signing of the HYPPADEC bill into law and the non-take off of the project also part of the game? Right or wrong, this is the unfortunate fragmentation the nation has sunk into under President Jonathan. The way things stand now with HYPPADEC, there is no department for it anywhere in government no structure and nobody is in charge of it, the Act may just remain dormant until the next legislative period. And the cosmos merry-go-round continues.

Meanwhile, the affected people are in for a long haul, if ever they hope to benefit from resources their environment has bestowed on them, but which our ill-skewed federation has made impossible for them to control. Why on earth is the government foot-dragging on a simple case of inaugurating a board and financing it, if the intention was real, and for a project that has precedent in the old OMPADEC and now NNDC?

Perhaps the people of the states need to take a cue from their Niger Delta brothers who fought tooth and nail and even ruthlessly to get to where they are today. The government is complacent because the affected people are not militant enough. They are probably too civil in their approach.  They want to follow due process of law?

That does work well in Nigeria. Why should the HYPPADEC structure be put in place when the youth of the area have not cut off the hydro power source and have not learnt the act of kidnapping foreigners working there for ransom? The people of the affected areas may also have to learn to blackmail, intimidate government, threaten officials and attack and destroy installations—whether it is direct attack, scotched earth or simply declare a war on the state—to press home their demands.

 

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