As the nation makes progress towards achieving Incremental Power, Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola SAN, has recounted the gains that are accruable from various projects in pursuit of the objective saying it would, among others, reinvigorate the economy and boost employment.
Fielding questions from newsmen after inspecting the dual fuel (LPFO and Gas fired) 215 Megawatts Kaduna Power Project being constructed in Kaduna State, Fashola said the driving force behind government’s commitment to the various projects it has embarked on since inception was to get people back to work and reenergize the economy.
Citing the inspected project as an example, as it was abandoned due to non-payment of contractors since 2014, Fashola expressed joy that since work resumed on the project, the contractors had employed almost 150 workers adding that there would be prospects for more employment when the project is in full swing.
Pointing out that all that is left is tidying up the paper work and dealing with some variation issues that have arisen in order “to have the place back, to full of workmen’s activities”, the Minister reiterated that employment was one of the important economic spinoffs from the various projects across the country.
According to the Minister, who recalled showing interest in knowing how many people were working at the project, “They have almost 150 Nigerians working here. So as long as we are doing these things, people can get up in the morning and say they are going to work with their dignity intact, not begging for money or begging relations to pay school fees and all of that. So that is the first thing”.
Expressing the commitment of the Federal Government to see to the completion of the project, Fashola noted that the reason for the delay in starting the project was due to the non-payment of contractors since 2014. “Contractors hadn’t been paid since 2014 while the nation was running budgets ostensibly. So those are the issues the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing has tackled and there are now provisions for them in this year’s budget”, he said adding that with Federal Government intervention, “it may become unnecessary to put pressure on Kaduna to go and borrow money to do what the Federal Government should have done years ago”.
He further declared that “Ultimately when the power comes, as you heard from the Governor, we can then put the platform back to power the textile industry” since on completion of the project, the famous Kaduna Textile Mills should return to operations. He also added that Kaduna used to be the home of textile industries and a home of employment.
He said it was left for the Ministry to do the needful which, according to him, was “to go back to finish the paper work, get approvals, comply with procurements and release money to enable them to continue their work”.
Also fielding questions from newsmen after the inspection, the State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, described the Kaduna Power Project as central to the survival of Kaduna State, saying it would create jobs in the State and reduce youth restiveness which he said had bedeviled the State as a result of unemployment.
He told the newsmen, “As the Minister pointed out, once upon a time, Kaduna had the largest concentration of textile industries in Nigeria, employing over 35,000 people and catering for over half a million families. The collapse of our textile industries led to religious and ethnic crises in Kaduna State and we are determined to work with all stakeholders under the Buhari Government to bring it back”.
“This project, the 215 megawatts Kaduna Power Project, as well as the Gurara (Phase I) 30 megawatts plant combined will enable us with confidence to invite our textile partners to come and invest because electricity was the first big issue that led to the demise of the textile industry”, the Governor said.
He said for the State Government and the people of Kaduna State, the project was very important adding that for that reason, prior to Fashola’s appointment as Minister of Power, Works and Housing, the Kaduna State Government got the support of the State House of Assembly to borrow N7.5 Billion to clear payment arrears and ensure completion of these two projects.
He added, “But with Fashola as Minister, we have the confidence that the project will be funded”. Going further, the Governor confirmed the continued availability of the N7.5 billion from the Central Bank’s line of intervention fund and his government’s willingness to “deploy these funds if needed to clear financial constraints relating to the project”.
Expressing confidence in the Minister, Governor El-Rufai added that “we are now gratified that by the end of this year some of these plants will start working and by June 2017, we are being assured by the contractors and consultants working on these projects that the 215 plus 30 Megawatts will be available to the National Grid and a lot of it will be for industries in Kaduna. This we are very happy about”.
Speaking earlier as she welcomed them to the project site, Engr.(Mrs) Briskilla Sapke, the Acting Director of Distribution in the Ministry, said the contract for the project was awarded to Rockson Engineering/ General Electric in November 2009, with a completion period of 36 months. She went further to enumerate the other related projects on the site, including the ongoing construction of a 2x60MVA, 132/33KV substation. This is to help with domiciling the power generated from both the plant and the 30MW Gurara Hydropower into Kaduna Township and its environs.
According to her, the Arewa Metal Containers Ltd has also been contracted to construct 3 fuel storage tanks with storage capacity of 1.5 million litres each for the supply of fuel to the plant.
She however pointed out that the commercial operations date of the projects suffered slippage due to a change of project site and inadequate budgetary appropriation over the years. Going further, she acknowledged the continued support of the Kaduna State government for the project which includes the provision of adequate 5.7 hectares of land and the resolution of community issues.