By GODDY OSUJI
Ebonyi State government, which is suffering from constant power outages, has concluded plans to construct three biomass power plants of five megawatts each. One of them in partnership with UNIDO, while the state will build the remaining two at Iboko and Oso Edda rice clusters, even as the state has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with an American company to establish a 2000 megawatts power plant.
The state commissioner of Public Utility, Engr. Ben Okah, who revealed this in a chat with Daily Sun stated that the five megawatts biomass plant being constructed by UNIDO and the state government, which would be cited at Ikwo, will be shared in this ratio…1.2 megawatts for Ebonyi State rice mill at Ikwo, about 1.2 megawatts to Ebony Rice plant, (that is Engineer Ugwu’s rice plant), then some power to the cluster, about 1 megawatt to the cluster, and 2 megawatts to Oferekpe treatment plant. “The power plant will be realized in about 18 months. The projects, when completed, would be run in partnership with the government, and this has also been approved.”
A team from the Ministry of Power visited the state, sequel to a meeting we had with them and their minister, in connection with the project. The Ebonyi government has already built a line from the sub-station to Oferekpe, and onto the Rice mill at Iboko and then the Federal University, all in Ikwo. That line is supposed to carry 25 megawatts and is dedicated to these three projects, which means that no person can tap from that line. Right now it stops at Nwezenyi. The team from the Federal Ministry of Power visited the sites, and gave professional advice. “We are also dedicating a line to Ocho-Udo city and the international market. The line is already in place and the team also visited the sites.
“There was just one 3311 power sub-station, may be that was enough in the early 90s, but right now that capacity is so small…and that is why we shed lights – they give an area today, and pass it on to another tomorrow. So, the Federal Ministry of Power, after their visit, agreed that we need a relief sub-station and okayed our request for the three relief stations. When you have those three stations, power outages would become a thing of the past, except when there is a system failure from source. The capacity of the transformers here can carry the town for upward of 15, 20 years.
“We also have a turbine, with two units of five megawatts, which installation would commence around March 15. We have 11 units of big buildings at the secretariat, plus the Central Bank and other structures that will come up in that place. That cluster alone would draw up to six megawatts, out of the 10 we have if they are running full capacity. The cost of installing the equipment is on the high side in terms of fuelling, because right now we don’t have natural gas; we have to use diesel. So the plant will be dedicated to the secretariat, and then the balance will be dedicated to the environs within the market. Those are our plans in the area of power, and there is hope. We have an MoU with an American company to establish a 2000 megawatts power plant. And the company is very serious and we are already concluding with equipment supplies. We have done our bit specifically for the project.”
So what is the state doing about Nigercem, and plans to establish her own cement factory?
The state, under the leadership of the governor, Chief Martin Elechi, is very, very eager to establish a cement factory, whether solely or in partnership, or PPP or whatever. We want to have a few cement production plant in Ebonyi state – one or two or three, as the case may be. And already Nigercem is down and cannibalized, and the matter is in court. And, of course, you know I cannot discuss matters that are in court. But we went further to do exploration of our other deposits of limestone at Ishieke, which samples were sent for laboratory tests in Switzerland. The result is out but did not meet the proper quantity of calcium oxide and other substances that will be required to manufacture cement. But that is just one. The Department of Cement Production, headed by the commissioner for Cement Production, is also doing core-drilling.
What is the state doing in terms of rural electrification?
Many rural communities have been connected to the national grid. We have an on-going contract with News Engineering in that respect, even though the company is not moving as fast as we would want her to, but work is still going on. Beyond that the state government is partnering with some rural communities, either they have school or they have some other projects that require electricity, we give them.
Ebonyi is building two massive water treatment plants and reticulation projects, how far can you go before the end of this administration, and the cost implication?
The water treatment projects are of very large scale that they are not projects you can finish in one to three years. But at this stage, we are rounding off, expecting that at least the first phase of the projects would have been fully completed by the middle of this year. The Oferekpe Water treatment plant is virtually complete. What is remaining there are the filters and electrical appliances which, I’m sure, are already in Lagos. They are supposed to hand over that project by the end of this month, but the main contractors keep trying to postpone the delivery date to suit themselves. On our visit with the good governance team, the engineer was talking about May–June. In any case, March, April, May or June is not very far from our projections, but if they can completely finish by June, that would be good.
The primary pipeline from Oferekpe to Abakaliki is in top gear and the contractors laying the pipes are in two teams. They have done about 15 Kilometers, but there is about 47 to 58 kilometers. All the pipelines are expected to arrive Nigeria by March 15, and it may take one month to completely clear them and bring them to site. So that is on-going.The reviewed cost of the Oferekpe project is N7.6 billion. That amount is very conservative, compared to similar capacity of plants in other parts of Nigeria. The pipeline ironically is more expensive at N9.8 billion. The good thing is that the contractors are on site working, and they are not hindered by payment of certificates raised.
Ukawu treatment plant has been a challenge to all of us because the contractors have not performed optimally, and that is why the project is not moving as it should. They have been doing about 40–50 per cent civil works, but unless they get to 60 per cent civil works, which is a measurable part of the job, we will not review the contract. Certainly, the contract is due for review but they have to show responsibility in their work because concrete job is what you can measure, even if it is not stated in the bill of quantity…all the jobs done are measurable at current price. So, we are paying and they should be able to get up to 70 per cent before we review the contract to accommodate mechanical and electrical components.
Now, for the secondary lines, the intention of the government is to extend the pipe through all the local governments, and then the tertiary lines through all the communities. It’s a long term plan. In fact, our water plant is for 45 years. Like I said the other time, no other governor needs to do any water treatment plant, unless it is a private water treatment plant. We projected that in 45 years the population can still use the two water treatment plants.
And the cost of secondary reticulation and tertiary reticulation is N36 billion, and that is the area where we have been asking the Federal Government to assist us. We didn’t ask her to assist us in building water treatment plants and in doing the primary lines, but we are asking her to assist us in the secondary and tertiary lines. Ebonyi State treasury, as it is managed today, can’t bear the N36 billion cost of the project, but the Federal Government can get that from the World Bank or ADB.
Can you explain to our readers the meaning of primary, secondary and tertiary pipelines?
The primary line is the line from Oferekpe to Abakaliki, which is already under construction; secondary is to all local government headquarters; tertiary is to all communities.
Looking at the cost implication of these projects, do you assure Ebonyians that these projects will be completed before the end of this administration?
I don’t know what you are talking about. We have paid for these jobs; some of them are up to 90 per cent done. The money has not been the issue; we have paid for all contracts awarded. The water treatment plants are on-going, we have paid up to 70 to 80 per cent for each of them. For the primary reticulation, we have done up to 80 to 90 per cent of the payment. So, Ebonyians should be rest assured that they are not white Elephant projects. The challenge we have is Ukawu and that challenge is not from the government. It is from the contractor, I keep saying it. If Ganza (contractor) is moving at the pace Gilmor (another contractor) deos, Oferekpe, by now, they would be at par. We have even offered to assist them, but they have their own way of doing things, with the kind of technical nature of that kind of job. They designed it and they are building it. We are finding it very difficult, but government will complete the Ukawu project as quickly as possible.
What is the capacity of the plants?
Each water project is to supply 1 million litres of water, and that’s about 100,000 cubic metres per day and, like I said, the design would last 45 years.
What do you say about Ezillo water scheme, which the government rehabilitated?
Ezillo is designed for 35,000 cubic metres, their production is about 20 per cent, but they can produce up to 90 per cent if there is improvement. But our intention is to use Ezillo to supply the university, then parts of Ishielu and Ohaukwu.