By Magdalene Ukuedojor
On many occasions, economists have stressed that the energy sector is cardinal to Nigeria’s efforts to actualise its vision of becoming one of the top 20 economies of the world by 2020.
They note that the erratic power supply across the country has stifled the economic growth of the country and made the citizens’ livelihoods somewhat difficult.
They also raise concerns that Nigeria currently generates approximately 4,500 megawatts of electricity, while it needs about 200,000 megawatts to efficiently meet the energy needs of its population.
The experts, however, commend the Federal Government’s efforts to construct and inaugurate nine dams in line with its TransformationAgenda, underscoring the need for the optimal utilisation of the hydroelectricity component of the dams.
Although tangible efforts have been made to boost the country’s energy production capacity through alternatives such as solar power, biomass, biogas reactors, wind turbines and coal, the experts stress the need to place considerable emphasis on hydroelectricity generation as well.
Water experts particularly argue that the 2014 World Water Day, which will be celebrated on March 22 with the theme: “Water and Energy’’, should be viewed as a platform for renewing commitment to utilisingdams for improved power generation.
The experts point at Inyishi and Amauzari Dams in Imo, Ibiono Ibom Dam in Akwa Ibom, Mgbowo Dam in Enugu State, Owena Dam in Ondo State,Galma Dam in Kaduna State, Sulma, Dutsi and Mashi dams in Katsina State as some of the dams that could be used to generate power.
They argue that while all the dams could be used for water supply and irrigation, two of them — Mashi and Galma dams — have the capacity to generate six megawatts of electricity.
Mr Razaq Jimoh, the immediate past Coordinating Director, Nigerian Integrated Water Resources Management Commission, said that most of the dams with irrigation, water supply and hydropower generation components are underutilised due to paucity of funds.
Jimoh stressed that efforts should be made to revive the varying components of the dams to boost water supply and electricitygeneration.
“We have examples of some large dams that had been completed for over 20 years and their level of utilisation, in some cases, is not morethan 30 per cent.
“If you have a dam that is for four purposes and you are only enjoying one purpose, such a dam has not been maximally utilised.
“If you are enjoying the four benefits for which the dam was designed, you will derive more benefits from the dam for the community,’’ he said.
Jimoh noted that Kainji Dam, one of the country’s major hydropower generating dams, was designed to generate 960 megawatts, adding, however, that it could generate 760 megawatts because only eight ofits 12 turbines had been installed.
In an attempt to reinvigorate the power sector, the Federal Government in 2011, selected 20 medium and large dams for hydropower generation and produced a roadmap for the development of the criticalinfrastructure in the water and power sectors.
In the same vein, the Federal Ministry of Water Resources said that it would achieve a 95-per-cent development of its hydropower potential capable of producing up to 10,000 megawatts of electricity by 2015.
These efforts notwithstanding, stakeholders insist that paucity of funds, inadequate technical staff and synergy among the federal and state governments are some of the major constraints to efficientelectricity generation in the country.
However, the Minister of Water Resources, Mrs Sarah Ochekpe, said that “the Federal Government is indeed conscious of the fact that globally, there is a relationship between the number of dams and
hydropower generation for the socio-economic benefit.
“As part of measures to improve electricity supply, the installation of 30 megawatts electro-mechanical turbines for the Gurara Dam hasbeen completed.
“Besides, the Bureau of Public Procurement has given a no-objection right to the Federal Ministry of Power to harness the 40-megawatthydropower component of Kashimbilla Dam in Taraba.
“It’s a multi-purpose dam; we have the dam, the airstrip, irrigation, potable water and electricity; this dam will be completed this year,’’Ochekpe added.
Moreover, Mr Yusuf Ismail, the Deputy Project Site Engineer, Bokolori Dam in Sokoto State, said that the dam had the potential to serve theresidents of Sokoto State much better if its hydropower component wasdeveloped and duly utilised.
He called on Federal Government to harness the hydropower potential of the dam, recalling that the dam was constructed in 1978 and equipped with three megawatts hydropower and seven megawatts diesel engines for power generation.
To boost the Federal Government’s efforts to improve power generation, Gov. Rabi’u Kwankwaso of Kano State pledged in 2013 to finance the installation of the hydropower component of Tiga and Challawa dams at the cost N14.2 billion to produce 35 megawatts of electricity for the state.
He said that although the venture ought to have been captured in the Federal Government’s budget, the delay in harnessing the hydropower potential of the dams for the benefit of the state prompted his administration’s intervention.
“The dams had been completed but the hydropower component has not been utilised; it has been difficult to get both the Federal Government and development partners to install turbines for the
generation of electricity.
“For this reason, the state government has taken the bull by the horns and will now take up the project 100 per cent and finance it,’’ he said at a recent forum.
Expressing reservations about the condition of dams across the country, Sen. Heineken Lokpobiri, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Water, said that the components of many dams, particularly those in the northern parts of the country, had not been utilised.
“It is one thing is to construct the dams, it is another thing to see how the state government and local government would be able to tap into them and utilise them optimally.
“The dams are completed, Federal Government has done its own but the state governments need to come in and partner with it so as to ensure the benefits are taken to the door steps of the end users,’’ he said at a recent meeting of the committee.
All in all, stakeholders in the water sector agree that advocacy for partnerships on expanding the use of dams across the country should be given priority attention during the celebration of this year’s WorldWater Day. Source: NAN