Between Fed Ministry Of Power And Former Niger State Minister, Villagers’ Hopes Dash Over Abandoned Mini-grid Solar Project In Lapai

Hajiya Zainab Ibrahim Kuchi, former Minister of State for Power and Niger Delta State Affairs who represented Niger State, in August 2020, supervised the construction of a 60KW Solar Photovoltaic Interconnected Mini-Grid in Kuchi Kebba village, Lapai local council, but the project since its completion has remained inaccessible to the villagers.

The facility with over 220 solar panels, according to WikkkiTimes’ findings was meant to serve four communities — Kuchi Kebba, Kuchi Gwari, Ezhin and Emu Sabo. However, neither has it been commissioned nor put to use, according to Alhaji Ismail Isah, the district head of Kuchi Kebba.

The solar panel

“The contractors said it has been completed, but since its completion, we have not benefited from it,” Isah lamented. “It was tested for about two days and since then, we have not seen it again. We do not know why it stopped working and when we called the contractors, they promised to come and fix it, but over a year now, we did not see them.”

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“We are pleading with the government, the contractors and any other persons involved in the project’s execution to please come to our aid so that we can as well enjoy power supply just like other neighbouring communities,” the district head added. “We don’t have anyone to hold responsible to help us with this critical situation that our community is in today.”

Alhaji Ismail Isah, the district head of Kuchi Kebba.

Abduljabar Umar Kuchi, the special adviser to the district head of Kuchi told WikkiTimes that the villagers were excited when the contractors arrived at the site of the project. “We were more excited when it was completed,” he said, adding the villages were thrown into darkness two days later.

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“It was like an achieved dream when they installed the solar,” Kuchi told WikkiTimes. “Because the neighbouring Ebbo and Gullu communities have electricity, except our axis.”

“At a point when the situation begins to get out of hand, we call the attention of one Engineer Yusuf who claimed to be working with A.Y Global Integrated Consultant Limited, the subcontracting company handling the project,” Kuchi stated. “At the time, he told us there was a minor glitch inside the solar’s control room and vowed that it would be fixed in no distance time.”

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Alhaji Mohammed Saidu, the Headteacher of Kuchi Kebba Primary School, believes that the project would have been of great benefit to the community if not for the negligence. “Looking at how people spend money to get their phone charged at commercial centres, this project if commissioned would reduce the financial burden.”

In his view, Abdulmalik Aliyu, a senior civil servant in the community, faulted the federal government for abandoning a project it funded.

“Let the federal government and everyone involved in the execution of the project do the needful so that our community can enjoy the dividend of democracy,” Aliyu pleaded.  

Youths accuse Zainab of politicising project 

Youths in Kuchi Kebba claimed that the former minister, Zainab, was intending to score a cheap political goal with the project. According to them, she was eyeing a senatorial seat in the forthcoming 2023 election but later withdrew her interest.

“We were here when the then Minister of State for Niger Delta Affairs, Hajiya Zainab Ibrahim Kuchi, came with a proposer about the installation of the 60KW power system in this village,” said Abdulmumini Ndastu, one of the youths in the village. “Contractors were mobilised to the site, everything was done at the speed of light and it was completed. But for more than a year, the facility remained unused as we await it to be commissioned.”

Another youth who begged for anonymity claimed that the ex-minister was delaying the commissioning for her political ambition.

“She is playing politics with the project, insisting on commissioning the project by herself in order to earn more recognition and that is why the project is where it is today,” he told WikkiTimes.

Contractor, subcontractor react

When contacted, Engineer Yusuf, an agent of A.Y Global Integrated Consultant Limited (the subcontracting company), acknowledged the project, but declined to comment about the state of the facility. He advised our reporter to contact the main contracting company, News Engineering Nigeria Limited.

Yusuf, however, corroborated the villagers’ words, saying the project is yet to be commissioned and as such, has not been energized.

“No please please, I am not in the capacity to do that. All that I know is that the project is yet to be commissioned and therefore is not yet energized,” he said. “Please am not the contractor of the project you may contact News Engineering Nig Ltd.”

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However, the contracting company did not respond to WikkiTimes’ calls. Also, the texts sent to the company were not responded to.

WikkiTimes’ findings showed that News Engineering Nigeria Ltd is owned by one Nwaeze Lady Josephine and operates from No.3 Columba Close, Maitama, Abuja, FCT. In addition, the subcontracting company is situated at No. 148GW Iwa layout Behind Samba Road, Sokoto State. Its directors include, Umar Faruk, Mohammed Abbas, Mohammed Abbas and Yusuf M. Ganda.

Surprsingly, records about the project (as relating to the amount it was awarded) could not found. WikkiTimes also used several project tracing tools and collaborated with a notable tracking entity, but to no avail.

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The minister fumes

When contacted, Hajia Zainab, the former minister who served under the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, yelled that a journalist does not have the right to contact her on the project. She further directed the reporter to contact the Federal Ministry of Power for any details. 

“As a former minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a journalist does not have the right to contact me on a 60KW solar project. You can contact the Federal Ministry of Power if you need further details,” Zainab said as she hung up the call.

However, an enquiry sent to the Federal Ministry of Power was not responded to.

WikkiTimes learnt that Zainab is an indigene of Kuchi Kebba the community where the abandoned project was situated. She is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of DaralKuchi International Limited and DaralKuchi Eco Farms & Food Limited.

This publication is produced with support from the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) under the Collaborative Media Engagement for Development Inclusivity and Accountability Project (CMEDIA) funded by the MacArthur Foundation.


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