It is almost 10 years since the Hydroelectric Power Producing Areas Development Commission (HYPPADEC) commenced the Zungeru Hydro Electric Power Project in 2013 — an infrastructure that later displaced scores of residents who were living on the shore of Zungeru Dam. However, the project is scheduled for inauguration next year, but its host communities are being left to suffer in informal displaced person camps, Umar Yunusa, reports.
Salah Mubarak Layi, is among those whose houses and farmlands were submerged by flooding in a suburb village of Layi in Shiroro local council, Niger State. The aged man almost lost everything when floods took over his residence in 2019.
Apart from his family that still gives him a ray of hope, Layi plunged into deep thought of loss whenever he remembered how he lost everything — livestock, food and other farm produce — to flooding induced by construction works at the dam.
“Now, it has been three years since floods displaced us from our houses,” Layi said, stressing promises of being compensated were reneged upon. “Some delegates of the government came to us to take our records. But nothing comes after that.”
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In the displaced person camps, things were not easy for the refugees, Layi explained. “We are searching for food to eat as floods have washed away our farm products,” he said.
WikkiTimes understands that HYPPADEC did not only violate OP 4.12 captured in the World Bank Safeguard Policy on Involuntary Resettlement, it also deceived the locals, raising their hopes of being compensated.
OP 4.12 requires that no land shall be acquired before compensation is paid completely to the affected people, according to findings.
“We were many, displaced from different communities but the government is unconcerned about us,” Layi told TheNigerian News, adding that over 200 persons were displaced from his community. Some of them, while searching for a safe place fell into the hands of terrorists wreaking havoc in the axis.
In 2013, former President Goodluck Jonathan kickstarted the N162.9 billion Zungeru Hydroelectric Power Project in Niger State. The hydro dam project, when constructed, will generate 700 megawatts of electricity for the country, according to TheNigerian News.
Sarkin Aiki Arewa, another displaced resident, narrated his ordeal. “Since the flood submerged our houses and farmlands, several persons and organizations came to take photographs of us,” he said, fuming that their visit had not yielded a positive result.
He said: “Floods washed away our farm products like yam, millets, guinea corn, beans, and maize among others. It is now three years, no help, no compensation.”
Arewa revealed that some communities were paid and some were neglected. “Some communities which were also affected were paid but Layi and other villages have not received any form of compensation from the government or any organization,” he lamented.
According to him, the displaced persons engaged in minor farming in the adjoining villages where they camped.
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On his part, Usman Ibrahim Kuta, Chairman of the Coalition of Shiroro Association, in a telephone conversation, corroborated the words of the affected residents.
He, however, stated that compensations were supposed to come in three stages; economic, farmland and resettlement.
“There is no way to relocate affected residents without social amenities being provided and we heard that the project is 98% completed,” he said.
When asked about efforts of the coalition, he said all hands are on deck to drive home their demands.
“In fact, we worked tirelessly from state to federal level, ” Kuta said. “We were in touch with different ministries of the federation including, the minister of power and housing, and also wrote letters to the state and national house assembly. And to the national ministry of boundary commission and others.”
Fear of kidnapping and uninformed raids by bandits prevented this reporter from visiting the communities that were affected. Efforts to get many of them to speak on the phone also failed. However, it was gathered that more than 40 communities were affected.
They include: Gurmana Gari, Gwaja, Jabiki Kasa, Maganda, Jabiki Sama, Siyiko, Wusisi, Unguwan Fulani Kami, Romance, Unato, Paleli, Alfani, Aporlogado, Jataye, Kwangu, Kako, Mashigin, Gurmana, Akika, Fulani Shakadna.
Others are Gogwaita, Guto, (Gurmana), Kutawi, Karibo,Kokki, Kuyami, Shakadina, Sarkin Zama, Sudan, Tsohon Gurmana, Anguwan Kampani, Jankasa, Birik, Kasumi, Yekwa, Gini, Shambuyi, Baha, Kwatayi, Magami, Sabon Gidan Magami, Layi, Gavia, Darin Hula, Shana.
Many of the residents displaced from these communities are taking refuge in Gijiwa/ Kato ward of Shiroro local government.
“They have not been paid their compensation. The difficulties of upheaval of livelihood, loss of food, security and other dam-induced impacts to their physical, cultural and spiritual well-being can be quantified,” Kuta continued, adding some communities were not envisioned but were affected and lost no fewer than seven souls to flooding.
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“Initially, enumeration exercise maintained that the communities will not be affected by the project but no fewer than 10 of such communities have been submerged and many others are in the pipeline waiting for a similar fate,” he stated.
Attempts to reach HYPPADEC proved abortive, as a number provided on its website was not available when contacted. A message sent to the contact was also not responded to.
At a forum in 2021, the management of HYPPADEC said it was aware of the plights of the host communities, according to TheNigerian News.
“We know the position of Niger State in HYPPADEC as the host community. We are aware of the plight of the people of the state and what they have gone through in the last 30 to 40 years,” said Joseph Terfa Ityav, chairman of HYPPADEC Governing Council. “We assure you that with the cooperation of all stakeholders in the state, we will be able to execute projects that will stand the test of time. And for HYPPADEC to be a success story, there must be synergy among all stakeholders because it is a big task.”
Abubakar Sadiq Yelwa, the Managing Director of the commission, at the forum said the commission was faced with many problems, such as insecurity, environmental degradation, loss of farmland, lack of quality education, waterborne diseases, and inadequate water supply.
According to him, the needs assessment exercise carried out by HYPPADEC and its development and technical partner aims to identify particular issues, where to start and generate quality facts and figures.