Nigerian media are reporting that youths from 600 communities around the Zungeru hydroelectric dam in Niger state have forced the Chinese construction firm, Sinohydro, to stop work until compensation is paid to displaced villagers.
Nigeria’s Daily Times newspaper reported that youths entered the site on Saturday in protest and halted work because they were angry with the compensation process, which they claimed was "fraudulently drawn by few individuals" and excluded more than 50% of local people.
Nigeria and China signed an agreement worth approximately $1.3bn in September 2013 to build the Zungeru Hydroelectric Power Project in Niger State, 150km from Abuja. The contract was awarded to two Chinese firms, China National Electrical Equipment Corporation and Sinohydro Consortium, and was to be executed through a loan facility by the EximBank of China.
The youths also protested on Monday, appealing to Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan to "rescue them from hardship", the paper reported.
Four people in local villages have died as a result of constant dynamite explosions connected with the work, while farmland has been taken away from the farmers, the chairman of Manta District Development Association, Zaramai Beri, told the Daily Times.
He said that the youths were no longer confident in the community relations committee handling the compensation issue because it was "secretly drawn with miserable amounts of money ranging from N15,000 to N30,000 to farmers while strange, fake and unknown names were allocated N500,000 to N900,000". (N15,000 = US$92.50)
"We are saying that the committee is not working and if they cannot do anything for us," Zaramai Beri said. "We have long rejected the list of compensation and we have appealed to President Goodluck Jonathan to come to our rescue. The hazard that people are facing now is enormous. Worst of it is that people have been intimidated to leave the area since last year and they feel that the compensation should have been done by now."