Nigeria awards $5.8bn Mambilla hydro scheme to Chinese firm

China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) will get the contract to build a huge hydroelectric dam on the Benue River (pictured) in Nigeria, in a revival of a decades-old scheme.

The Nigerian government last week said it had approved construction of the $5.8bn Mambilla hydroelectric power plant by the Chinese state firm in a bid to boost electricity supply to the oil-rich nation.

Observers will wait to see if the 3,050 megawatt scheme actually goes ahead this time, since it has been the subject of a number of contracts and memoranda of understanding over the past three decades.

Nigerian power minister Babatunde Fashola told media in Abuja on 30 August that China’s Export-Import Bank will provide 85% of the funding, and that construction should take around six years, Reuters reported.

"The scope of works is very extensive, it requires the construction of four dams," he said.

"It will involve a lot of preparatory work (and) resettlement … It will also help Nigeria strike a very big blow on the climate change issue."

Environmental group International Rivers has long objected to the scheme, highlighting the potential for corruption and the disruption of life for poor people living near the Benue River.

"Many fear that Mambilla will go the way of previous large development projects (including large hydropower projects) where contracts are meted out but projects are never built," International Rivers wrote on its website.

"If the Mambilla dam project does continue, it could mean disastrous environmental and social impacts for those already living in poverty along the banks of the Benue River," it said.

Image: The River Benue looking south east from Jimeta (Wikimedia Commons)

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