AllAfrica.com

By Shehu Bubakar

August 4th, 2012

Completed in 1983, Zobe dam is still not being used for water supply, for local irrigation or for power generation.

The construction of Zobe Dam near Dutsin-Ma in Katsina state began in 1972 and was commissioned in July 1983 by the defunct second republic administration then President Shehu Shagari. It has however been abandoned soon after it was commissioned. The Dam, Weekly Trust learnt, could not be able to pump a single cup of water for consumption to the host community and other neighbouring states.

The Dam constructed specifically to provide potable drinking water to Dutsin-Ma and adjoining towns and villages, provide water for irrigation farming and serve as an instrument for flood control, but checks by Weekly Trust revealed that when in 1983 the Dam construction was completed and commissioned, successive administrations that ought to construct water treatment plans for the treatment of potable water and the construction of channels for distribution of water for irrigation were abandoned.

Constructed at the sum of N52 million in the early 80s, Zobe Dam occupies an area of 5,200 hectares with a 2.75 kilometers long standard embankment designed to prevent the water from spilling out of control. Though solid and still very strong to hold the 177 million cubic meters of water it is designed to contain, the earth Dam being manually operated get it water from Karaduwa and Bunsuru rivers and discharges its excess water to as far as Wamakko in Sokoto state where it joins the Sokoto River.

42 year old resident of Dutsin-Ma, Malam Abubakar Sani said though he was too young to know when the Dam was constructed, he grew up to see it as an abandoned project, adding, “The story I had about the Dam was not a very good one. Some people said Shagari could not be able to award contract for the laying of the pipes to draw water to Katsina and Dutsin-Ma because shortly after commissioning the Dam, he was over thrown by General Muhammadu Buhari.

“Buhari’s government was said to have refused to complete the project believing that the credit will go to the Shagari’s regime he over threw. Other successive administrations also abandoned it. When Buhari’s led PTF (Petroleum Trust Fund) embarked on the construction of the water treatment plan that could have made it to start treating water and pumping water for both domestic and industrial use, General Sani Abacha died and his government and the PTF regime died before the completion of the project.

“Obasanjo’s administration refused to continue with the project because it may make Buhari more popular being the initiator. And you know Buhari has all this while been the major opposition leader in the country. Not even the Musa Yar’adua’s regime could go ahead with the project because though very dear to the state and the development of irrigation activities and human welfare, the fact remains that the water treatment plant was initiated by Buhari and is an opposition leader. This is the most reasonable and acceptable theory you can ever get on the reason why the project is abandoned for this long period of time.

“We are very much aware that the present administration in the state did its best to get the federal government to re-award the contract but all its efforts failed. That informed the decision of the state government to award contract for the construction of its own Dam at the same Dutsin-Ma just a forth night ago. That is to show you that the state government and the people of the state have lost confidence in the Dam ever becoming functional,” he said.

But the Managing Director and chief executive officer of Sokoto-Rima River Basin Development Authority (SRRBDA) who are the custodians of all federal government own Dams in Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto and Kebbi states, Engineer Khalid Yusuf said though it is not within his purview to know why the project suffers setback, he suspect inadequate funds.

“Possibly because of cash flow but it is not contractual. The fact of the matter is that one is not within my purview. It is under the purview of the federal ministry of water resources. Even the irrigation facility construction is under the ministry. But when the facility is completed and handed over to us, we are going to be the custodians.

“I think it has to do with the problem of cash flow. I don’t know much about it. I know it is a very laudable project in which government will be very proud to finish and put to use because it will impact very positively on the transformation agenda of Mr President. Once that project is put to use, it will increase food production. It will also provide job opportunity and improve on the income generation. We are talking of 1,200 hectares. It is not a small project.

“The dam was completed and commissioned by the then President Shehu Shagari in 1983. That is almost 30 years now. So, if somebody said it is underutilized, yes it is underutilized. I must admit that the company that designed and constructed that dam did an excellent job because it is still solid. It is still storing the water but unfortunately some of the things that will put the water into use have not emanated.

“For instance, there should be a regional water supply. The contract has been going on for a very longtime now. The water treatment plant is on the ground. Some of the pipes are there. When you go along Kafin Soli towards Kankiya you see some pipes and tanks being erected. Likewise the irrigation project which started and stopped. The farmlands are there. Majority of the channels have been constructed. I believe in few months that contracts can be completed. But because of problem of cash flow, work has stopped there. Once the project is completed, is a matter of few months we shall start tapping its potentials. It is long overdue,” he said.

He said some people are thinking in terms of installing mini-hydro power plant at Zobe Dam which he said can be made possible. He however, warned that things must be done right so as not to temper with the reason why the dam was initially constructed which include flood control, regional water supply and for irrigated agriculture.

“Yes, hydro power is one of the other facilities we can provide there. It has not been installed but it can be redesigned to incorporate it at both Goronyo and Zobe dams. Already, Bakalori dam has the facility but unfortunately it stopped functioning about two years after installation. That was in the 80s. However, government is interested in reviving the facility.

“We are testing the ground to see if the facility can be revived. Owing to the duration the facility has been out of service, some of the components needed to revive the hydro power turbines may no longer be available. The company that fabricated the turbines and the generators over 30 years ago may not be functional now. They are Italian companies. So, these are the things we have to review and rethink about,” he said.

Weekly Trust investigation revealed that Reynolds Construction Company (RCC) Nigeria Limited handling the construction of the water treatment plant had abandoned the job and demobilized from the site after constructing most of the required structures and even installed the required tanks and machines. What is not however clear is whether or not the installed machines are still serviceable after several years of neglect.

The construction of the two main channels awarded to CGC from the Dam to the irrigation farms with a combined distance of 44 kilometers have been abandoned after recording some achievements. One of the channels measuring 23 kilometers has recorded 12 kilometers while the other one of 21 kilometers has reached 11 kilometers before the company stopped work.

Both companies were reported to have abandoned the projects and demobilized from sites due to none payment of their contract sum by government. Though there was no evidence of vandalism of any equipment at the time this reporter visited the area, there is fear that some of the installed machines may decay.

Efforts made to seek comments from the Minister for Water Resources were not successful as he is either said to be busy or out on official assignment. However, a source at the ministry that spoke on condition of anonymity said frequent changes in government policies were responsible for abandoning such projects for long.

“Today government will merge us with the ministry of agriculture and the next day they will say we are on our own. Until you get leaders at all levels that knows the value of mass agricultural production, such projects that are capable of turning around the economy of this country will continue to be neglected or even abandoned. It is true that both CGC Nigeria Limited that was constructing the channels and RCC that was constructing the water treatment are being owed some money and have not been paid so sometimes now and so they all demobilized and left the sites.

“No, you do not blame the ministry but you blame members of the National Assembly from that state. What is their work? Don’t they know how important the project is to the state? What have they done to ensure that it is completed? What other work do they have more than to pursue their constituency projects? Let us face the truth,” the source said.