By Tunde Suleiman – Minna
No fewer than 90 communities affected by the on-going construction work on the Zungeru Hydroelectric Dam in Niger State have vowed to disrupt the project if the Federal Government does not immediately pay full compensation for the communal land acquired for the project.
Representative of the members of the affected communities, Zubairu Umar, who is from Jiko community, told The Dream Daily that they were assured at the inception of the power project that construction works would not begin until all compensations were paid.
Umar added that to their surprise, three years after the take-off of the project they were yet to receive any compensation.
He disclosed that the recent commencement of rocks blasting in the area had subjected the residents of the surrounding communities to untold hardship “because whenever such blast is to take place, we are asked to leave our homes and take cover in the bush far away.”
He said whenever they demand for the compensation from the federal government, officials of the Federal Ministry of Power always dismissed them by telling them to demand for the compensation from the Community Relation Committee (CRC) set up by the Federal Government.
Umar stated: “We will go to any length to ensure that our compensation is paid, even if it means to force work on the construction site to stop. The federal Ministry of power has been deceiving us whenever we demanded for our right they will tell us that all has been given to the community relation committee and we should look for our compensation from them.”
Also, another community leader, Umar Usman, who is from Maikaki community said they were forced to embark on public protests because of the insensitivity of the Federal Government over their plight, even as soldiers deployed to the area usually stopped them from reaching the construction site.
According to Usman, compensation for economic trees had commenced last year but only about 10 percent of the affected people were paid at grossly undervalued rate of as low as N3,000.
However, Chairman of the CRC, Isa Jibril, said his committee was not responsible for the payment of compensation: “Our responsibility is to serve as a buffer between the communities and the Federal Government. Our committee has nothing to do with mone,” Jibril stated.
But an official of the Ministry of Power who pleaded anonymity told The Dream Daily that all arrangements to pay the compensation had been concluded. The official said: “The money for the payment of the compensation is already in the bank so very soon payment will start.”
Public Relations Officer to the, CRC, Mallam Salman Yusuf, appealed to the communities to be patient as “compensation is a continuous programme done in batches,” stressing that “the current challenge was occasioned by the change in government, which will be overcome and another batch of payment will commence soon.”