‘DeCOALonizing’ Confluence State, By Attah John Osiroko

Kogi state is one out of few states selected for the federal government’s ‟Coal to Power Project” announced couple of years back and currently implemented across the country. The Federal Republic of Nigeria stated in July, 2012, that it was set to begin the survey for the construction of a 1,000 MW coal-fired power station in Kogi, it was also reported in the same year that Zuma Energy Nigeria was planning to build a 1,200 megawatt coal-fired power station in the state. The company said it had acquired three coal mining licenses in the state and coal from the mine will be used for the Kogi power station, planned to be eight units of 150 MW.
In February 2015 the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) amended and separated into four different parts the statutory license granted to Zuma Energy for the plant. NERC issued four different licenses to four Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs): Itobe 1, 2, 3 and 4 Coal Power Plant Limited. All the companies are still under Zuma Energy, however they will each build 300MW capacities coal plants within a defined timeframe and separately negotiate Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) and tariff rates with the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading and NERC. Zuma Energy in September 2015, signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading (NBET) Company to begin Itobe 1 (2 x 150MW), at an estimated cost of US $1.2 billion. Construction was planned to begin in 2016, to be completed in 2019-2020. In March 2017 the chairman of Eta-Zuma said the company needed US$6 billion from investors to actualize the project and by March 2018 it was reported that PowerChina had signed an MoU with the Kogi State Government for a 2400 MW coal plant in the state.
One may be tempted to ask what makes the state different from the others? The Kogi power station, also known as Itobe power station, is a proposed 1,200 to 2,400 megawatt coal fired plant, the highest out of the four other active coal mine fields in Nigeria, which include: Owukpa underground mine Kogi State, Aba Surface mine Enugu State, Okpara and Onyeama underground mines Gombe State and Ashaka Coal mine, Maiganga. As we seek to generate 30 per cent of our energy needs from coal, a report released by the International Energy Agency (IEA) and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECDC) in 2014 showed that Fossil fuel energy consumption (percentage of total) in Nigeria was 19.04 as of 2014. Its highest value over the past 43 years was 22.84 in 1992, while its lowest value was 5.97 in 1971.

Fossil fuel energy consumption in Nigeria (1971 – 2014)
Source: IEA Statistics © OECD/IEA 2014

Kogi is popularly called the Confluence State because the confluence of River Benue and Niger, the biggest water bodies in the country, is at its capital city. It is a state made up of predominantly artisanal fisher folks and small scale farming communities that depend on the water bodies and land for their income. The environmental and socio-economic effects of coal energy production in the state will include; eliminating existing vegetations, destroying the genetic soil profile, displacing or destroying wildlife and habitat, altering the current land use and permanently changing the general topography of the area. According to WHO, outdoor air pollution kills about 3.3 million people every year, more than HIV, malaria and influenza combined. Dusts from mining processes will degrade air quality in the immediate area, have an adverse impact on vegetative life, and constitute health and safety hazards for mine workers and nearby communities.
Coal fired boilers and power plants when using coal or lignite rich in limestone produces ash containing calcium oxide which dissolves in water to form slaked lime and transported by rain water to rivers from ash dump areas.

This will render water to be unfit for agriculture, human consumption, bathing or other household uses and can lead to the destruction of aquatic habitats and resources like fish.

Coal is a major contributor to greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide from coal power plants are responsible for 41% man made mercury emissions, which causes the earth to warm and lead to erratic climate variations. The confluence state has had its fair share of climate change impacts with flood submerging Okudigbo and Odochala in Ibaji local government areas just last year. Coal also accounts for some of the worst man-made ecological disasters globally and can no longer be our preferred choice of energy source as it is dirty and destructive to both our lives and environment, where we derive our sources of livelihood.
The giant of Africa, Nigeria, should lead by example, be consistent to her pledge to make the country a reference point in emissions reduction and stay committed to international protocols it signed with regards to positive policies and actions. Section 20 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, states that; ‟The State shall protect and improve the environment and safeguard the water, air and land, forest and wildlife of Nigeria.” therefore the government should uphold and deliver its mandate within the confines of the constitution. As the world moves on to renewable energy sources, Nigeria should take the driving seat because of her enormous untapped renewable energy sources at her disposal. First, by having a deep rethink on the coal to power project and retracing her steps with a paradigm shift to green energy sources such as sun and wind, which is abundant in Northern and Southern Nigeria. Africa’s foremost environmentalist, Wangari Maathai, said ‟We owe it to ourselves and to the next generation to conserve the environment so that we can bequeath our children a sustainable world that benefits all”. Efforts to phase out coal power projects must be pursued with all form of aggressiveness to ensure we leave behind a better, safe and beautiful environment for our generations to come.
Osiroko wrote in from Kogi State and can be read on: johnosiatt@gmail.com

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