Recent news that the Chinese company handling the 700MW hydro electric power plant in Zungeru, Niger State has given notice that the December 2019 delivery date of the project to the federal government might not be feasible is a clear indication of the levity with which Asian companies, particularly those from China treat contracts awarded to them in the country. It also shows their lack of concern for the sanctity of contracts once signed.
The Deputy Project Manager, CNEEC- Sino Hydro Consortium, Mr. Xiao Nie, told journalists during a tour of the project site that the first unit of the project, which is currently at 47% completion, will be delivered in December 2019, while the remaining are to be released after every three months.
The $1.29 billion project which was started in 2013 consists of four units of 175 mw each. When completed, the 700MW power plant would supply 2,640GWh to the national grid annually. About 3,000 Nigerians have so far been engaged with majority of them coming from Zungeru.
One of the flimsy excuses given by the company was shortage of personnel. The company claimed that the project required more hands but due to certain constraints only about half of the required number
could be engaged at the moment. We doubt the veracity of this claim. There is no amount of personnel that the company needs in the construction of a hydro electric dam that cannot be obtained within the country.
The action of the contractor handling the construction of the power plant also shows the lack of understanding of the sanctity of contracts by Asian businessmen, particularly Chinese nationals.
A contract once signed by parties to it becomes binding on all the parties. It is a known fact that if a contractor delays the delivery of a project beyond the time given to him, he risks being heavily penalised for such delay.
In this case, the Chinese contractors must know the implications of delaying the delivery of the Zungeru power plant both for Nigeria which needs more electric power delivered to it and for the contractor itself which has given delivery date in the contract and is now giving indication that it would delay the delivery of the plant.
Apart from the alleged shortage of personnel, the company also attributed the delay in completing the project on time to unresolved community issues. But it did not elaborate. It is preposterous for any contractor to claim shortage of personnel as a reason for delaying the completion of a major power project in a country like Nigeria where there is no shortage of personnel, particularly artisans needed
at the project site.
The reasons given by the company for shifting the date of delivery of the project to the federal government is therefore unconvincing and untenable. If there were community issues that could affect the
delivery date of the project to the government such issues ought to have been reported to the government for better handling and for a new date for handing over of the project to be agreed.
We, therefore, urge the federal government to reject the untenable reasons advanced by the contractor to extend its delivery of the project and compel the company to stick to its original delivery date.