|Aerial view of Owukpa community|
The Owukpa community has cried out to the federal government to come and revive the Owukpa Coal Mines, which has been abandoned for many years.
Their outcry is coming few years after the promise made by Vice President, Namadi Sambo in Otukpo during a campaign rally organized by the PDP for David Mark that the Federal Government was planning to establish a coal depot in the community. This promise is yet to see the light of day four years after.
Idoma Voice, the paper out to give voice to the man on the street went in search on why this enormous resources crumbled.
A visit to the coal site brings shocks and agony as grasses and abandoned machineries have overtaken the area.
In the course of our quest, our reporter caught up with the traditional ruler of the Owukpa community, HRH Emmanuel U. Odeh (Onomo) the Och’Owikpa who opened can of worms on how some politicians sold out the community in quest to enrich their pockets.
According to the royal father, a former bank executive who was enthroned in 2012, a recommendation letter was sent to the community in 2004 from the then governor of Benue State, Sen. George Akume asking the community to give their consent to one Mr. Chrstopher Tarka to take over the development of the coal site.
The letter, with Ref. number GHM/526/Gov dated 1/09/2006. (1) Entry Permit 21 of 2004 w.e.f 08/6/2004.
Exclusive Prospecting licenseNo5EPLw.e.f (2)03/01/2005forthree years, which a copy was made available to Idoma Voice in Otukpo, asked the community to allow Mr. Tarka take over the site as the state government’s representative.
According to the monarch, “The people gladly gave their consent, expecting changes with immediate effect, but reverse was the case as nothing has been to over a decade. This actual- ly happened before I was enthroned,” the Onomo told our correspondent in Owukpa.
Onomo told our correspondent in Owukpa. Chief Odeh added that Tarka’s contract was expected to expire five years after but he refused to leave the site.
This development, according to the leader has impeded some foreign investors and higher bidders from investing in the Owukpa Coal Mines.
|The abandoned Owukpa coal site|
Hear him, “I and my cabinet are not happy with what is going on about the Owukpa Coal Mines. They are a lot of investors who are trying to come but Tarka has been claiming ownership of the coal site. His contract has since been terminated after five years of failing to develop the site. We are no longer ready to tolerate their cartel.
We have withdrawn our consent. We don’t want him near the coal site anymore and we are warning him to stop parading himself as an investor,” he warned.
“We have written the federal ministry of Mines and Steel to inform them of the development but still waiting for their response, stated an irritated Onomo.
A letter from the office of the Och’Owukpa to the Honourable Minister of Mines of Steel Development is informing the ministry of their decision to withdraw the consent following Tarka’s inability to develop the site after 10 years of having granted exploration license.
“I am writing to inform you that the consent given to Owukpa Consolidation Mines Ltd by the Owukpa Development Association on behalf of Owukpa community in a letter dated 7th June 2004 and ratified by a letter dated 9th November, 2002 is here by withdrawn,” the letter, which was dated October 23, 2013, reads in part.
According to the enraged community, the company is claiming to have a concession over the Owukpa Coal deposits; a claim, which is preventing serious and capable coal mining investors from doing business in the community.
Speaking further, the royal father called on Mr. Tarka to explain how they came up with their controversial company name, ‘Owukpa Consolidated Mines’
“What has the name Owukpa got to do with a company of directors from South Africa, Gboko and Makurdi?” he queried. A CAC search on the company obtained by Idoma Voice shows that the outfit with the registration number 496008 consists six directors, with its address located on 3, Old Post Office Road, Gboko. It also has initial Shares Capital of 100,000,000. “This is clear impersonation and we want them to drop the name or face legal action. We wonder why Tarka and co is using Owukpa as their company name? This is capable of tarnishing the community’s image,” he threatens.
The traditional ruler stated that the then governor of Benue State, George Akume recognized Tarka as the 100 per cent shareholder of the coalmines, which the state was an investor. It is not clear who was to be an in investor in a private company with the name Owukpa Consolidated Mines. These are some of the things that are not yet clear to the Owukpa community at the moment.
“I could recall that he even came here with some heavily armed army officers to intimidate me and when I challenged him, he said they were his body guards, adding that he was being security conscious, the monarch claimed.
However, Idoma Voice stumbled on an online advert placed by one Paul Kleynhans on http://www.tradekey. com/company/Owukpa-4892447.html plastics, tar, synthetic fibres, fertilizers, and sourcing for buyers of Owukpa Coal product.
According to the advert, “I have been afforded the opportunity to sell coal available from Owukpa mines. This is a new mine that is in the process of being outfitted and as such they are looking for potential buyers for their coal reserves.
Currently serious buyers interested in forward selling agreements are being looked for.”
An email to the advertiser was not replied at the time of filing this report just as several calls to his number, 27-83-3815348 were futile.
His office address is located on 218 Cormorant Cresc, Centurion, Gauteng, South Africa
A mining expert Dili Adukwu, once said that the nation has lost huge revenue and immense development opportunities that are linked to coal production on a commercial basis. He said that it was wrong for the country to have abandoned coal production “simply because oil was discovered and easy money was coming into the economy.”
While Nigeria abandoned its coalfields, many other countries have continued to reap huge economic dividends from investing wisely in their coal mines. In other countries coal is primarily used as a solid fuel to produce electricity and heat through combustion. Wikipedia online data base put world coal consumption at about 5.3 billion tons annually, out of which about 75% is used for the production of electricity
with China, and India consuming about 1.7 billion tones annually. The United States consumes about 1.0 billion tons of coal each year, using 90% of it for generation of electricity.
A recent EIA publication on Annual Coal Report, identified four major uses of coal around the world, to wit: Coal is used to generate roughly half of all electricity produced in the United States. Besides electric utility companies, industries and businesses with their own power plants use coal to generate electricity. Power plants burn coal to make steam.
The steam turns turbines, which generate electricity. A variety of industries use coal’s heat and by- products. Separated ingredients of coal (such as methanol and ethylene) are used in making plastics, tar, synthetic fibres, fertilizers, and medicines.
The concrete and paper industries also burn large amounts of coal. Coal is baked in hot furnaces to make coke, which is used to smelt iron ore into iron needed for making steel. It is the very high temperatures created from the use of coke that gives steel the strength and flexibility for products such as bridges, buildings, and automobiles. Many producers export coal to many different countries, but on the case of the US most trade is with Canada, Brazil, the Netherlands, and Italy.
More than half of coal exports are used for making steel. Perhaps of greater loss to the nation resulting from the neglect of the coalfields is the corresponding deplorable state of the power sector in the country.
It is in deed a paradox that a country blessed with huge gas and coal deposits suffer such a horrendous shortfall in electricity supply. Many analysts are amazed that coal seen as a ‘wonderful and component mineral’ because of its key role in the global energy mix could just be abandoned by a nation with huge power deficit. Coal is known to be the mainstay of the economy of many successful nations like United States, Japan, China, India, Australia and South Africa because of its place in power generation, with coal- compatible power plants contributing over 50 per cent to the energy needs of some of these countries.
In the US where coal is mined in 27 states over 90 per cent of the coal used is for generating electricity with coal plants contributing up to 60 per cent of the country’s energy needs. In deciding to privatise the coal fields, the country’s leaders might be aiming to reap the economic benefits derivable from allowing private sector participation in the mining sub-sector.
obtained from the buyers of the mines on the imperative of channeling their activities to aid economic growth.