Vandalism and shortage of qualified manpower may scuttle the Federal Government‘s decision to revive the Nigerian Coal Corporation in order to exploit coal to improve power generation and supply in the country, investigation has revealed.
The NCC, a parastatal under the Ministry of Solid Minerals Development is responsible for most of the existing coalmines in Nigeria, but it has not operated any coal mine for several years even before it was shut down in 2005 preparatory to its being privatised by the Bureau of Public Enterprises.
Saturday Punch investigation revealed that most of the equipment of the NCC had been vandalised, while there is inadequate manpower to revive the mines because majority of workers of the Enugu Coal Mines were disengaged from the firm in 2005.
Acting President Goodluck Jonathan had reportedly directed that the abundant coal resources across the country be exploited to power the various thermal stations to improve power supply.
Electricity generation in the country has slumped to 2,700 megawatts from 3,710 megawatts and is still on the decline.
Though coal is found in Enugu, Imo, Kogi, Delta, Plateau, Anambra, Abia, Benue, Edo, Bauchi, Adamawa, Gombe, Cross River and Ebonyi States, investigation showed that most of the mines had not been operational for many years and some of the equipment used in exploration had been vandalised.
An official of the NCC who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity on Thursday said the lack of technical manpower might stall the planned revival of the coal industry as the staff strength of the corporation was not up to 20, the government having disengaged most of the staff numbering about 1000.
He explained that the several joint venture agreements with foreign firms to mine coal failed because the investors were not sure of the safety of their investment following repeated destruction of equipment at the coal mines and the lack of an enabling economic environment.
The senior manager revealed that the joint venture agreements between South African group, LSC Consortium and Polish company, Kopex, to exploit coal from mines at Onyeama, Okpara and Owupka coal fields in Enugu State failed for similar reasons. These mines have a production capacity of 150 000 tonnes per year which could power the Oji River thermal power station in the state.
Nigeria‘s only functional coal mine is the Okaba coal field located in Kogi State with reserves estimated at 22 million tonnes. It is being operated by Nordic Industries Limited.
”The Acting President would need to wield enormous political will to revive the coal industry and exploit it for power generation because the official corruption and lack of technical know-how that killed the sector are yet to be tackled,” he said.
Our correspondent who visited the NCC headquarters in Enugu observed the decrepit environment, boarded up offices and cars and trucks in various state of break down.
Findings revealed that most of the disengaged staff of the NCC had not been paid their retirement and terminal benefits five years after they were disengaged and they also did not enjoy the monetisation policy of the government.
Managing Director of the corporation, Mr. Denis Okafor, was not available for comment and the Personnel Manager, Mallam Mustapha Zakari, declined to speak, saying it was only his boss that could do so.