As the months run down on Karu biogas project

Less than a month to the date the FCTA said a biogas plant at its Karu Abattoir would be ready for use, OGN reports from its visit of the project site that the project is uncertain to become real.

In December 2017, the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) announced to the world and an excited Abuja that it would embark on and soon unveil the first municipal-sponsored biogas facility at the Karu Abattoir – a hugely underrated money-spinning commercial hub.

Without mincing words or at best, exuding so much confidence, its newly minted Agricultural and Rural Development Secretary, Mr. Stanley Nzekwe, assertively declared that the facility would be built and commissioned in six months, his declaration stimulating joyous applause from observers’ group including users of the abattoir who saw the development as a relieve to the environmental hazards they deal with each passing day.

But five months down the line a visit by a reportorial team from OGN, indicated otherwise.

Disappointment greets expectations

By its estimation which was actually based on the completion timeline given by Mr. Nzekwe, at the inauguration of the project construction phase, OGN had expected that works on the plant would either be close to completion or at least well advanced in all facets of its development.

But then, its visit to the Karu abattoir did reveal clearly that perhaps, not a single shovel had struck with the earths of the abattoir as to say construction started and ended abruptly. From its findings, there was no construction of any sort within or around the premises of the abattoir.

Operators of abattoir oblivious of plant construction

Within and around the massive facility which provides revenue in millions of naira daily to the FCTA, its operators and users could not provide answers to OGN’s enquiries about the project. These people which also included the management of the abattoir equally had no idea about the designated site for the project or when its construction would actually commence.

“You see us for here na oga, you don go round the facility by yourself, you don see the whole place as e be, you see any plant?” one of the managers of the slaughterhouse asked OGN in a local pidgin English.

Preferring to stay anonymous, the official explained that the project started and ended with the ‘fanfare’ that was displayed in December 2017 when it was inaugurated, adding that nothing had happened after then.

“The only thing that is different here is this solar borehole system here, after that, nothing else,” volunteered another official who quickly added: “Forget our government and its lies. They made promises that day, but those promises left with them as they left here.”

However, further queries by OGN to another officials who claimed to be amongst the top management of the abattoir about the project yielded no results as they claimed total ignorance about the biogas plant scheme and instead referred it to contact the FCTA in Area 11 part of the city.

Biogas plant, a big opportunity being missed

For the length of time and days OGN visited or stayed at the abattoir, the reasons for a biogas plant were all too obvious and apparent, thus indicating a huge financial and environmental management opportunity being lost by the FCTA.

From the heaps of refuse dumped in and around the narrow stream that flows through the abattoir’s northern edge, to the thick bellows of smoke puffing away as butchers and tanners treated meat and skin around open fires even late in the evening while we visited, it was quite obvious the FCTA may be ignorant of what it is missing with the continued delay in the construction of the plant.

It was plain to see that the plant would solve a lot of immediate problems and even cater to some issues outside the abattoir too – the FCTA officials had announced that the biogas plant would provide energy to 150 homes.

Again, tens of women and young children washed and milled about, loitering, chattering and even boiling animal blood for sale as fish food. This gave out the clear indication that the entire area of the abattoir was not just a meat processing house but equally a complete micro economy that is surviving and could be nurtured into a larger and better one.

On the flipside however, at night, the abattoir reincarnates into the nucleus of a seedy underbelly in Karu, where drug peddling and wanton debauchery rules. The young butchers of the day become the customers to the intoxicants and easy women of the night, lured by a system of existence that simply takes from them and gives nothing back in return.

Why project has stalled so far

Though the government outwardly realizes the project is important to it and the socio-economy of Abuja, it has however dithered in making it become a reality.

As discovered by OGN, focus on construction of the plant had taken a back seat for more than five months now basically on account of reported delays in providing supports to move it from the board to the field.

In an interaction with Mr. Victor Fodeke, co-founder of EANet Africa, the non-governmental organization (NGO) spearheading the construction effort of the biomass plant, OGN was told that documents required to enable further negotiations especially on financing of the project had being late in coming.

Fodeke, stated that his organization had reached out to several international partners, most of whom were warmly receptive to the idea but could not begin to make their contributions without the FCTA authenticating its partnership with EANet.

Such authentication, Fodeke, explained would give EANet the necessary backing to go on to negotiate funding for the project with international investors for the plant.

These investors are fortunately not in short supply, Fodeke noted, while saying that a “letter” from the FCTA was needed to unlock and bring on their interests.

“We (EANet) don’t have the funding but we have the technology, the know-how and everything. And we have gotten in touch with some of our international funders and we are still waiting for them because they take their time to do their background checks and everything they need to do but critically we are actually waiting.

“For them to believe us on what we are doing, it is necessary to have the FCDA give us a formal letter to reach out to them. We are still waiting for that letter,” he said.

Fodeke, further explained that with the lack of a formal verification letter from the FCDA, his organization would not have just the funding withheld, but also a limitation on prospective partnerships with other community developers who could be interested in his ideas and policies.

Experts who spoke to OGN on the development, however said the issues remind of Nigeria’s ‘known lethargy’ for coming late to issues and initiatives that could push forward the country’s developments.

“Once again, the Nigerian factor seems to have claimed another victim. Hundreds of lives, if not thousands, stand to benefit from a properly constructed and implemented biogas plant at the Karu slaughterhouse.

“From the teeming population that will learn the benefits of having a cleaner environment to the multiplier effects that the electricity will have on productivity in the area and most of all, the prospect of a healthier and better educated community – all stalled due to the vagaries of government red tape. In plain text, governmental bureaucracy is once more stifling an effort led by private players to better a Nigerian community,” said an environmental and renewable energy expert who spoke anonymously on the issue.


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