The Coalition of Shiroro Associations in Niger State has called for the renaming of Zungeru Dam, a hydroelectric power station inaugurated by the Goodluck Jonathan-led administration.
According to a statement by Salis Sabo, the spokesperson for the coalition, the dam is housed by the lands in Shiroro hence should be named after the people who have been displaced and whose community has been submerged as a result.
The coalition condemned the naming of the dam after Zungeru which was once the capital of the then Northern Protectorate while the Shiroro people have to suffer the consequences of its existence.
The group requested that the name be changed to Shiroro Dam as a way of compensating the people.
The statement read, “It can be recalled that the construction of Zungeru Dam was awarded in 2013 by the Goodluck Jonathan-led administration. The Hydroelectric Power Station is a 700 megawatts (940,000 hp) project. The dam when completed will be the second-largest hydroelectric power station in the country, behind the 760 megawatts (1,020,000 hp) Kainji Hydroelectric Power Station all in Niger State.
“The dam which measures about 233 metres (764 ft) in length and 101 metres (331 ft) in height is 98% built and housed by the lands in Shiroro, according to the report of the Dam's Environmental Impacts Assessment Team. Consequently, Over a hundred communities in the Shiroro Local Government Area have been submerged and physically displaced due to the construction of the dam.
“Then, one could readily be tempted to ask that: how then did the name Zungeru Dam come about?
“Records have it that the misnomer started from the report of the first feasibility study conducted sometime in 1982 by Messrs Chas T. Main International of USA. The foreign experts who came to look into the possibility of constructing another dam following the directional flow of Shiroro Dam could not understand the difficult terrain of the land.
“They also could not at that time find any shelter in the hamlets and thatched settlements that were close to the location of the dam which was generally under Shiroro Local Government Area. Therefore, their next place of resort for shelters was Zungeru which was once the capital of the then Northern Protectorate. There, the foreign workers found a railway station and other amenities which could aid their activities and that is why they made Zungeru the centre of their operations. Hence the name 'Zungeru Dam'.
“Similarly, because of this reason, all the subsequent reports of the feasibility study also carried the name 'Zungeru Dam' following the precedent set by the first team of experts. Therefore, in the beginning, the name came as a result of neither mistake nor deliberate attempts to confiscate the National Assets from the people of Shiroro but as a result of the quest for administrative convenience by the foreign experts.
“These may easily be forgiven because these could have been done with utmost good faith without knowing that Zungeru was entirely under a different Local Government Area from the Local Government Area in which the dam is actually located.
“However, the continued use of the name even after hard facts point to the contrary, has been laid bare and record set straight leaves so much to be inferred as same can longer be excusable.
“Our people living in the upstream have been forced to vacate their ancestral homes to allow for the construction of the dam. Others have lost their lives and livelihood due to the recent preliminary blockage of the dam. The difficult upheaval of livelihood, loss of food security, and other dam-induced impacts to our physical, cultural, and spiritual well-being cannot be quantified.
“Although, there is nothing that will be done to fill in the social inequities between the dam beneficiaries and those disadvantaged by the dam project. However, it will amount to double jeopardy if the dam is called with any other name other than the name of the people that paid the supreme price for its existence.
“We, therefore, call on the general public to shrug off the misleading name of the dam. We also appeal to the Niger State Government under the leadership of his Excellency Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, Niger State House of Assembly through our Honourable Member Representing Shiroro, HYPPADEC through our Honourable Member representing Niger State, Ministry of power, National Assembly through our Distinguished Senator Representing Niger East and our Member House of Representatives representing Shiroro, Munya, and Rafi Federal Constituency to come to the rescue of the people of Shiroro in ensuring that the name Zungeru Dam has been changed to SHIRORO DAM II and to also ensure that our rights and privileges as a people are not short-changed."