By Kejuo Regina
More than five years after the Cross River Government signed the Memorandum of Understanding on the Waste to Wealth initiative having been selected for the pilot scheme by the federal government and the Council of Entrepreneurs for Africa, Canada, the State has announced a collaboration with France on a similar project.
The development is also coming more than four years after the then Nigerian minister for science and technology, Ogbonnaya Onu laid the foundation stone for the waste to wealth project at the newly carved out Idundu industrial layout.
A news release from Government House Calabar earlier this week says the State and the European nation have struck a partnership to convert its wastes to electricity. The deal comes on the heels of a recent visit to the State by the French Ambassador to Nigeria, Jerome Pasquier.
And, a team from the French embassy led by the Managing Director, Asaju Energy, Ayodeji Okele told Governor Ben Ayade during a presentation in his office that they were in the State to conduct feasibility studies.
Okele who was in company of a consortium of French companies comprising Gilles Bacquet, GB Consult and Services; Laurent Lambs, Project Manager Serge Experts, said, “We have been having a discussion about this project over a year ago with regard to the waste management situation in Cross River State.
“And we arrived at the idea that we will need to do proper feasibility studies to find out what solution would be best suited and also what solution will be economically viable.”
According to the project guideline, the team is expected to develop a sustainable solution for disposal of municipal waste, both liquid and solid as well as proffer solutions for the generation of electricity from the end products at the end of the day.
Okele and his team had earlier undertaken an inspection tour of the major dump sites at Lemna.
The purpose of the feasibility studies, according to the team, “is to have an idea of the technical and financial basis for the project,” stressing that “our feasibility studies will take about six months.”
In his remarks, Governor Ayade, while expressing appreciation to the French government for the partnership, charged the consortium to see the project as purely a live saving intervention, and “not something you can periodize as a research. This is not a research, it is a life saving intervention mission and that is why you are here. So, if you approach it from that perspective, your concept of time will become more delicate and sensitive.
“I do not believe that you need six months to do this feasibility study, you just need to put more effort and more time. And why am I saying this? This is because when you finish your feasibility study, you will end up with a position statement which states that it is a feasible project. Then you go back to the French Government to process the actual final milestone which is the actual implementation. So if it takes you six months for feasibility study, by the time you get the final approval it will be towards the end of next year and that is not the level of pulse we need.”
Ayade who appealed to the team to see the project as both an existential and humanitarian effort noted: “As you are well aware, with what you saw when you went to Lemna, the city has grown to join the refuse, so people are basically living in a refuse dump. So for us, this project is an existential, fundamental and humanitarian effort by the French government because with the dumping of all of the unsegregated refuse, with fire and smoke billowing from there, that triggers a generation of different types of gases because of insufficient air at the top surface.
“So what you have is the production of methanogenesis producing methane and other associated gases. These are compounds that interfere with the learning capacity of a child. When a child lives in an environment that he or she perceives odour consistently, retention of knowledge becomes a problem. And so for us three months or at the most four, will be reasonable for a feasibility study that gives us opportunity to go back to the French Government with our proposal in hand that yes, we can do it. So by first quarter of next year we can move into the implementation proper.”
Engr. Mike Eraye who was the Commissioner for Environment in Mr. Ayade’s first term had told the delegation led by the then Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Winifred Oyo-Ita that, “We are anxious to execute the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), perfect it and are also determined to regain our status (as number one tourist destination and clean and green status) back.”
Oyo-Ita had accompanied Onu in the foundation stone laying ceremony in February 2017 where the minister said the program, would enable Nigerians convert waste to valuable goods and services that will help “create wealth, employment, reduce poverty, defeat hunger and help stimulate national consciousness to the power of science and technology as an important instrument for national rebirth.”
Governor Ayade, who was represented by his deputy, Professor Ivara Esu, expressed excitement that the project was brought to Calabar as a pilot State in the waste-to-wealth program. He noted then, that the project would help in the production of biogas, organic waste and feeds for aquatic culture in Calabar.
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