Akwa Ibom State leaders have once again rejected a federal government proposal to build a nuclear plant in the state.
Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy, remains plagued by perennial shortage of electricity.
Two proposed nuclear plants, conceived by the former Goodluck Jonathan administration, will generate over 1,200megawatts, the chairman, Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission, Erapamo Osaisai, said.
The proposed sites for the nuclear plants are Akwa Ibom State and Kogi State.
“Our nuclear power plants are huge machines. And what we are planning is, each of the power plants will be generating power in excess of 1,200 megawatts,” Mr. Osaisai told journalists recently at State House, Abuja, where he went to submit a report of the International Atomic Energy Agency on the development of nuclear power in Nigeria to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
“We are a member of the IAEA and our responsibility as a country is to utilise nuclear power in the safest way possible.
“And what Nigeria is doing, as we can tell, is diversifying our energy generation base beyond gas and hydro to include other sources for which nuclear is also being considered,” Mr. Osaisai said.
But the people of Akwa Ibom are not buying any of the nuclear plan in the state, and have continued to kick against the proposal since it became public.
“We reject anything that is not in the interest of our state and our people. We reject the plan to build nuclear plant in Akwa Ibom State,” the president of Akwa Ibom Community, Abuja, Tommy E. Okon said on November 14 in Abuja in his inaugural address as the 14th president of the community.
“We have rejected it before. We are rejecting it now. And we will continue to reject it,” said Mr. Okon who was re-elected for a second term in office as the president of the community.
Mr. Okon’s remark drew applause from the audience which included the commissioner for commerce and industry in Akwa Ibom State, Emmanuel Enoidem, who represented Governor Udom Emmanuel at the event.
Others at the event were the Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matter to President Muhammadu Buhari, Ita Enang, and the All Progressives Congress deputy governorship candidate in the state, Benedict Ukpong.
The member representing Etinan Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives, Samuel Ikon, and the founder of Bush House, Michael Bush, were also among the audience.
Mr. Okon later told PREMIUM TIMES that “the risk of our people living with a nuclear plant in their community is far higher than the benefits”.
He said the likely exposure of the people and the environment to harmful radioactive materials should discourage the federal government from going ahead with the plan to build nuclear plants in any part of the country.
“If Nigeria cannot take adequate safety pre-caution against chlorine leakage from a simple water treatment plant, how can they handle the safety needs in a complex nuclear plant?” Mr. Okon said, with apparent reference to the July 2015 Chlorine cylinder explosion from a water treatment plant that killed eight people and left 100 others hospitalized in Jos, Plateau State.
“The Chernobyl disaster of 1986 should be a lesson for us. Decades after that incident, thousands of people were still dying of cancer across Russia and the entire Europe because of radioactive gas.
“If the developed countries of the world could get struck with terrible nuclear disasters, even with their advanced technology, their high maintenance culture and safety consciousness, it is only better for us to imagine what would have happened in Nigeria if we had been using nuclear energy in this country,” Mr. Okon said.
In July, some citizens of the state, including a former military governor of the state, Idongesit Nkanga, two former senators from the state, Anietie Okon and Effiong Bob, and a former minister, Nduese Essien, jointly addressed a press conference in Uyo, the capital of Akwa Ibom State, where they advised the federal government against building a nuclear plant in the state.
“This is a country not known for taking environmental impact assessment seriously; the slightest false-step in the nuclear project would result in monumental disaster. We do not want that disaster here in our state. It is one of the strongest reasons why the opposition to the location of the plant in our state is emphatic and would remain decisive,” Anietie Okon said.