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Mambilla Hydropower Station Project funded by Chinese lenders, Nigeria


Mambilla Power Station is one of Africa's (and Nigeria's) biggest projected dam projects, which will be connected to three dams across the Donga River in Taraba State, Nigeria [3]. It was first conceived in 1972.

In December 2013, the Nigerian federal ministry of Power  released a statement that the contract with Sinohydro, had been cancelled, allegedly due to the delays in allotting the project and conduct the due feasibility studies. The government tried to justify such delay by stating: “This is very well in accordance with the project development process of such projects and in line with International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD) standards on construction of large dams prescribing a requirement for detailed study and re-study, design and redesign of large dam projects until optimal efficiency levels are attained.” [4]

Attempts were made to revive the deal without success. But the deadlock was broken by conversations between the presidents of China and Nigeria in 2016, according to the spokesman of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. With incessant attacks on gas pipelines and the continuous blackout due to over dependence on gas-based power stations, government pushed to go beyond the thermal generation and raise the hydropower capacity to the national grid. The meeting resulted in the creation of a consortium of Chinese companies to deliver the project, and an agreement that the Chinese government would commit finance to it. 

The federal government eventually signed the contract in November 2017 with China's Sinohydro Corp. and China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) to build the Mambilla Power Station. The Chinese Import-Export Bank will finance 85% of the development, with the Nigerian government contributing 15%. Completion of the project is expected in 2024, and it is expected to increase Nigeria's generating capacity considerably [5]. 

Main justifications for the project include the frequent power blackouts the country suffers (despite being one of the largest economies in Africa, over 40% of Nigerians live without access to electricity, according to World Bank figures.) Second, hydropower, one of the cleanest and cheapest forms of power, is promoted as a key target for development as Nigeria is currently exploiting just a fraction of its potential resources. The country is also seeking to shift away from oil exports dependency, after plummeting oil prices triggered a recession.

According to Hydroworld website, Minister of Power, Works, and Housing Babatunde Fashola SAN, said the project would, on completion, stabilize the national grid between the South and North of the country. “It will have considerable positive impact on electricity nationwide, productivity, employment, tourism, technology transfer, rural development, irrigation and food production in the area and beyond,” [5]. In addition to Mambilla, Fashola called on the country last year to expedite development of three hydro projects: 700-MW Zungeru, 250-MW Gurara and 35-MW Dadin Kowa.

Howerever, there are a number of concerns over the plant. First, the location of the development could lead to complications. The land affected by construction is under strong competition which regularly sees outbreaks of ethno-religious violence. Displacement could considerably worsen the conflict dynamics and humanitarian situation in the state. Environmental groups have also raised concerns about the potential impact. According to International Rivers, "If the Mambila dam project does continue, it could mean disastrous environmental and social impacts for those already living in poverty along the banks of the Benue River," Also, along the decades of planning of the Mambilla plant, instances of bribes and corruption have been registered and openly denounced by organizations such as International Rivers [6].

The Nigerian government says that 100,000 people will be displaced by the development, and has pledged to resettle and compensate them.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Mambilla Hydropower Station Project funded by Chinese lenders, Nigeria
State or province:Taraba State
Location of conflict:across the Donga River in Taraba State
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Land acquisition conflicts
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific commodities:Land

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The project which is expected to cost $5.79 billion would be funded by the Nigerian government and Chinese lenders through the China Exim Bank, on the ratio of 15 and 85 per cent respectively.The main Mambilla Dam (3,050MW installed) is a large rolled compact concrete dam and reservoir at 1,300 metres (4,300 ft) above sea level. From this dam water is diverted off the reservoir towards the western side of the plateau through 3 hydraulic tunnels totaling 33 kilometres (21 mi), intercepted by 2 smaller dams (Sum Sum Dam and Nghu Dam), both at an elevation of 1,250 metres (4,100 ft). Beyond these dams, the tunnels lead into a 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) drop shaft tunneled down through the rock to a massive underground powerhouse with a generating capacity of 3,050 megawatts (4,090,000 hp). [2] Via a short tunnel, the water then exits the base of the plateau and flows into a tributary river that rejoins the Donga River downstream of the plateau.

Level of Investment for the conflictive project5,792,000,000 [2]
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:100,000 displaced
Company names or state enterprises:China Gezhouba Group Co. Ltd. from China
Sinohydro Corporation Limited (Sinohydro) from China
China Energy Engineering Corp Ltd (Energy China, CEEC) from China
Relevant government actors:Central Government of Nigeria
Ministry of Power
International and Finance InstitutionsExport-Import Bank of China from China - China’s Export-Import Bank will provide 85 percent of the funding and Nigeria’s government will supply the remaining 15 percent for the joint venture
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:International Rivers

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityLATENT (no visible organising at the moment)
Reaction stageUnknown
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Forms of mobilization:Official complaint letters and petitions


Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsPotential: Malnutrition
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors
Potential: Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusUnder construction
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No

Sources & Materials

[1] Nigeria announces $5.8 billion deal for record-breaking power project

By Kieron Monks, CNN

September 15, 2017


[3] Wikipedia - Mambilla Power Station

[4] Sweet Crude reports - Nigeria admits failure to award Mambilla Hydro contract

December 26, 2013

[5] Hydroworld - Nigerian government approves contract to build 3,050-MW Mambilla hydropower plant

ABUJA, Nigeria


[6] International Rivers - Money for Nothing (Or How Corruption Fuels Dam Building in Nigeria)

Thu, 03/20/2008

Energy China - Contract for Mambilla Hydropower Station in Nigeria Signed


Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Announcement of Ministry of Power - Nigerian govt. approves construction cf $5.8bn Mambilla power project

Meta information

Contributor:Daniela Del Bene, ENVJUSTICE project, ICTA-UAB
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:3063



Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and Chinese President Xi Jinping

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands in Beijing, during the former's state visit in 2016. Source: