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Presidential aide douses tension in A’Ibom over nuclear plant

Ita Enang, senior special assistant to President Mohammadu Buhari on Niger Delta Affairs has allayed fears over the proposed nuclear energy plant in Akwa Ibom State, saying an Environmental Impact Assessment  (EIA) was being carried out to determine the suitability of the project.

This, Enang said would ascertain the safety and benefits or otherwise of locating the multi-million dollar nuclear plant on the people and the environment.

Speaking in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, Enang, a  former member of the seventh National Assembly said the report  from the EIA of the energy plant would point to which direction the Federal Government would follow  whether to site the plant in Akwa Ibom or not.

“It is an ongoing discussion. That’s why they are conducting EIA. So what the public is doing now is reacting to the EIA. This reaction will advise on what the final action of the government will be. We have to find out what the people really want and the effect. There is no other alternative to that.

 “People should be calm and make their submissions; there should not be any violence about it.  The Federal Government will take a decision based on the EIA. I am also gathering inputs from the people and that of the state government and we will use that to advise the Federal Government,” he said.

Read also: Nigerians to Buhari: ‘We need a breath of fresh air in 2020’

There have been oppositions from many quarters over the location of the project in Itu local government area of the state with environmental rights campaigners saying the dangers would outweigh the benefits of the plant.

The Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC) had in 2017 proposed to site a nuclear energy plant in Oku Iboku area of Akwa Ibom state saying that it will serve an alternative energy source in the country.

The NAEC later embarked an enlightenment campaign on the nuclear power project in the state starting from Uyo, the state capital.

The awareness campaign drew audience from traditional rulers, community leaders, women, youth, professionals, and the political class under the theme “sustainable and reliable energy for economic growth.”

The project manager, Nigeria Nuclear Power, Matthew Agu, argued that there were numerous benefits of nuclear power plant in a locality.

According to Agu, nuclear energy was friendly, safe and cheapest than thermal and solar, adding that the industry plays an important role in the social economic growth of the country.

This ranges from job creation, provision of basic amenities to generation of substantial domestic economic value in electricity sales and revenue.

“A recent analysis showed that nuclear power plants create some of the largest economic benefits compared to other electric generating technologies due to their size and number of workers needed for the operation of the plants. Operation of nuclear plant requires 800 to 1, 200 direct permanent jobs per reactor,” Agu said.

He explained that the challenge confronting the establishment of nuclear plant in spite of the numerous benefits was acceptance by the people.

In a paper presented by Okon Ansa, on behalf of Itu Concerned Patriot, he said that the concern of the people was problems of safe storage of waste material.

Ansa argued that Nigeria lacks the capacity to manage emergency crisis that may emanate from the nuclear plant. He added that the establishment of the nuclear plant would pose a threat to national security because the nuclear plant materials could end up in wrong hands.

 According to  Ansa, “notwithstanding the numerous advantages of generating power from a nuclear plant as canvassed by NAEC, we feel very strongly and professionally that it will be counter-productive to site such a plant in the state in view of the aforementioned issues.

Chairman of Itu local government area, Etetim Onuk, equally expressed fears over the proposed location of the nuclear power project, stressing that it was with grave dangers to the residents.

“Let me state that from the conception of this idea to site elders, stakeholders, traditional ruler and the political class have been opposed to it.  Akwa Ibom being an oil/gas bearing community, the Federal Government should be thinking of establishing refineries and gas turbines, instead of introducing anti-people projects,” he said.

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