Nigeria may work with Cameroon on hydroelectric dam

YAOUNDE, CAMEROON - Nigeria may help upgrade a hydroelectric dam in Cameroon in exchange for supplying power to a remote corner of its territory, government officials from both countries said.

Under a deal being discussed, Nigeria would help boost the capacity of the Lagdo dam in northern Cameroon and initially buying 30 megawatts (MW) of electricity for industry and households in Nigeria's adjacent Adamawa State.

The Gulf of Guinea neighbors are stepping up cooperation through various projects along their 1,700 km (1,062 mile) shared border following last year's resolution of a protracted dispute over the oil-rich Bakassi peninsula.

"Nigeria and Cameroon are very good friends now and we want to strengthen that relationship," said Ali Mohammed Dandiyya, who led a 15-strong Nigerian delegation to Cameroon.

"Nigeria is ready for any negotiation that will lead to a financial agreement between the two parties to rehabilitate the Lagdo Dam in northern Cameroon, reinforce its capacity and exporting energy to Nigeria," he said.

Nigeria, long Africa's biggest oil producer, is expected to export 1.7 million barrels of crude per day in March.

But its infrastructure remains in tatters and many in the country of 140 million people have no electricity.

"We will appreciate it if Cameroon can offer us up to 30 MW, just for a start," Dandiyya said.

People living in northeastern Nigeria and northern Cameroon have long traded with each other and share cultural bonds.

"Cameroon is very ready to embrace this project given our enormous hydro potential, much of which is yet to be tapped," said Jean Bernard Sindeu, Cameroon's minister for energy and water.

"We can establish either a public-public or public-private partnership. Whichever way it goes is good for us," he added.

No further details of the deal were available but a close aide to the minister told Reuters that some legal, technical and financial details still needed to be worked out.

The Lagdo dam was built by China International Water and Electric Corp in the late 1970s to supply electricity to northern Cameroon and allow irrigation of some 15,000 hectares of croplands. It has a capacity of 84 MW, but just one of its four turbines is working.

A member of the Nigerian delegation said it would be cheaper to import Cameroon's power than build a power line from the nearest Nigerian dam, which is three times as far away.

"(This) will boost production in northeastern Nigeria, create more jobs and eventually bring down the prices of some basic goods and services which is good for our national economy," he told Reuters, asking not to be named.


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