The Unyoking Of Yoke Power Plant

As the unmaking of history goes, the dismantling of Yoke Power Plant in Muyuka Subdivision, Fako Division in the South West Region, still haunts the Cameroonian psyche as parts of the country usually fall into blackouts due to erratic electricity supply. Will the power plant ever be reinstated?

By Regina Fonjia Leke

In 1962 the West Cameroon Electricity Undertaking was already envisaging an expansion programme as evidenced by Managing Engineer E. A. Mbiwan’s correspondence of April 16, 1962, stating in part that…”in view of the foregoing, I wish to request you to try to secure authorization and funds…for WCEU to expand its energy distribution facilities and revamp certain vital ancillary services…the extension would reach as far as Greater Kumba, Bamenda, Mamfe at the estimated cost of 119 million francs cfa.

Engineer Mbiwan was writing at a time when Yoke (Njoke) power plant in Muyuka Subdivision had a capacity of 22.000 volts (22 KW) but had a generating capacity of 3.270 KW under the Public Works Department in the West Cameroon Government, and system peak demand was just under half of this (1.590 KW). West Cameroon Government had taken over the running of the electricity supply system from Southern Cameroons; the system had formerly been owned by the Electricity Corporation of Nigeria (ECN). The areas then covered were Victoria (now Limbe) Buea and Tiko; Muyuka, Ekona, Muea, Likomba, Buea Town, Soppo and Mutengene were not yet electrified.

Negotiations to construct the Yoke hydro power plant started in the 1093s. By 1965, John Ngu Foncha, then Prime Minister of West Cameroon, had sent President Amadou Ahidjo a proposal for the construction of a hydro-electricity power plant at the Ombe River in Fako Division. Requiring a loan of 530 million francs cfa from the Common Market Development Funds, Brussels, Foncha had visualized a 7.000 – 7.500 KW of installed capacity of the Ombe Plant. Foncha’s dreams of a more powerful electricity grid for West Cameroon never materialized. More than 50 years afterwards, the Ombe River is a thin stream of water gurgling its way to the Atlantic while the waters of Yoke Dam wash over the remains of concrete damming. And power supply continues to be epileptic.

Desire To Re-harness Yoke

With regular acute power shortage bugging the country, the Balong in Muyuka wish the electricity generating plant in Yoke could be revamped.

back.  Some of the natives were speaking to The Green Vision recently in Muyuka.

“The dam was constructed by some English engineers in the late 1940s (1947-1949). It was part of the Electricity Corporation of Nigeria, given that at the time, Southern Cameroons was being administered from Nigeria. When British Southern Cameroons gained independence, the name became West Cameroon Development Agency. There were four power plants generating electricity including Luma Falls between Mile 30/Mpondo, the Malale, Yoke and Bota Falls. All these plants were supplying electricity to the then Victoria Division. There were poles that took electricity right to Limbe,” Lobe Paul, 86, told The Green Vision.

Lobe said the dam at Yoke was big, powerful and employed hundreds of Southern Cameroonians in different capacities.

“When it was closed, it left hundreds jobless and made life miserable. The reason why the plant was dismantled was politically motivated. The La République government simply did not want Southern Cameroons to have its own source of energy,” Lobe said.

He also said that in the days of POWERCAM, there were hardly power fluctuations like is the case nowadays.

The desire for the restoration of the Yoke Power Plant keeps burning in the hearts of the elites of Muyuka and the South West in general.

“In 1987, I was the President of the youth wing of the CPDM party in Yoke. I rallied the militants in a meeting and we sent a petition to Yaounde on the rehabilitation of the dam. The local newspapers carried the story and after three months, some white engineers came and surveyed the area. This brought hope to the people who felt that finally the dam was going to start generating electricity again, but till date, nothing concrete has been done and the broken pieces of the dam still remain to be seen,” 67-year-old Linus Efanje told The Green Vision.

Pastor Munongo Akamah, a native of Balong village, who has lived in Yoke for over 50 years, said, “Today, the volume of the water is decreasing. There was a water catchment close to the bridge, but today, grass has grown and covered the whole area. It is our desire to have our plant back, if only the government could make the effort to rehabilitate the plant.”

Scraps of POWERCAM remain standing in Yoke waiting, perhaps someday that the dexterous hands of engineers who fit back the screws and bolts of power generating plant to supply uninterruptable electricity.