The Federal Government of Nigeria, through its implementing agency, the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) has commissioned an 80 kilo Watt (kW) solar hybrid mini grid power plant at Upake community of Ajaokuta Local Government Area in Kogi State, amidst hearty cheers from residents. Executed by New Moon Nigeria Limited, this project guarantees access to clean, sustainable and reliable electricity for 496 residential and commercial buildings and close to 3, 000 people.
Upake community is one of the 12 communities to benefit from the first set of grants under the Rural Electrification Fund (REF), which is a Rural Electrification Agency (REA) initiative.
On August 19, drums were rolled out in the community to welcome light into Upake. It was a light festival.The movement of the crowd undulated with the rhythms of the drum as the locals witnessed the historic commissioning event. The community heads and elders, the youth, women, children andthe neighbouring Obangede community rejoiced. It was a life changing experience for a community which has existed for close to three centuries without one of the basic social amenities, electricity.
This is an oasis of serenity provided by President Buhari-led administration to the un-served and underserved community in Nigeria.The indigenes of Upake community (the ancestral home of Ebira people) that has suffered electricity neglect for centuries can begin to enjoy clean, safe and reliable electricity.
“Government has just brought a new moon into this community. We are enjoying it and we are grateful to President Buhari. This is the first time we would be experiencing electricity. It feels good to drink cold water. We are very happy that we are feeling the dividends of democracy through this rural electrification initiative” Isa Danlami Abdullahi, an indigene of Upake community said.
The REA,is tasked with electrification of un-served and underserved communities and providing equitable access to electricity across Nigeria to maximise the economic, social and environmental benefits of rural electrification grants, promote off-grid electrification, and stimulate innovative approaches to rural electrification. The rural electrification fund (REF) projects are administered using a Public Private Partnership (PPP) model. The first call of the Rural Electrification Fund (REF) will energise 12 communities and deploy 19,000 Solar Home Systems (SHS).
Damilola Ogunbiyi, managing director and chief executive officer of the Rural Electrification Agency, highlighted that commissioning the solar hybrid power plant project would enhance productivity and provide jobs at Upake.
“Not only that, it would also benefit the 2,976 members of Upake community as families and businesses in Upake, will have access to clean, sustainable and reliable electricity from the sun. From this project alone, 32 jobs were created,” Ogunbiyi said. “From project managers to electricians, welders and bricklayers there was significant impact across the entire project value chain. We are hopeful that the jobs created will impact not just the immediate community, but Kogi State in general.”
Women in Upake community who have mastered the art of cassava processing and school going age children will have the quality of their lives improved as a result of the project, Ogunbiyi quipped.
Monday Muslimat an ‘O’ level student of the Upake community said “I am from this village and I am very happy about this development. Since I was born this is the first time I would be experiencing this kind of initiative. This is my first time to see and feel electricity. It is amazing. Everybody is happy. We thank the Federal Government of Nigeria for brightening our community with this solar system. It is life changing.”
Haruna Bashiru, another indigene of Upake said “I was a toddler when they (the community) started pushing for this electricity over 25 years ago and now; the government Buhari led administration gave us our right. We now use light. This is a fishing community and with this light our women can preserve their fish. We are using fridge, freezer, cold drink, cold water; our women use ovens to smoke their fish but can also use freezers to preserve them now. This will have a great impact on our economy.”
In the governor’s address read by Folashade Arike Ayoade, the secretary to the State government, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State expressed delight at Federal Government’s initiative of electrifying unserved communities across the country and for particularly remembering a community in his state. “It is with great pride that Kogi State has collaborated with the Federal Government through the Rural Electrification Agency and the private sector to implement this impressive project that will ensure clean, safe and reliable electricity for the entire Upake community and its neighbouring community – Obangede community.
“The use of clean energy technologies in the quest to provide electricity is an added advantage to rural communities, who have been accustomed to using generators, candles, kerosene lamps and other unsafe energy sources over time. With clean energy sources, such as this solar mini grid, the health and environmental wellbeing of our people will be safeguarded.”
Bello also stressed that the benefits of clean and safe electricity go beyond improvement in health and the environment. Upake community members can now grow their businesses and create more jobs. “Afterall, an electrified community and state means investment opportunities for the private sector. Therefore, Kogi State is open for investment and business opportunities. We welcome industrialisation in agriculture, fishing, steel manufacturing and other industries in our state. And it all starts here in Upake as reliable electricity will certainly begin a chain reaction from rural community to the state level and onwards to the national stage.”
Yakubu Oseni, the Senator representing Kogi Central, expressed his gratitude on behalf of the members of his constituency reiterating the benefits that they all stood to enjoy as a result of the project. He said “Our women will be able to process their Cassava in a less stressful manner and our fishermen can preserve their products now that there is reliable electricity. I believe that the quality of lives in Upake community will be improved because of this project and I look forward to seeing similar projects being installed in other communities under my leadership.”
Similarly, Ohinoyi of Ebira Land, Ado Ibrahim saidelectricity is a vehicle of necessity that drives the economy. “For any community to progress, basic amenities need to be accessible. Electricity is a necessity that has a ripple effect on other human needs. With this solar plant facility, there will be a significant improvement in the quality of life for Upake indigenes and even the environment. It is evident that the Federal Government, under the Buhari administration, is ensuring the basic needs of Nigerians are met.”
Ibrahim said small communities like Upake are not left out of the Government’s developmental plans because since the Rural Electrification Agency is working hard to provide electricity to the often-forgotten rural communities. “It is an honour that one of the communities in Ebiraland was considered viable for this laudable Federal Government initiative.”
The community head (The Ananyiwa of Upake), His Royal Highness, Ibrahim Okenyi Eneye said “I stand here representing the people of our dear community. Just as you assured us of the plans to complete this project from the first day you visited us, I want to assure you that we will work with the developer to make sure that no harm will come to this project. It is our mini grid and we will protect it as our property.”
Commending Federal Government and REA initiative of lighting unserved communities, chairman, House of Represenatves on Power, Aliyu Magaji said, “Oftentimes,the focus is on densely populated areas and on-grid electricity. We are all here to categorically state that every corner of rural Nigeria must be energised. That is why this commissioning is of great importance. The people of Upake community are indeed blessed to be recipients of this life-changing power plant.The power sector is critical to every aspect of Nigeria’s economy. With electricity in our big cities or small rural communities, Nigeria can attain its full developmental capacity. Therefore, reliable electricity is a necessity for all Nigerians.”