The off-grid power plant has become a new vista through which the Federal Government’s commitment to sustainable energy would be realised. The government has continued to gladden the hearts of many communities across the country with uninterrupted energy through its off-grid power initiatives, writes CHINAKA OKORO
For the Head of Oning Clan in Akwa Ibom State, Eteidung Udo Akpan, the inauguration of the 100KW solar mini-grid power plant by the Federal Government is a blessing which will change the lives of people in his community, even as he expressed his appreciation to the government that the project was being implemented during his tenure as Clan Head.
He spoke during the inauguration of the solar mini-grid power plant at the weekend. The project is part of the Federal Government’s commitment to engender development at the grassroots through provision of electricity which is essential for all-round socio-economic development.
To realise its pledge to provide electricity for all communities in the country, the President Buhari-led administration under its Next Level agenda has achieved another milestone in Southsouth when, on Thursday, October 31, it inaugurated the 100KW Solar Hybrid Mini-Grid Power Plant in Akpabom Community in Onna Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.
Akpabom is a community with a population of over 2,000 people whose major economic activities are fishing and farming. Implemented by the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), the project, which was the third to be inaugurated under the Rural Electrification Fund (REF), would provide clean, safe, affordable and reliable electricity for members of the community.
With the newly installed solar mini-grid power plant, Akpabom Community has joined Upake (80KW) in Kogi State and Kare-Dadin Kowa (98.8KW) in Kebbi State in experiencing improved socio-economic progress.
The Executive Director, Rural Electrification Fund, Dr. Sanusi Ohiare, who represented the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Rural Electrification Agency, Damilola Ogunbiyi, emphasised Federal Government’s commitment to meeting its developmental goals by providing access to electricity for all.
She said: “As an agency, we are responsible for powering unserved and underserved communities. Therefore, it is fulfilling that homes, businesses, schools and medical centres are connected to sustainable solar power. We now witness rural communities being transformed with clean energy through the jobs that are created during construction, to their micro and small businesses scaling to larger capacity; thanks to reliable electricity.”
Continuing, she said: “What we are witnessing today is a result of the hard work of Nigerians who are determined to see positive transformations in our power sector and in Nigeria. The Federal Government, under its Next Level agenda, is committed to providing access to clean, safe, affordable and reliable electricity across the country. This includes rural areas that have lacked access to electricity for many years.
“The Rural Electrification Fund (REF) is dedicated to ensuring the distribution of electricity equally to various communities; using rural electrification grants. The first set of grants under REF is for 12 communities, of which Akpabom community is the third to be inaugurated.
Mrs. Ogunbiyi urged the community to use the newly installed electricity to grow their local economies; start new businesses, even as she is confident that they now have the reliable electricity to power shops, cold rooms, schools and much more.
Commending the developer for his commitment to duty by bringing the dream of the agency to reality, Mrs. Ogunbiyi praised the GVE Projects Limited led by its chief executive officer, Ifeanyi Orajaka for their skills and dedication to finalise the project.
“I urge you to continue your good work by embarking on more power projects. Nigeria needs many more indigenous companies to meet the growing investment opportunities in our evolving off-grid sector. Tell the market that we are open for business,” she said.
She also thanked her team at REA for its support, especially the Executive Director, Rural Electrification Fund, Dr. Sanusi Ohiare. Ogunbiyi hailed them for attaining another significant achievement.
She appreciated the community leaders and members of Akpabom community for their support. “This power plant stands here today because you made it possible for work to be done smoothly. I wish you all the best as you begin to reap the benefits of your good decision,” she said.
She equally thanked the Federal Government for giving REA the task of electrifying unserved and underserved communities, supported with policy and funding assistance to accomplish its mandate.
The Clan Head of Oning Clan, Eteidung Udo Akpan expressed his community’s gratitude to the Federal Government in providing them with such important basic social amenity.
“I consider it a blessing that this project, which will change the lives of people in our community, is being implemented during my tenure as Clan Head.
“For many years, we have looked forward to the day that our children will be able to read at night without depending on harmful kerosene lamps. Our businesses are now fully operational, especially at night. Our fishermen are able to preserve their fish and businesses, in general, are growing. Indeed, today is the beginning of better things to come for Akpabom.
“We are happy that out of the 31 local government areas in Akwa Ibom State, our community was selected for this transformative project.
“On behalf of the people of Akpabom, I express deep gratitude to the Board and Management of the Rural Electrification Agency; and the developer – GVE Projects Limited for ensuring that the project was successfully implemented. I assure you all that the entire community will maintain and protect the power plant from vandalism and theft,” he said.
Commending the effort of the Federal Government and Rural Electrification Agency for implementing the project at Akpabom community in partnership with a private developer, GVE, and support from Akwa Ibom State government, the member representing Onna State Constituency in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Hon. Otuekong Nse Essien, who also inaugurated the plant on behalf of Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel said: “The newly installed solar mini-grid plant will put an end to the community’s hardship.
“Electricity leads to economic prosperity. The people of Akpabom now have power for productive uses, businesses will thrive and education will improve. We can now move beyond the days of darkness. With this, we are indeed grateful.”
Enumerating the benefits of the newly installed mini-off grid plant, Chief Executive Officer, GVE Projects Limited Ifeanyi Orajaka, said the installed solar hybrid mini-grid power plant, which has a capacity of 100KW, has 306 high-grade solar panels and 5.5KM of distribution network cable, which provides the community with constant electricity in the 440 buildings successfully connected to the mini-grid.
“It is a thing of pride that GVE, an indigenous firm, can be part of the developing process of Nigeria’s rural areas. Thanks to this project, Nigerian solar developers can access these investment opportunities and participate in growing Nigeria’s evolving off-grid sector.
“We could not have achieved this without the support of the community leaders and people of Akpabom. GVE utilised the community’s labour force thereby training and providing them with employment. It is gratifying that we not only supplied electricity, but also have contributed to the economic advancement of Akwa Ibom State and, by extension, Nigeria,” he said.
Orajaka thanked the District Head and members of the community for their support towards the completion of the project. He expressed his appreciation to the MD/CEO of REA, Mrs. Damilola Ogunbiyi and the Executive Director REF, Dr. Sanusi Ohiare, for their support in championing the private sector participation in the renewable energy space in Nigeria. He encouraged Nigerians to embrace renewable energy as the world is moving towards clean energy.
The Director, Rural Electrification Fund, Bulus Maiyaki, said the solar that was being inaugurated was as a result of dedication, hard work and collaboration among the Federal Government, state and local governments and the private sector.
“It is evident that the Federal Government is committed to ending the problem of electricity; and with the projects inaugurated across communities, we are getting closer to our goal of ensuring that standards of living are improved using clean, safe and reliable sources of power.
Bulus said the Ministry of Power and the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission played essential roles in supporting the Rural Electrification Fund, even as he said the Akwa Ibom State government ensured that the people of Akpabom community enjoyed electricity by supporting the project.
He praised the efforts of all the stakeholders such as the Ministry of Power and the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission for their supports for the Rural Electrification Fund. He also thanked the traditional leaders, people of Onna Local Government Area and Akpabom Community for their supports.