Hope rekindled in Kebbi community
•It’s exciting seeing electricity here for the first time –Emir, residents
The people lined up the streets in their numbers, with joy and excitement boldly etched on their faces. They sang and danced as traditional troupes entertained the people with their drums and acrobatic displays.
But you could hardly blame the residents of this agrarian community in Kebbi State. Their excitement was understandable. It was the first time that their community would be experiencing electric power.
For community leaders and indigenes of Kare-Dadin Kowa in Arewa Local Government Area of Kebbi State, Tuesday, September 17, 2019, would for long remain an indelible date. It was the day the town witnessed the inauguration of a 98.8KW solar hybrid mini-grid power plant and thus joined the list of communities powered by electricity.
It was an event that triggered indescribable joy among all residents of the community. The old, the not-too-young and the young could not hide their excitement. They were overjoyed that at last, light had come to their community.
Kare-Dadin Kowa is a community that boasts of vast agricultural capacities. The border town prides itself as being among communities that produce the best rice and millet in Nigeria. Residents said they were happy that, with the facility, their lives would change for the better. They said the new power plant would not only improve their way of life, it would also boost the economy of the town.
On the day the power plant was unveiled, many people thronged the community from far and near to be part of the historic occasion. The plant was one of those being built across the country by the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) under its Rural Electrification Fund (REF). The REA is the implementing agency for the Federal Government’s rural electrification programme, which seeks to power several communities in the country through off-grid independent power plants. Kare-Dadin Kowa is one of the benefitting communities.
The riverine community has agriculture and fishing as major occupations. And the REA said the town’s hybrid solar mini-grid plant would provide clean energy to 483 residential buildings, schools, places of worship, health centres, as well as 82 commercial buildings that would also serve thousands of the town’s inhabitants.
The REF, it was gathered, was set up to maximise the economic, social and environmental benefits of rural electrification grants, to promote off-grid electrification, and to stimulate innovative approaches to rural electrification.
In the first phase, the REF is expected to power 12 communities and deploy 19,000 solar home systems (SHS). REF projects are administered using a public-private partnership (PPP) model.
For the district head of the community, Alhaji Musa Maina Jantullu, the project, which he said has brought his community out of darkness, would change the entire landscape for the better.
He said he recognised the significance of the project and was delighted to be the head of one of the beneficiary communities.
“This community has been in darkness for too long and this is why we are grateful to the Federal Government and the authorities of the REA for counting us worthy to benefit from solar technology. There is no doubt that the electricity will improve the way of life of my people and the intellectual ability of our students by having electricity to read. This is an agrarian community, which produces the best and largest rice and millet in Nigeria. As a border community, this will, undoubtedly, develop our community. I am elated, my subjects are joyous that we are seeing electricity for the first time, and we promise to protect and sustain the project.”
Minister of Power, Saleh Mamman, praised President Muhammadu Buhari for giving the required support to the REA. He congratulated all the parties involved in ensuring the success and completion of the project and noted that the Federal Ministry of Power, under his leadership, was committed to electrifying the country.
“Under my leadership, the Ministry of Power will continue to provide requisite policy interventions to ensure that transformative projects like this will have the desired impact of electrifying Nigeria,” he said.
At the event, the Kebbi State governor, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, was represented by the permanent secretary, Ministry of Water Resources and Rural Development, Aminu Umar. The governor also commended the Federal government for its efforts in the area of rural electrification. He said he was optimistic that the solar hybrid mini-grid would not only expand, but would in no time transform the economic landscape of the state.
“Small businesses like welders, cold rooms, as well as processing mills can now operate more effectively with reliable and clean electricity as a result of this project. This solar installation has 380 panels that will provide electricity to over 3,000 residents of this community. We are the land of equity and this project is further ensuring the distribution of equitable power to the people of Kebbi State.
“My vision is to industrialise Kebbi, making it an economic business hub. This is why we have focused on the provision of electricity within Kebbi State by partnering and supporting on-grid providers with new transformers and injection of funds to stabilise and ensure constant power supply to the state.
“The impact of this power project will also be felt in other sectors, including tourism. With an available supply of clean energy, commerce and industrial activities will increase in the state. We all aspire for a fully electrified Nigeria, and we will achieve this with your continued support and dedication,” he said.
Dr. Sanusi Ohiare, executive director, REF, represented the managing director of the REA, Mrs. Damilola Ogunbiyi, at the inauguration.
He also applauded the commitment of the Federal Government to improving the power situation and making electricity available to rural communities across Nigeria.
He said, “Kare-Dadin Kowa is the second of 12 communities earmarked to benefit from REF grants. The project being commissioned here is implemented by the Rural Electrification Agency, with the goal of providing equitable access to electricity across Nigeria. Today, REA provides electricity to 82 commercial businesses, 482 residences and over 3,180 residents, including women and children. I must state that these are exciting times because history is being made in Kare-Dadin Kowa, Kebbi State and in Nigeria as a whole.
“Not only have the people of Kare-Dadin Kowa been provided with access to stable electricity, this project also provided job opportunities for the industrious people of this community in engineering, construction and project management. Now, more Nigerians can look forward to a Nigerian dream, where access to stable power is no longer dependent on alternative sources of electricity that are harmful to our health and the environment.”
He praised the people of the community for their openness and support. While lauding the private sector developer, Nayo Tropical Technology Limited, for delivering the project to its full capacity; he also praised the staff and management of the REA, particularly the MD/CEO, Mrs Ogunbiyi, for ensuring that the various initiatives earmarked under the REF were bearing the expected fruits.
Emir of Argungu, Alhaji Samaila Muhammed Mera, who was represented by Alhaji Ibrahim Hassan, said the community and its neighbours would benefit immensely from the project.
“This is especially gratifying for us and our rural communities in Kebbi State,” he said. “We can now experience what we would normally refer to as the city life now that we will have access to reliable and stable electricity. We are a small fishing and agricultural community, so this is a major development for us. New business opportunities in milling, processing, storage and fishery will now become a reality for our industrious people.”
It was gathered that the project was done with support from the private sector. Anayo Okenwa, CEO of Nayo Tropical Technology Limited, the private firm involved in the project, said the installed solar hybrid mini-grid was constructed in line with international standards and best practices.
“As an indigenous firm, we are proud to have leveraged the skills and capacity of our host community, in addition to providing the enabling environment for skilled labour and job creation,” he said.
Bulus Maiyaki, a director with the REF, commended President Buhari, the National Assembly, Ministry of Power and other stakeholders for ensuring the successful implementation of REF projects across Nigeria.
He also applauded the leadership of the REA managing director, Mrs. Ogunbiyi, Governor Bagudu of Kebbi State and Nayo Tropical Technology Limited for its professional expertise on the project.