Mohammed Aminu writes that Governor Aminu Tambuwal recently inaugurated the 80kw solar mini grid electricity project in Kurdulla community of Gudu Local Government Area of Sokoto State  

“We have been living without access to electricity for a very long time. This solar project is a source of pride to us as we have never experienced electricity in our lives. We will no longer use lamp and generator as source of power in our homes. So, we are grateful to His Excellency Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, the German Government and the European Union for wiping away our tears.”

These were the words of Yusuf Ibrahim, a farmer in Kurdulla community, a very remote area close to Niger Republic and over 100 kilometres away from the state capital. Ibrahim, just like most residents of the area, could not hide his joy, as Governor Tambuwal unveiled the 80 kilowatts Solar mini grid electricity project, that would provide uninterrupted electricity in the community that had never been connected to the national grid.

It is estimated that around one and a half billion people globally have no access to reliable electricity. Most live in developing countries where the cost of connecting rural villages to the electricity grid is, and will remain, prohibitively expensive. This is certainly the case in Nigeria, where remote villages lie in huge expanses of territory, far from electrified towns and cities.

Building infrastructure in Nigeria is a major challenge, and electrifying the country is perhaps the biggest of all. The use of solar energy in rural areas has increased over the years, as the innovations in solar powered technologies have led to poverty alleviation projects that combine development strategies and environmental consciousness. There’s no doubt that solar energy can help in rural development and pave the way for economic advancement. It is a viable solution for jumpstarting efforts to create and accelerate economic activity. It is a worthwhile investment option that also comes with a very important bonus: clean energy that does not contribute to environmental degradation and global warming.

The Sokoto solar project, a key component of the present administration’s rural development initiative, was co-funded by the European Union and jointly implemented by the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing and the German International Development Agency, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). The project was executed through public private partnership and supervised by the Nigeria Energy Support Programme. Sokoto is the first state to benefit from the pilot solar project that has been designed to be replicated in five other states in the federation. Over 40,000 inhabitants of the Kurdulla community are expected to benefit from the solar electrification project under the programme.

Speaking during the inauguration of the project in Kurdulla community recently, Tambuwal said more than 500 households would enjoy enhanced access to electricity supply. He described the project as a milestone in the realisation of various collaborations of the state government. The governor said the solar power project was aimed at improving living standard of the people of the area and enhance job creation.

“Today’s event marks the beginning of a great collaborative effort towards ensuring sustainable growth through renewable energy sector development. It has now become absolutely necessary to take advantage of the ongoing renewable energy effort to ensure self-sufficiency in energy for economic development.

“Mini grid powered by renewable sources is the best option for us to expand electricity access in the rural areas where the national grid is not available,” Tambuwal said.

He stated that the project was facilitated by the state government and provided all logistics support to ensure its successful actualisation. He noted that Sokoto is known for its peaceful disposition, hence the efforts by government to attract investment into the state. “Sokoto is the most peaceful state in Nigeria and that is why from the conception of this project to its completion, there has been no security issues.

“The state government is committed to working with partners to completing projects. Our cardinal principle is to live by the terms and conditions of this document. That is why we always try to play our own part for the actualisation of the project. This project is a laudable one and sited in a very remote area in the state. This will indeed drastically improve the lives of people of Kurdulla community.

“We are ready to partner with developing partners not only in power but in health, education, environment and other sectors. I want Germany to consider Sokoto as a priority in the award of German scholarship. We really need help on issues of education and want our people to benefit from that,” Tambuwal noted.

He appealed to the benefiting community to make judicious use of the project and ensure prompt payment of electricity bills to ensure durability as well as proper maintenance of the facility. The governor also urged community leaders and residents to ensure adequate security for equipment and personnel handling the project. Tambuwal to this end, commended the European Union and German Government for the conceptualisation of the project and its eventual actualisation. He reiterated the commitment of his administration to continue to work closely with all stakeholders to expand areas of cooperation for the benefit of the citizenry.

The Minister of State , Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Sulaiman Hassan Zarma, described the Kurdulla mini grid electricity project as one of the six currently supported by National Energy Support Programme in six states of the federation, adding that the partnership was part of the federal government’s efforts to make power available to rural communities through renewable energy. According to him, this is in line with the promises of President Muhammadu Buhari at the inception of his administration  to increase power, make it steady and ultimately have uninterrupted power.

He described the solar project as a product of  promises kept by international partners and a model of public private partnership . “The project that we commissioned today is a product of such promises kept and a model of public private partnership. It is a story of cooperation by governments of other nations. The German Government and the European Union made a promise to participate in seeing to the Improvement of our country and contributed to the delivery of the project.”

The minister commended the state government’s giant strides for making the project possible. “Sokoto is providing a lead and this is one of the promises of the government to make the business environment very friendly. We really commended Governor Tambuwal for providing the land, payment of compensation and construction of access road to the facility. “This is an investment in power and with this project, I see improvement in learning in schools within the locality, increase in economic activities and reduction in infant and maternal  mortality. We really express our appreciation to the German Government and the European Union for the actualisation of this project,” he stated.  Zarma therefore, expressed the readiness of the federal government to work with partners on energy solutions.

In his remarks, the European Union Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Ketil Karlsen, noted that over 1.5 billion people globally lacked access to electricity, adding that many Nigerians do not have access to cheap, affordable and steady electricity. He reiterated the commitment of the European Union to the promotion of energy and electricity in Nigeria. Karlsen described the project as key and strategic due to the possibility of creating best practice on what could be replicated throughout the country and beyond.

“The issue of power is the main obstacle for economic independence and development. Forty-five per cent of people here don’t have access to electricity and business people say this is the main obstacle.

 “So, we are looking at creating opportunities for inclusive growth and this is a vital priority. This is very doable if we work together to achieve a common goal,” he stressed.

Commenting at the event, the German Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Dietmar Kreusel, said the initiative was a great opportunity towards ensuring easy access to rural dwellers for better life. He described the solar project as a trail blazing project for the rest of the country due to the fact that it comprised state, federal, private sector and international donors through the engagement of local communities.

He expressed optimism that the introduction of solar mini grid would expand access to electricity not just in Kurdulla community, but in other parts of the country. “We are glad to be here in Sokoto to commission a solar project implemented by the German Development Agency in a very remote part of Sokoto. It is very significant for not only the state but for Nigeria and it is in line with Sokoto Government energy philosophy for stable energy supply. I commend Sokoto State government for its commitment to improving the lives of its people.”

The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, called on the community to safeguard the project and ensure its proper utilisation. He commended the state government for its efforts in enhancing the living conditions of the people.

Speaking to THISDAY on the importance of the Kurdulla project, Governor Tambuwal’s spokesman, Malam Imam Imam, said already, life of the people in the community has already been changed for good.

“As you are aware, gaining access to electricity can be really life-changing. We have seen such impact already in Kurdulla. Their productivity have increased, their children now study more because they have electricity at night and almost every home now has a television set. This has allowed them to connect to the world and be abreast of what is happening elsewhere,” he stated.

Imam added that already, market for electronics has opened and people from neighbouring villages are trooping to Kurdulla to enjoy their new-found achievement.