Committed to providing constant electricity to communities across the country, the federal government recently inaugurated an 80 KWp solar hybrid mini grid power plant in Upake Community in Ajaokuta Local Government Area of Kogi State. It was a moment of jubilation for a community, which had been in darkness for over two decades, writes Sunday Eghiator
The drumbeat was loud, the excitement rent the air. The atmosphere was like a carnival. The crowd was overwhelming as the entire community trooped out to witness the historic event. The community heads, elders, youth, women, children and the neighbouring Obangede community were elated as their joy knew no bound. Politicians at both federal and state levels were also in attendance. Indeed, it was a life changing experience for a community which has existed without amenities. The people dwelt in darkness for ages, but just in one day, light shone at the end of their dark tunnel.
The project was another first by the Buhari administration’s ‘Next Level’ agenda of providing electricity to the unserved and underserved community in Nigeria. Indigenes of Upake community (the ancestral home of Ebira people) in Ajaokuta Local Government Area of Kogi State, now enjoy clean, safe and reliable electricity as the Federal Government, through its Implementing Agency – Rural Electrification Agency (REA), has inaugurated an 80 kilowatt (KW) solar hybrid mini grid power plant amidst hearty cheers.
The project executed by New Moon Nigeria Ltd, will provide uninterrupted power supply to 496 residential and commercial buildings with over 2,900 residents. The landmark occasion was significant as Upake community is one of the 12 communities to benefit from the first set of grants under the Rural Electrification Fund, which is a Rural Electrification Agency (REA) initiative. The Nigerian Rural Electrification Agency (REA) is the Implementing Agency of the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) tasked with electrification of unserved and underserved communities.
Yahaya Bello, Governor of Kogi State, expressed his delight at the federal government’s initiative of electrifying unserved communities . “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,” he said.
Bello who was represented by Mrs. Ayoade, Secretary to the State Government (SSG) noted that the use of clean energy technologies in the quest to provide electricity was an added advantage to rural communities, who had 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.”
The Governor stressed that the benefits of clean and safe electricity go beyond improvement in health and the environment. He said Upake community members could 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.”
Bello commended the Federal government, REA and assured that the people of Kogi State, would do their best to support the project to ensure greater success and sustainability.
In her remarks, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of REA, Mrs Damilola Ogunbiyi reiterated the commitment of the Buhari-led administration in fulfilling its mandate to ensure electricity access for Nigerians. She stated that more families and businesses in Upake would have access to clean, sustainable and reliable electricity from the sun. “Without doubt, the solar hybrid power project being commissioned today would enhance productivity and provides jobs in 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.
Ogunbiyi praised the hardworking people of Upake community particularly women on how they had used their cassava processing skill to sustain their homes. She noted that with the positive impact of the project, the quality of lives would improve and children would have better learning experiences as they would be able to read at night. “Hopefully, this project will expose the community to greater investments in the future,” she said.
In his remarks, the Senator representing Kogi Central, Yakubu Oseni, expressed 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 life 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.”
Commending Federal Government and REA initative of lighting unserved communities, Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Power, Hon. Aliyu Magaji said, “Oftentimes, the focus is on densely populated areas and on-grid electricity. We are all here today, 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. 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.”
Corroborating Senator Oseni’s position, Ohinoyi of Ebira Land, Alhaji Ado Ibrahim said electricity ws 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. Small communities like Upake are not left out of the Government’s developmental plans because as we can see, 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.”
Expressing his delight, Isa Danlami Abdullahi, a resident of the community said: “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. I feel good to drink cold water. We are very happy that we are feeling the dividends of democracy through this rural electrification initiative.”
“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 are using oven now to smoke their fish and freezer to preserve their fish. This will have a great impact on our economy,” Haruna Bashiru, another elated indigene said.
Monday Muslimat, a student 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 seeing electricity live in this village. It is amazing. Everybody is happy. We thank the Federal Government of Nigeria for brightening our community with this solar light. Indeed, it is a life changing experience.”
In his vote of thanks, the Executive Director of the Rural Electrification Fund, Dr. Sanusi Ohiare, appreciated the Federal Government, the developer, the Board and Management of REA and the Upake community for their support throughout the course of project. Commending Ogunbiyi as a shoulder that can be relied upon, Sanusi in an emotional voice eulogised the REA Amazon as a true definition of a great leader. “Your vision, your dedication and strive for excellence has brought us to where we are today as an agency. Thank you for all you do for us.”