The Rural Electrification Agency (REA) has disclosed plans to use the Africa Minigrids Programme and to partially complete the 1,994 abandoned rural electrification projects distributed throughout the nation as part of efforts to increase access to energy.
This was revealed by REA’s managing director and chief executive officer (CEO), Ahmad Salihijo Ahmad, during a weekend interactive session with journalists in Lagos.
The Africa Minigrids Program (AMP), a four-year project backed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Nigeria, was in fact formally inaugurated by the REA. It is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
The program aims to encourage access to clean energy by boosting the financial sustainability of renewable energy mini-grids and encouraging scaled-up commercial investment, with an emphasis on cost-reduction strategies and creative business models.
Ahmad did reveal, however, that the organization would not be able to finish all 1,994 abandoned projects because of a lack of funding and damage to power infrastructure.
The 1,994 unfinished projects, according to Ahmad, some of which date back to 2013, were legacy projects that were handed to REA when it was separated from the Ministry of Power.
Recall that Prof. Chinedu Nebo, a former minister of power, said that there were approximately 1,994 unfinished rural electrification projects nationwide.
He stated that the REA was formerly a department inside the Ministry of Power and that all projects started under the department before it was abolished were later transferred to the new agency.
While verifying the existence of the 1, 994 abandoned projects, the REA Managing Director stated that it was a part of his first intervention after taking office more than two years ago.
‘‘When I assumed office, I had to call for the files of these abandoned projects and thereafter appointed officers to visit the various sites of these projects.
Upon submission of the various site reports, it was clear that we couldn’t go on with some of the projects because some of the project sites had been vandalized and equipment carted away while we could not get budgetary allocation to continue with others,’’.
He continued by saying that for some projects the agency could continue working on, it had been able to secure funding from the budget allotted to it to guarantee that they were finished and served the intended purpose.
‘‘If we decide to complete all the 1,994 projects, we may end up struggling with it for the next two years due to paucity of funds while other new projects that need urgent attention may suffer for it due to paucity of funds. So, what we have decided to do is to strike a balance,’’.
As a result of these abandoned projects, he claimed that his strategy has been to use government funds in a more strategic manner, choosing fewer projects that will have a greater impact on the people they are intended to serve once they are completed rather than initiating as many projects that cannot be completed.
Ahmad said that REA, in collaboration with the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC), was building a 1MW power plant for the Wuse Market in Abuja in an effort to ensure a consistent supply of electricity to SMEs.
He suggested that the market’s inadequate power supply was harming SMEs’ chances of success, claiming that the noise pollution caused by the large number of generators at the market was unhealthy for their well-being.
Ahmad continued by saying that the REA involvement will boost the financial standing of market traders since money spent on alternative energy could be invested back into each of their individual companies.
The Nigerian project, implemented by the REA, was the first to start up after the official launch of the Africa Minigrids Programme, which is currently active in 21 African nations. The workshop was organized in collaboration with representatives from the UNDP, GEF, Federal Ministries of Power, Environment, and Agriculture as well as other significant players in the rural development sector.
The REA’s Energising Agriculture Programme (EAP), which aims to advance one of REA’s strategic priorities of focusing on the unserved and underserved to increase economic opportunities through agriculture and productive sectors in rural communities across the country, is designed with the Africa Minigrids Programme in Nigeria as an enabler project. This goal is consistent with the REA’s duty to spur economic expansion and enhance rural Nigerians’ quality of life.