Adequate power supply has been the major challenge faced by successive administrations in Nigeria. In fact Nigerians are accustomed to not having regular supply of electricity.

The situation is worse for the rural area dwellers who most of the time are forgotten by government in almost every ramifications, electricity inclusive.

Supply of constant and regular electricity to the populace by any government has always been the priority but after huge sums of money is invested, there is always little or nothing to show for the investment as the people still continue to grapple with irregular power supply.

To make matter worse for electricity consumers in Nigeria, especially in the rural areas, these hapless and helpless consumers are subjected to estimated billing method and through the process have been exploited unduly by those charged with the responsibilities of managing the power sector.

The development has made many people and indeed some state governments to toy with the idea of independent power plant for their people so as to boost power supply for their domestic and industrial consumption.

Couple with the poor and epileptic power supply in the rural areas is the challenge faced by many academic institutions to have access to enough power which is prerequisite for any meaningful research work.

Many institutional organizations like the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital Nnewi, Anambra state have been forced to run on twenty four hours power generators with its attendant financial burden and environmental pollution occasioned by noise and fumes associated with generators.

Recently, NAUTH Nnewi was thrown into a total blackout, no thanks to a breakdown of their power generators and when the Chief Medical Director of the institution Prof Anthony Igwegbe was contacted,  the unperturbed CMD said that there is little or nothing the management of the hospital can do since they run on power generating set on daily basis.

The story of many institutions across the country may not be different from that of NAUTH Nnewi where management, staff and patients are thrown into avoidable embarrassment.

It is really gratifying that the administration of the day in line with its campaign promises is tackling the issue of regular and constant electricity supply to Nigerians headlong and it is expected that with political will, things would soon change for the better for the teeming populace.

This is more so for the rural areas which are expected to benefit more from the federal government rural electrification project initiated by the incumbent Minister, Mr Babatunde Fashola.

It is gratifying to know that the federal government under the watch of the former Lagos state governor, Fashola and the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Tuesday, 20th June 2017 with eight (8) Federal Universities and one Teaching Hospital for the first phase of the Federal Government’s Energizing Education Programme.

The programme aims to provide uninterrupted power supply for 37 Federal Universities and 7 Teaching Hospitals in Nigeria through the utilization of off grid captive power plants in a bid to resolve power challenges in institutions of higher learning in the country. The first phase will include 9 institutions, and should be completed in 2018, benefitting over 300,000 students and staff. Seven of the nine planned power plants (10.5MW out of a total of 26.56MW) will be fueled by solar energy, in line with the Federal Government’s energy – mix policy.

“The Federal Government is keen on ensuring that its universities are at par with their international counterparts and recognizes access to power as an essential commodity to achieve this.” Said Mrs. Anita Otubu, Head of Special Projects, Rural Electrification Agency.

“We must on behalf of NUC express our gratitude to REA, the Acting President and the Honorable Minister of Power, Works and Housing for this initiative” said Prof.Abubakar Rasheed, Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC).

“I believe it has the potential to do a lot for the universities. I want to commend the stakeholders for this particular innovation.” said Prof. Abdulrahman Saminu Ibrahim, Vice Chancellor, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi.

“We were very excited that at last we may heave a sigh of relief. So, we are happy that this programme may finally take off and our university is part of the programme from the onset” said by Prof. E.I.Kucha, Vice Chancellor Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi

The programme will also install street lighting to enhance security measures on campuses, develop and operate training centers for student training on renewable and eventually, extend this uninterrupted power to improve quality of life and economic opportunities in the surrounding rural communities.

The Eight Federal Universities and One Teaching Hospital that signed the MOU with the REA are: Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Bauchi, Bayero University Kano, Usumanu Danfodiyo University Sokoto, Federal University of Agriculture Makurdi, Nnamdi Azikwe University, Anambra, University of Lagos Akoka,  Federal University of Petroleum Resources Delta, ObafemiAwolowo University and Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital, Osun.

With the giant stride and innovations from the minister, it is expected that many moribund industries would now have a lifeline and begin to produce again. It is important at this juncture to point out that many industries especially in Nnewi have closed shops not because they don't want to continue production but due to poor and epileptic power supply which sometimes is not enough to power the gigantic and heavy industrial equipment.

Today, one can say with all sense of responsibility that through the innovative approach of power generation and distribution of Babatunde Fahola, the quantity and quality of electricity available for consumption of Nigerians has improved. Though there is still so much to be done in this regard.

This development will undoubtedly improve the quality of lives of Nigerians and as well boost employment level because many which laid off their workers because of poor production can now recall them.

Research and other academic work will surely improve in the selected institutions in the new arrangement which is expected to gulp as much as N9.5b in the 2017 budget. Though this is not the first time that huge amount of money is allocated to restructuring of the power sector by succeeding administrations but with the commitment and determination of Babatunde Fashola, it is expected that the story would be different this time around.

Communities around these institutions selected for electrification are expected to key into the initiative and begin to justify the increase in power made available to them to investing the increased power on productive purposes.

The concerned and benefitting communities and institutions in the rural and education electrification project are expected to provide security for the facilities that would be brought in for the project because part of the problem of Nigeria is that people don't take responsibility for what they perceived as government properties.

Today, in all modesty one can commend Mr Fashola for the major breakthrough in the power sector under his watch, it has never been this sweet, one can only pray and hope that the tempo would be sustained for the betterment of all Nigerians. Funds earmarked for the projects should not end in private pockets.

Similarly, the projects should not be hijacked and diverted to institutions that are not listed as was the case with the takeoff grant of Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital.

This piece is contributed by Chief Modestus Okechukwu Umenzekwe, Onwa Achina Community, Aguata local government area, Anambra state, based in Lagos and could be reached on [email protected]

RURAL ELECTRIFICATION UNDER BABATUNDE FASHOLA AS MINISTER By Modestus Okechukwu Umenzekwe RURAL ELECTRIFICATION UNDER BABATUNDE FASHOLA AS MINISTER  By Modestus Okechukwu Umenzekwe     Reviewed by Unknown on Saturday, July 08, 2017 Rating: 5

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