Nigeria resets rural electricity agency with fresh executive postings

Two experts with deep knowledge in electricity projects development, financing, and execution, have been appointed by Nigeria’s president, Mr. Muhammadu Buhari, to manage and reposition the country’s corruption-riddled Rural Electrification Agency (REA).

According to a statement from the office of the secretary to the government of the federation in Abuja, Mrs. Damilola Ogunbiyi, and Dr. Sanusi Mohammed Ohiare, were appointed by Buhari, as Managing Director and Executive Director (Rural Electrification) respectively of the REA.

The REA has a longstanding history of contract inflation, financial malpractices, and poor deliveries in rural electricity projects it often contracted. The agency is also key to Nigeria ending its widespread electricity poverty, but media reports indicate it has consistently failed to achieve its mandate on this.

Also, in 2009, the government charged seven of REA’s senior officials and some high-ranking members of the parliamentary committee on power, of corruptly appropriating N5.2 billion projects fund. The indictment subsequently led to a temporary closure of the agency for proper investigations.

Notwithstanding, the government’s statement indicated that Ogunbiyi and Ohiare, would be joined by Engr. Umaru Maza Maza (REA board chairman), Engr. Muhammad A. Wasaram, Executive Director (Technical Services) and Yewande Odia, Executive Director (Corporate Services), to reposition the agency.

They would also have Engr. Alozie Mac and Mr. Rotimi Thomas, as non-Executive Directors of the REA.

Ogunbiyi, worked with Nigeria’s current power minister, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, when he was governor of south western state, Lagos. She was at a time the General Manager of the Lagos State Electricity Board (LSEB), and recently a senior special adviser on power to Buhari.

Reports indicate that LSEB successfully commissioned four power plants (Island, Alausa, Mainland and Peninsula Power) and one transformer factory between 2011 and 2015.

Similarly, Ohiare, who was before now an advisor on rural electrification at the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, has a background in rural energy projects financing and investments in developing countries, as well as in mini-grid regulations and deployments, rural electrification planning and data management.

According to his LinkedIn account, Ohiare’s PhD research was on ‘Financing Rural Energy Projects in Developing Countries: Case Study of Nigeria’. He provided advice to GIZ on rural electrification financing mechanisms.