Nigeria speeds up rural electrification, officially swears in new REA board

Nigeria would on Tuesday take steps indicative of its plans to electrify rural communities across her regions with the formal inauguration of a new management board of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA).

OGN learnt the country’s power minister, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, will inaugurate the board which was appointed a couple of weeks back by the country’s president, Mr. Muhammadu Buhari.

The inauguration as learnt, will take place at the ministry’s Mabushi-Abuja headquarters. Buhari had appointed Mrs. Damilola Ogunbiyi, and Dr. Sanusi Mohammed Ohiare, as Managing Director and Executive Director (Rural Electrification) respectively of the REA.

They 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), as well as Engr. Alozie Mac and Mr. Rotimi Thomas, as non-Executive Directors, to reposition the agency.

OGN previously reported that 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.

Existing commitment to DRE, what becomes of it?

Coming on board just a little over a month after the REA made far-reaching commitments at a ‘call to action’ campaign organized by the global Power For All in Abuja, the new team would be expected to adopt and advance the pledge made by the agency to advance access to electricity in rural parts of Nigeria using distributed renewable energy (DRE) solutions.

In its commitment at the event, REA stated that it would in this regard set up efficient partnerships with relevant stakeholders in the country’s DRE.

The commitment made included:

“It is the desire of the Federal Government of Nigeria to expand rural access to elec­tricity as rapidly as possible in a cost-ef­fective manner.

“It is assumed that govern­ment in partnership with the private sector will be heavily involved in enhancing this access. The mandate of Rural Electrifica­tion Agency – REA as provided for in Sec­tion 88-92 of the Electricity Power Sector Reform Act (EPSRA), 2005 is expansion of the main grid; development of isolated and mini-grid systems; and renewable energy power generation and to set up and administer the Rural Electrification Fund (REF) for the purpose of promoting, supporting and providing rural electrifica­tion programs through public and private sector participation.”

“REA will continue to uphold its man­date to ensure the facilitation of entry of new market participants and con­tinued development of local rural elec­trification ventures whose activities may include production, installation, operation, maintenance, and sales/distribution of equipment, systems and services related to power supply in rural communities.

“REA will continue to work with Power for All in 2017 and beyond to mobilize civil society organizations and faith-based groups, to help create trust in distributed renewable energy technology, raise awareness and strengthen demand, so that companies can more easily extend their value chains into rural areas.

“REA recognizes the newly-formed Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria (REAN) as a representative of the DRE private sector, and will open discussions around developing a joint Memorandum of Understanding with them, so that REA and REAN can form a Public-Private Partnership to accelerate DRE market growth in 2017.

“REA recognizes the need for cheaper, cleaner and sustainable modes of electricity access and considers DRE as a quick way to ensure rural access and utilizing the platform of the Rural Electrification Micro-Consumer Credit Scheme will promote cost effective community based financing for rural and last mile communities across Nigeria.

“REA is glad to support initiatives to drive rural electricity access and welcomes all market development initiatives and awareness programs in this regard and will continue, in accordance with our mandate, to ensure service delivery to rural commu­nities across Nigeria.”