Kogi State offers one of the most promising economic corridors in sub-Saharan Africa. It is strategically located in central Nigeria, and provides a confluence of both human resources and economic opportunities spanning sectors such as agriculture, minerals, steel, oil and gas, marine transport and tourism. However, like other parts of Africa and Nigeria, access to electricity, which is an underlying factor, critical to the economic development of any society, is elusive in most parts of Kogi, especially the Kogi East Senatorial district.
This is why, the recent efforts by Governor Yahaya Bello to provide succour to rural Kogites in affected parts of Kogi East, home of the great and indefatigable Igala people, via the ‘light-up Kogi East Project’, is laudable. The programme, which was flagged off in June 2020, promises to upgrade critical electricity distribution infrastructure, to enable and enhance power evacuation from Itobe substation in Ajaokuta to most parts of Kogi East. This will increase the load capacity of evacuated power from 14.5 MW to circa 45 MW, thereby providing sustainable electricity to 24 communities spread across nine Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Kogi East.
Kogi East is home to many economically viable mineral deposits, waiting for commercial exploration. There is no doubt that electrifying the region, among other factors, will attract mining investments to the district. The benefits of such potential investment on the host communities in job creation and revenue contributions to the financial purse of Kogi State through internally generated revenue (IGR) can only be imagined. It is even more strategic to look inwards for revenue generation in this era of dwindling allocation from the federation account.
It is common knowledge that graduates and young people imbued with vocational and artisanal skills hardly stay in rural communities where there is no electricity and other basic social amenities of life. They tend to move to cities where some of the aforementioned facilities are in search of greener pastures which often times leads to urban congestion with its own attendant problems.
Electrifying such rural communities will no doubt keep the youths back home which in the long run will help in the development of the areas and also cut down the problems associated with urban congestion in the cities. Only a strategic and far-sighted leader like Governor Bello can think in this new direction: solving an inherent problem on one hand while also trying to prepare a better tomorrow for Kogites through his interventions today.
Aside the aforesaid, it’s a given that Kogites in diaspora who are business-inclined will readily want to invest in their communities when there is regular and adequate electricity, among other vital considerations. In that wise, capital flight will be halted, there will be job opportunities for the teeming youths who are qualified in addition to expanding the profile and economic potential of the state. This is one of the latent benefits of the Governor Bello-led rural electrification in Kogi East.
I am particularly excited about this great initiative of Governor Bello because it complements numerous rural electrification efforts of President Buhari’s Government through the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), across Nigeria generally, and in Kogi state specifically. Given the structure of the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI), where power generation and distribution are privatized; and Transmission and Rural Electrification are still under government purview, the Rural Electrification Agency invests billions of naira annually to strengthen and extend the electricity distribution grid, build substations, install transformers, provide Solar Hybrid Minigrids (isolated and interconnected) to rural communities, provide Solar Home Systems to rural households, Solar Street Lights, provide access to electricity to Universities, Hospitals, Markets and Economic clusters.
Further, given that ‘provision of electricity’ is still under the Concurrent Legislative List of Nigeria’s constitution, which allows both Federal and State governments to regulate and invest in electricity, our roles are therefore critical in creating the requisite enabling environment and funds necessary to attract private sector investments into the space. Governor Yahaya Bello understands and recognizes this role as a leader, especially in realizing the socio-economic potentials of his state and improving livelihoods of his people, which is why he initiated this massive multi-billion-naira rural electrification of Kogi East Senatorial District.
The governor also understands his role as a facilitator of opportunities and investments in the power sector from both Federal Government, Private Sector and Development Finance Institutions. He has demonstrated this over time, and I was especially impressed by his doggedness and commitment to see that programmes of my agency (REA) in his state enjoy full state government support from start to completion.
Two key examples stand-out: Firstly, is the Upake 100kWp Solar Hybrid Minigrid commissioned in 2019 in Ajaokuta, where the governor mobilized his state ministry of works to provide access roads leading to this extremely remote Upake village (the ancestral home of the Ebiras) 30 km away from the highway, and got a retinue of State government officials led by the Secretary to the State Government to represent the State during the commissioning.
Second worthy case, is his intervention and directive to provide all land title documents and expedition of payments of compensation at the Federal University of Lokoja permanent site, which the REA is providing 24 hours Solar Hybrid Minigrid for under the Nigerian Electrification Programme, funded by the African Development Bank. It is our hope that all things equal, all encumbrances on this land are sorted soon, so that we can commence implementation, and the Governor commissions this project in no distant time.
Lokoja is also host to our North Central Zonal office, which has enjoyed state government collaboration in implementing our various projects and programmes seamlessly.
In the spirit of the aforementioned, my pledge to the Governor is to continue to work with serious-minded states and Governors like Kogi and Governor Bello, to facilitate investments and rural electrification projects into the state, to justify our partnership and mutual objectives of universal access to electricity by 2030, in line with the sustainable energy for all goal 7 – affordable and clean energy.
Let me commend the relentless vigor and push of the governor especially in regard to ongoing talks with the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) and Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC), so that planned Transmission Substations in Kogi East and Kogi West are built, as well as the Substation in Kabba Junction of Kogi Central, strengthened. This will free up load from Substations in Kogi Central and increase evacuation capacities of Kogi East and Kogi West, thereby incentivizing requisite private investments in power generation in the two senatorial zones, and complementing the efforts of the Governor in lighting up Kogi, and opening up the state for industrial revolution and economic development.
Hopefully, with all the efforts of both state and federal governments, especially with this light up Kogi initiative and the Siemens deal with Germany, complementing programmes of the REA, universal access to electricity will be one of the enduring legacies of the All Progressive Congress (APC), ably led by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Federal level and Governor Yahaya Bello at state level, long after they must have exited Government, as No tribe of human beings will ever forget a leader who gave them light when they needed it most!
Dr. Sanusi Ohiare has a PhD in Rural Energy Development, and is the Executive Director, Rural Electrification Fund, Rural Electrification Agency, Nigeria. He writes from Abuja.