New power plant breathes life into Kogi community

Ademola Aderemi

It was an emotional moment for residents of Upake, a community in Ajaokuta Local Government Area of Kogi State recently. 

On Monday August 19, many residents wept uncontrollably, as electric power was switched on in the community for the first time ever.

On that day, the Rural Electrification Agency, a Federal Government initiative, commissioned an 80 kilowatts solar hybrid mini grid power plant in the town, bringing untold joy to the people.

Upake is the ancestral home of the Ebira, one of the largest ethnic groups in the state.

It was one significant moment for the people of the community, which, it was gathered, has been in existence for three centuries. They trooped out in their numbers to witness the historic occasion.

A resident, Isa Danlami Abdullahi, said his joy was unquantifiable. “The government just brought a new moon into this community. We are enjoying it and we are grateful to the Federal Government. This is the very first time we would be experiencing electricity in this area. We are very happy that we are feeling the dividends of democracy through this rural electrification initiative.”

Haruna Bashiru said the provision of electricity had closed a sad chapter in the chronicles of the community. Said he: “I was a toddler when we started pushing for electricity over 25 years ago, and in 2019, the Buhari administration gave us our right. We now use light free.

This is a fishing community. With this light, our women can preserve their fish.”

Another resident, Monday Muslimat also praised the Rural electrification Agency, even as she commended the people of the town for their patience and perseverance.

“Since I was born, this is the first time I would be seeing electricity in this community. It is amazing. Everybody is happy. We thank the Federal Government for giving us this life-changing experience by brightening up our community with this solar system,” she said.

Besides the residents, several dignitaries also graced the event. They include the managing director of the REA, Mrs. Damilola Ogunbiyi; the lawmaker representing Ajaokuta Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Mr. Idris Lawal; Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Power, Aliyu Magaji; Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Dr. (Mrs.) Folashade Ayoade, (who stood in for the governor); Senator representing Kogi Central, Yakubu Oseni, Executive Director, Rural Electrification Fund, Dr. Sanusi Ohiare; Administrator of Ajaokuta Local Government, Prince Akaba, Ananyiwa of Upake,  Ibrahim Okenyi Eneye, CEO,  New Moon, Nigeria Limited, Oluseyi Omotosho, and others.

Governor Yahaya Bello expressed delight that the Federal Government was committed to providing clean and reliable power supply to even remote communities all over the country, adding that he was particularly thrilled that a community in his state was one of the early beneficiaries.

“It is with great pride that Kogi State has collaborated with the Federal Government through the Rural Electrification Agency and the private sector to implement this impressive project that will ensure clean, safe and reliable electricity for the entire Upake community and its neighbouring community – Obangede.

“The use of clean energy technologies in the quest to provide electricity is an added advantage to rural communities, who have been accustomed to using generators, candles, kerosene lamps and other unsafe energy sources over time. With clean energy sources, such as this solar mini grid, the health and environmental wellbeing of our people will be safeguarded.”

The governor expressed joy that beyond providing clean energy, the new power plant had the potential to provide employment opportunities for the people as well as help them grow their businesses.”

Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Rural Electrification Agency, Mrs Damilola Ogunbiyi said the Muhammadu Buhari administration was totally committed to ensuring that electricity access was made available and accessible to Nigerians. With the unveiling of the solar hybrid power plant, she noted, more families and businesses in Upake would have access to clean, sustainable and reliable electricity from the sun.

“Without doubt, the solar hybrid power project being commissioned today would enhance productivity and provide jobs in Upake. It would benefit the 2, 976 members of Upake community, as families and businesses in Upake will have access to clean, sustainable and reliable electricity from the sun.”

She recalled that as many as 32 jobs were created in the course of the project, among who were project managers, electricians, welders and bricklayers. “We are hopeful that the jobs created will impact not just the immediate community, but Kogi State in general,” she stated.

The REA CEO praised the people of the community, especially the women who she claimed had used their cassava processing skill to sustain their homes. She said the electrification project would have a positive impact on the people and would improve the quality of lives.

“It is hoped that this project will expose the community to greater investments in the future,” she stated.

She expressed gratitude to President Buhari for giving the needed cooperation to the REA to enable the agency to fulfil its mandate.

While thanking the state government and the people of Upake community, Ogunbiyi also praised New Moon Nigeria Limited, the firm that partnered with her agency on the project.

Ohinoyi of Ebira Land, Alhaji Ado Ibrahim, who was represented at the event,  described electric power as a vehicle of necessity that drives the economy.

His words: “For any community to progress, basic amenities need to be accessible. Electricity is a necessity that has a ripple effect on other human needs. With this solar plant facility, there will be a significant improvement in the quality of life for Upake indigenes and even the environment. It is evident that the Federal Government is working hard to ensure that basic needs of Nigerians are met. Small communities like Upake are not left out of the government’s developmental plans. As we can see, the Rural Electrification Agency is working hard to provide electricity to the often-forgotten rural communities. It is an honour that one of the communities in Ebiraland was considered viable for this laudable Federal Government initiative.”

The Ananyiwa of Upake, Ibrahim Okenyi Eneye, also expressed gratitude to the REA. “I stand here representing the people of our dear community. Just as you assured us of the plans to complete this project from the first day you visited us, I want to assure you that we will work with the developer to make sure that no harm will come to this project. It is our mini grid and we will protect it as our property,” said the community head.

Senator Yakubu Oseni, who represents Kogi Central in the National Assembly, said members of his constituency would remain grateful to the Federal Government and its implementing agency for the success of the project. He also listed some of the benefits that the project would bring to the people.

“Our women will be able to process their cassava in a less stressful manner and our fishermen can preserve their products now that there is reliable electricity. I believe that the quality of lives in Upake community will improve because of this project. I look forward to seeing similar projects being installed in other communities under my leadership,” he said.

Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Power, Aliyu Magaji said: “Oftentimes, the focus is on densely populated areas and on-grid electricity. We are all here today to categorically state that every corner of rural Nigeria must be energized. That is why this commissioning is of great importance. The people of Upake community are indeed blessed to be recipients of this life-changing project. The power sector is critical to every aspect of Nigeria’s economy. With electricity in our big cities or small rural communities, Nigeria can attain its full developmental capacity. Therefore, reliable electricity is a necessity for all Nigerians.”

Executive Director of the Rural Electrification Fund, Dr. Sanusi Ohiare, praised the Federal Government and the management of the REA for ensuring the completion of the power project. He was particularly appreciative of the REA managing director, Mrs. Ogunbiyi, describing her as a true leader with broad shoulders that can be relied upon.

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