The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Power, Mr. Louis Edozien, wednesday disclosed that the federal government would kick-start Nigeria’s Rural Electrification Fund (REF) with N2billion which it has provided for in the 2017 budget.
Edozien also gave reasons why the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) which is charged with the task of expanding access to electricity in Nigeria, has several uncompleted rural electrification projects in its kitty.
He said these in Abuja when the government, civil society organisations and private sector investors in renewable energy made far-reaching commitments to undertake activities that would accelerate the growth of the distributed renewable energy (DRE) market as a means to reaching Nigeria’s population currently without electricity.
The ‘call to action’ was galvanised by the global Power for All, a network of operators and parties advocating for the use of renewable energy to reach Nigerians that are currently not connected to the national grid.
Edozien said in his remarks that the government has planned to kick-start the REF with N2billion in the 2017 budget, to enable private investors with viable off grid renewable electricity projects in rural communities across the country access to finance.
He noted that the 2017 budget was still with the National Assembly, but that it is hoped the N2 billion REF provision would be accommodated eventually.
The permanent secretary also said that constant imposition of rural electrification projects by members of the National Assembly has left the REA with over 2,000 uncompleted power projects.
According to him, the 2,000 unfinished projects were carried over from over six years.
He added that legislators would constantly insist on having projects in their constituencies included in the budget of the REA, thus populating the agency’s annual work schedule with projects that are not viable.
“In terms of project selection and with specific reference to REA, REA has close to 2,000 projects going back five to six years. Their work is challenged by the way the budgets for an agency like REA are assessed and eventually determined.
“We live in a democratic society and it is the prerogative of the legislature to appropriate the budget the executive implements as a law.
“In exercising that prerogative, it is fully within their rights to determine that their constituents would like certain projects done and that is partly the reason why REA has 2,000 projects because year on year new projects are requested and these are fully in line with the prerogative of the legislature and if those projects are not funded in subsequent budget years, you have the situation we have,” said Edozien.
He further stated: “This is where the REF comes in, it is a mechanism that allows a community or project promoter to articulate a project with definite beneficiaries and gives REA a framework to support this without being the executor.
“The executive put a line item of N2 billion in the REF in the 2017 budget and if that becomes part of the budget, then it becomes the duty of the executive to implement and we wait to see the outcome of the legislative action on this.”
On the government’s commitment to scaling the DRE market in Nigeria, Edozien said the government was looking to the private sector to lead and drive the sector’s growth in the country. He added that a lot of policies to help achieve this have been enacted by the government.
Also speaking, the Country Campaign Director of Power for All, Ify Malo stated that the ‘call to action’ in which stakeholders made declarations of their plans for the DRE sector, would be used to measure the progresses made in the sector going forward.