The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, on Tuesday, said that the tertiary qualifications obtained by board members of the Rural Electrification Agency were meaningless if millions of Nigerians continue to lack access to electricity.
Fashola made this known while inaugurating a new board for the REA at the headquarters of the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing in Abuja.
He stated that millions of rural dwellers, as well as some others in urban centres still do not have access to electricity, adding that the responsibility of the newly inaugurated board was to ensure that most of these people get power in the shortest possible time.
His words: “I think it is important to know why we are here so that we start with the common understanding of what our objective is, you know what is expected of you and understand the necessity to succeed.
“Very clearly from the citations that we have listened to, Mr. President has picked from Nigeria those who are solely trained in Nigeria, for I heard Ahmadu Bello University, Nekede (polytechnic), as well as those from Doha and the United Kingdom.
“So clearly, the qualifications that you have are not in doubt, but those qualifications mean nothing if people do not have access to electricity across the country. Your qualifications, experience and achievements mean nothing if this team does not deliver electricity to the people who are in their many millions and are yet to be connected to grid.”
The minister told the REA board that they should ensure that millions of rural communities get electricity, either by connecting them to the national power grid or by providing them with off-grid power.
“When I meet with legislators they tell me they have communities that have never been connected to the grid and as I go round the country I’ve seen proof of that. So I know the kind of responsibility that you bear,” Fashola said.
He, however, promised the team that his ministry would continue to provide the REA with the required support, adding that the budgetary assistance needed to meet the rural electrification needs of Nigerian communities shall be provided.
“We will breakdown barriers for you, but really and truly it is you who will do much of the work,” the minister said.
Speaking with journalists after the board was inaugurated, the agency’s Managing Director, Mrs. Damilola Ogunbiyi, said by next week the new REA board will identify all the ongoing projects being undertaken by the agency, adding that it will also focus on completing selected new projects.
Ogunbiyi said, “What we are going to do from next week is to have the whole project team, led by the executive director technical, to go out and identify the status of all these projects and come up with the proper master plan of how we are to tackle existing projects while also focusing on the new projects that were mentioned by the minister, the university projects, hydro projects and small scale solar projects.
“So we really see ourselves as an access agency to get power to people who don’t have it regardless of where they are whether in the rural or urban centres. And we are going to do it using a whole different variety of renewable energy technology and some off-grid solutions as well.”