Nigeria is reportedly the largest population on the African continent and unarguably the most populous country in Africa, with an estimated population of 206 million, boosting of over 500 indigenous languages which are spoken throughout the country with more than 250 ethnic groups.
Overall, the standard of living is low and particularly, the poorest Nigerians are left vulnerable, as they are denied basic necessities such as healthcare, food and shelter. This situation was further exacerbated in the rural areas due to complete lack of access to electricity from the national grid or where there is access, grossly inadequate.
Development indicators from the World Bank showed that as at 2020, over 76 per cent of people living in rural communities in Nigeria, have no access to electricity.
But the scenario is fast changing with the development of the federal government’s Rural Electrification Policy (REP), which is being implemented by the Rural Electrification Agency, (REA). Strategic interventions has been initiated and dutifully promoting programmatic approach to deliver capital projects along community levels.
The deployment of Solar Mini-Grids (High-Capacity Productive Use), Solar Water Pumps (Irrigation Schemes) and Solar Home Systems (Low-Capacity Productive Use) across the six geopolitical zones in the country, is spreading economic activities among communities today.
A report released on these interventions showcased and discussed the baseline indicators, impact assessment, gender considerations, as well as the beneficiaries‘ and stakeholders‘ feedback from the three programmes.
Between 2020 and 2022, Nigeria spent about N45.89 billion in providing electricity for rural communities. According to reports shared by the REA, the move has led to the implementation of over 2,000 electrification projects, impacting the lives of an estimated 5,000,000 Nigerians across the country; the total installed capacity, under the capital projects, is estimated at over 600 MW – equivalent to over 1,000,000 connections.
In 2022, a pragmatic strategy was reportedly adopted through the Projects Department, under the Technical Services Directorate of the agency leading to the powering of six communities with a 100-kW solar mini-grid system.
With the move, over 8,155 lives and 5,000 active farmers were impacted with power supply and clean affordable water, translating to direct and indirect jobs, improved security, increased productivity, improved healthcare, as well as the decommissioning of over 40 diesel and petrol generating sets. Based on the current and future estimations, the reductions in carbon emissions were also encouraging.
Also, 1,392 irrigation solar pumps were distributed across the six geopolitical zones, reaching 1,300 male and 92 female beneficiaries, as well as about 200 farm clusters. A document shared by the agency also showed that the distributed facilities touched over 11,000 lives and 6,000 farmers (including about 810 female farmers)
Commenting on these projects, managing director/chief executive officer, REA Engr Ahmad Salihijo Ahmad said, “Energy is central to socioeconomic growth. At the REA, we are continuously making data-driven decisions targeted at deploying sustainable solutions to energy access problems. Beyond keeping the lights on, we are deploying off-grid solutions to catalyse productive use and strengthen social and economic systems in off-grid communities. Adopting a programmatic approach in the delivery of Capital Projects is one of such deliberate intervention and we already see how this approach ties into the federal government’s national development objectives. Projects being deployed through this Framework are already impacting communities, agricultural clusters, hospitals, and most importantly, homes across the nation”
This impact has translated to the illumination of over 170 farms with Solar Street Lights (SSLs), the training of over 3,000 farmers on pump maintenance and new irrigation practices, and more importantly, costs (maintenance, fuel, etc.) savings. For the latter, the replacement of diesel-powered pumps with solar-powered pumps is expected to increase average revenues by N150,000 – N300,000.
During the year, 2,046 Solar Home Systems (SHS) were deployed across the six geopolitical zones, reaching and connecting 1,972 homes, five primary healthcare centres, 10 schools, 22 religious centres and 7 offices. With this, over 10,000 lives and 5,000 students were, according to the report, directly impacted by uninterrupted electricity, translating to over 350 direct and indirect jobs, improved healthcare, as well as improved trading and domestic activities among the women.
However, achieving its mandate has been hampered by several factors, including interdictions and a lack of strategic direction for the first ten years of its existence.
Undaunted by its quest to impact livelihoods in rural communities, the current leadership of the agency has embarked on key strategic interventions which includes building and strengthening capacity to successfully facilitate rural electrification projects and to put the Agency on track to meet realistic targets in rural electrification.
The Management has also tried to review and align the Agency‘s vision, mission and mandate accordingly with current policy statements – the Rural Electrification Policy (REP), Rural Electrification Strategy and Implementation Plan (RESIP), Energy Transition Plan (ETP), etc.
It has also developed robust Standard Operating Procedures, as well as a Performance Measurement, Monitoring and Evaluation Framework
Aligning Interventions with federal government Initiatives. The REA has not lost sight of keying into federal government‘s plans to improve access to electricity in rural areas, while also stimulating growth and development.
It is no record that the new REA Board and Management inaugurated in 2017, has been working assiduously to reset of the Agency. However, rural electrification targets remained unmet due to prevailing institutional and sectoral challenges.
Since 2020, the executive management and Board have ensured that efforts to successfully deliver electrification projects are properly aligned to improve livelihoods in rural communities in a sustainable and impactful manner.
These efforts have translated to electrification programmes through its Nigeria Electrification Project, Energizing Education Programme (EEP), Rural Electrification Fund (REF), Energizing Economies Initiative (EEI), Solar Power Naija (SPN), and many other programmes, with a specific focus on energy resources that supports the energy transition policy.
Despite notable challenges, it is on record that REA‘s strategic interventions for the year 2022, notably the Agency‘s implementation of a programmatic approach to deliver capital projects has positively impacted development of rural communities across the regions.
These include the deployment of Solar Mini-Grids (High-Capacity Productive Use), Solar Water Pumps (Irrigation Schemes) and Solar Home Systems (Low-Capacity Productive Use) across the six geopolitical zones in the country.
A pathway to sustainability for the 2022 pilot programmes and an emphasis on the forthcoming programmatic budgeting exercise for the year 2023 were also included in the report.
Before the strategic interventions, some of the baseline conditions and challenges of the beneficiaries included access to electricity and water, petrol consumption patterns, security conditions, employment conditions, gender inclusivity and major crops produced.
After the interventions, an assessment exercise conducted to determine the social, environmental, and economic impact on the livelihoods in the beneficiary communities disclosed positive impacts as the exercise relied on primary data collection using questionnaire-based surveys. A methodology also adopted the SEforALL mini-grid emissions to estimate the carbon emissions and reductions.
The Agency also intends to leverage on its Rural Electricity Users Cooperative Societies (REUCS) initiative to engage and sensitise the beneficiary communities, and also, facilitate long-term community ownership.
Executive director, Technical Services, Nigeria Rural Electrification Agency Engr. Barka Sajou said, “The Technical Services Directorate is leading the paradigm shift within the Agency in the delivery of its projects. Capital projects funded through the public budget are deployed in a sustainable manner to de-risk various business models, catalyze private sector capital and make developmental goals achievable.”
The Agency‘s implementation of a programmatic approach to deliver capital projects was a success.
The electrification programmes were widely accepted in the beneficiary communities, while beneficiaries consisting of mainly farmers, households, women and youths have been deeply impacted from a social, environmental, and economic standpoint.
Sequel to the approval and inclusion in the year 2022 budget, the Agency intends to implement the framework to improve livelihoods, specifically in rural communities, through programmes targeted at providing electricity for productive use in healthcare centres, markets, schools, agriculture, etc.
The framework, underpinned by the MoU between both parties, is expected to be implemented in a sustainable and impactful manner, while also addressing one of the Agency‘s strategic objectives – to promote electricity consumption for “productive use in the country.