I have just read my brother, Segun Odidi ‘s legitimate complaints about the vexed issue of electricity in Ondo South. Odidi’s complaint is what is expected of any good patriotic mind that prioritizes the quality of life and the well-being of its people.
That said, it is imperative that I provide information on the sterling efforts of the Akeredolu’s administration on the difficult matter of resolving the more than 10 year old electricity blackout in the Southern senatorial District of Ondo State.
First, let me commend Odidi over his open acknowledgement of the limitations of a state government in the matter of electricity in Nigeria especially in view of the extant operational reality of the power sector – as it is unquestionably operated exclusively by the first tier of government.
The framers of the Nigerian constitution, like many before them who believed in a powerful centre, saw another opportunity for sectoral control, exclusivity and sector domination. This guided their framing of Sections 13, 14 and 15 under Part II (second schedule) of the Nigerian Constitution.
In spite of state’s limitations however, Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu SAN led a two-way effort to mitigate the challenge. The first is by leveraging goodwill in Abuja to facilitate federal government”s intervention in grid-tied energy solutions and the reactivation of abandoned power projects such as the Okitipupa Transmission Line from Omotosho IPP etc. The state government also engages regularly with the local distribution company appointed by the federal government for our territory in Ondo State (kindly note that we have no control over the activities of the company and neither was the government party to its selection or emergence).
The second is a direct state government intervention within the limitations imposed by Sections 13, 14 and 15 (earlier referenced) through the provision of quick win renewable energy blankets for all houses in rural communities that include Aboto and Ebute Ipare in Ilaje Local Government Area (LGA) as well as two third of houses in Igbobini town in Eseodo LGA. The state government with the support of its partners further built a mini-grid solar powered generating plant in Gbagira town to serve over 750 houses with uninterrupted electricity thereby giving that community its first taste of electricity since Nigeria’s amalgamation in 1914. Also, the Ondo State government has completed the mini grid system for Ugbonla, effectively the largest business hub for the Ilaje nation after Igbokoda.
As at today, we can comfortably boast that more than 3,600 households in the above listed communities are beneficiaries of the state government sponsored energy projects – within the limitations imposed by the inhibitive unitary operation of the Nigerian power sector.
Yet, the biggest of our electricity intervention is still to be deployed. Earlier, Governor Akeredolu has approved a cluster intervention in off-grid locations in Igbokoda (the largest load centre in Ilaje) and parts of Okitipupa (the largest load centre in the entire Ondo South) with a privately funded 4.5mw (scalable to 16mw with projected increase in demand) Okitipupa power plant to be located in OAUSTEC as OSUSTEC IPP. When completed, the entire university community in Okitipupa, parts of Okitipupa and adjoining small communities and parts of Igbokoda shall never experience black out again. I can authoritatively inform the people of Ondo South that this project is currently at financial closure.
Please note that I am not claiming that the state government has solved all the problems or that we have fixed the issues. No. The essence of my response is to let the great people of Ondo South know what their state government has done so far and what it is still doing. At the risk of being accused of comparing efforts, it is safe to assert (even at this stage) that the practical things this government has done, especially the completed and commissioned ones – traversing Gbagira, Igbobini, Aboto, Ebute Ipare and Ugbonla – have never been done by any previous government in the history of this state.
For those conversant with power sector funding, these investments cost billions. They do not come cheap and they are being financed by our private power service providers.
Apart from wilful politicking, blaming a state government for electricity blackout in any part of Nigeria under the current national electricity engagement strategy is wilful ignorance. It is like blaming a governor for poor performance of the army or the navy or the police because he bears the title of a chief security officer.
Until our nation does what has been done in Canada, UK and the US where provincial governments have commensurate authorities backed by resources over the electric power needs of their people, state governments will continue to struggle and be powerless and be wrongly blamed as well as ultimately compelled to recourse to time-consuming laborious workaround such as Ondo State is currently doing.
A good example is our experience with the national Rural Electrification Agency (REA). In 2017, my office (having realized the fatal weakness of the national grid, frantically put up a formal strong case for REA to intervene in 30 selected rural communities in Ondo State using off-grid solutions. The agency concurred in principle. Between that time and now, the state government has built two such power plants (through investor financed model due to limited funds). The state has equally completed three other similar interventions. REA however is still struggling with its internal processes and perhaps a litany of national encumbrances despite access to humongous amount of financial resources! I have no iota of doubt that 36 very good and patriotic heads across 36 states with access to the same quantum of financial resources (per state) as the REA would produce better and faster results than one very good and patriotic head in the REA in Abuja.
So whilst appreciating Odidi for his legitimate concerns over this lingering problem in Ondo South, the aforementioned are a few of the efforts of your state government over the matter and we are not resting on our oars.
Engr. Tunji Light Ariyomo, FNSE
Special Adviser to the Governor of Ondo State on Energy
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