After years of battling darkness, Upake community, the ancestral home of Ebiraland in Ajaokuta Local Government Area of Kogi State, has finally lit up. The community is a beneficiary of the over N200 million 80KWp solar hybrid mini-grid power project provided by the Federal Government through the Nigerian Rural Electrification Agency (REA).
The community and its environs which now enjoy 24-hours uninterrupted power supply had groped in total darkness for over two centuries, Daily Trust on Sunday gathered.
Natives of the community could not hide their joy as they trooped out in numbers to celebrate when the federal government commissioned the solar hybrid mini grid power plant.
Community heads, elders, youths, women, children and the neighbouring Obangede, masquerades and cultural troupes were on ground to celebrate during the commissioning ceremony.
Commissioning the project at Upake community, the Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan, represented by Senator Yakubu Oseni, representing Kogi Central Senatorial district, said the multi-million 80KWp Solar Hybrid Mini-Grid was initiated in 2018 and was completed within the shortest possible time.
The Senate President said the Mini-Grid will provide 24 hours uninterrupted power supply to 2,976 people and 38 business outfits in the communities, assuring that the effort would improve the socio-economic development of Upake people.
“Electricity is an essential amenity and with the installation of this solar hybrid mini grid, I can see the positive changes that will happen in the lives of all the indigenes of Upake.
“Our women will be able to process their cassava in a more efficient and productive manner while our fishermen can preserve their fish now that they have reliable electricity.
He said he believed the transformation of a state must begin at the grassroots level and also explained that no other initiative can greatly impact lives in communities than the provision of stable power supply.
The Senate President pleaded for similar projects to be executed in other communities in the district and the state in general. He also appealed to the people of Upake community to take full responsibility of the project in terms of guarding it against vandalization.
He charged the community to seize the present opportunity to change their lives by serving their community and also protecting the just commissioned project as their own. He assured the community that the developers would train the youths on how to care and maintain the solar panels.
In her remarks, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Rural Electrification Agency, Mrs Damilola Ogunbiyi, reiterated the commitment of the Buhari-led administration in fulfilling its mandate to ensure that all Nigerians access electricity.
She stated that the commissioning was a landmark and significant achievement as Upake community was one of the 12 communities to benefit from the first set of grants under the Rural Electrification Fund, which is a Rural Electrification Agency (REA) initiative.
Ogunbiyi affirmed that more families and businesses in Upake, will have access to clean, sustainable and reliable electricity, stating that the commissioned project would enhance productivity and provide jobs in the community.
She was hopeful that the jobs created will impact not just the immediate community, but Kogi State in general.”
Speaking further, Ogunbiyi praised the women of Upake community, who she noted have used their cassava processing skills to sustain their homes. She was hopeful that the project will expose the community to greater investments in the future.
Ogunbiyi expressed gratitude to the Federal Government and also thanked the state governor for his support towards the success of the project. She appealed to Upake community to protect the project, saying in the next 12 months the agency would visit the community to assess its level of utilization.
In his address read by the SSG, Mrs. Ayoade Folashade, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State expressed his delight at the federal government’s initiative of electrifying unserved communities across the country, including Kogi.
While expressing delight at the commissioning of the project, he said the use of clean energy technologies in the quest to provide electricity is an added advantage to rural communities, whom 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 said.
Bello also stressed that an electrified community and state means investment opportunities for the private sector.
Earlier, the Ananyiwa of Upake, Ibrahim Okenyi Eneye, said the community, though served as the ancestral home to Ebira people, lacks basic social amenities such as road, electricity and pipe borne water.
“With this project, Upake will in no distant time become a hub for business and social activities”, he said.
Commending the federal government and REA’s initiative of lighting unserved communities, 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.
Also speaking, the Executive Director of the Rural Electrification Fund, Dr. Sanusi Ohiare, appreciated the federal government, the developer, the Board and Management of REA and the Upake community for their support throughout the course of project.
Expressing his delight, an indigene of the community, Isa Danlami Abdullahi said “Government has just brought a new moon into this community. This is the first time we would be experiencing electricity. We are very happy that we are feeling the dividends of democracy through this rural electrification initiative”.
Another indigene of Upake, Haruna Bashiru, said he was a toddler when the community started pushing for electricity over 25 years ago, adding that it was a thing of joy that the Buhari-led government has made it a reality.
“We now use light free. This is a fishing community and with this light, our women can preserve their fish. Our women are using oven now to smoke their fish and freezer to preserve their fish. This will have a great impact on our economy,” he said.