- OAU to save N65m on electricity monthly
- Minister: We’ll make varsities centres of self-reliance
A revolution that will end the age-long problem of erratic power supply to institutions, enhance research and academic development, as well as save the ivory towers several millions of naira being spent on purchase of diesel and electricity bills monthly is unfolding in the Nigerian universities
he renewed efforts by the Federal Government to make universities self-sustenance in power generation and re-channel the several millions of naira being spent yearly by the institutions on diesel and electricity bills on meaningful development of the system is receiving a boost.
This is as the government has intensified energy towards ensuring that the first phase of the power plant project embarked upon in the eight pilot universities since 2017, which is being undertaken by the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) takes off in the next few months.
When completed, apart from saving the universities the burden of spending huge resources on electricity bills and generators, it will raise the bar of research profile which has been on sloppy drive, thereby boosting the nation’s industrialization and technological advancement.
The Federal Government had in 2017, under its Energising Education Programme (EEP) marked out eight federal universities for power plants development to fast-track the supply of uninterrupted electricity to the campuses, and to exit the institutions from the National Grid.
The eight federal universities and one Teaching Hospital benefiting from the pilot phase of the project are the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi; Bayero University, Kano; Usman Danfodiyo University, Sokoto; Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi; Nnamdi Azikwe University, Awka; University of Lagos, Akoka; Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun; Obafemi Awolowo University, and Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital, Ile Ife, respectively.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the project was signed in 2017 between the universities and the Rural Electrification Agency.
The first phase of the project in the nine institutions was expected to have been completed in 2018 with the target to provide unfettered access to uninterrupted power supply to over 300,000 students, staff and members of the university communities.
Under the power plant project, about 10.5MW out of a total of 26.56MW to be generated from seven of the nine plants will be powered by solar energy in line with the Federal Government’s Energy-Mix Policy.
The project, New Telegraph further learnt is also aimed at providing uninterrupted power supply for 37 federal universities and seven Teaching Hospitals across the country through the utilisation of Off-grid Captive Power Plants, designed to resolve power challenges confronting institutions of higher learning in which several millions of naira is being spent daily on purchase of diesel and payment of electricity bills.
Apart from the fact that the project will also add value to staff and students’ performance and productivity index of the system, part of the objectives is that through the programme street lighting will also be installed to enhance adequate security measures on campuses, develop and operate training centres for the training of students on renewable energy and by extension eventually improve quality of life and economic opportunities in the universities’ surrounding rural and host communities.
Determined to ensure timely completion and delivery of the power plant project, the Minister of State for Power, Prince Goddy Agba, last week was at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) on a working visit to inspect the level of work on the 8.05 Megawatts Federal Government power project.
The Minister, who was accompanied on the inspection tour of the electricity facilities by the Pro-Chancellor/Chairman of Governing Council, Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi and the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Eyitope Ogunbodede, however, assured the authorities of the ivory tower that the project would soon be completed and commissioned for use.
According to the Minister, the project was initiated by the Federal Government under its Energizing Education Programme in collaboration with other agencies, including the Rural Electrification Agency (REA).
“The institution will no longer experience national grid challenges. Since education is the bedrock of a developed country, we have no choice than to give our best. The project will generate 8.05 Megawatts of electricity, which will be more than enough for the entire university community at this present time,” Agba said.
The project, the Minister added, would cover federal universities in the six geo-political zones of the federation, noting: “Universities are centres of development for any nation which has interest to enhance the quality of its socio-economic environment and growth. I want to assure you that the present administration is committed to making Nigerian universities centres of excellence, not only in academic issues, but also in research and innovations.”
Meanwhile, when completed, the project has the capacity to save the authorities of Obafemi Awolowo University about N65 million that is currently being spent monthly on electricity bills and purchase of diesel.
On the challenge of electricity supply to the campus, the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Prof. Eyitope Ogunbodede, said: “One of the key challenges we have at the university is the unstable supply of power. In fact, it is so erratic that we cannot plan any meaningful research.”
He further added: “Luckily now, we are working with Rural Electrification Agency to provide for us a gas-powered turbine that will generate 8.03 Megawatts of electricity. What we consume daily as a university at present is between five and six Megawatts. And, with the 8.03 Megawatts, the university will be well comfortable. This project started in 2017 and the completion period was initially two years.”
He, however, noted that given the current fast pace of the work, the project would be delivered soon with the university generating its own electricity and move from the national grid.
“Indeed, what that means is that we will be off the national grid. Presently, we are paying between N35 million and N65 million per month on electricity. By the time we start generating our own electricity, the money will be saved and used for more profitable ventures, especially research and academic development,” the Vice-Chancellor stressed.
Ogunbodede, who further explained that the inspiration behind the project was due to epileptic power supply being presently experienced in the institution, however, noted that the completion of the project would go a long way in alleviating the suffering of members of the university community.
The Vice-Chancellor hinted that the successful execution of the project would also improve the economic situation in the area and enhance the effective security of the university, adding that the power project had huge academic relevance as it would enrich the students’ knowledge and learning, particularly those studying Electrical Electronic Engineering with more unquantifiable practical knowledge.
“Again, part of gains of the project is that the university’s neighbouring communities would benefit from the excess energy that the turbine would generate. Apart supplying 24-hour power to the campus, the power plant project would also tremendously serve as a practical centre for students and as a means of cross fertilisation of ideas with other centres that are solar powered,” the Vice-Chancellor noted.
On his part, the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council of the university, Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi, however, said that the visit of the Minister to the university to inspect the ongoing project was not only memorable, but also served as a booster to the institution about the commitment of the Federal Government to the power plant project.
Ogunbiyi, therefore, argued that given the efforts of the Minister on the power project, the university community believed that things would work out very well for the institution on the project.
The Chairman of Council, who described the project as a laudable initiative which must not be allowed to waste away, therefore appealed to the Federal Government to expedite action on its timely competition.
Commenting further on the ongoing Obafemi Awolowo University project, the Minister also reiterated the commitment of the Federal Government towards ensuring the completion of the power plant, promising that the government would do all its best to speed up the completion of the project in no distance time.
The project, Agba restated, was dear to the heart of the Federal Government, saying “we have energised Kano, Abakaliki and we would also ensure the completion of the power plant project at OAU.”
The Minister added: “OAU is part of the six universities across the regions where the projected is piloted; the Bayero University, Kano and the Federal University, Abakaliki projects have been completed and the Federal Government can only proceed to other institutions once that of Obafemi Awolowo University, as well as other pilot institutions were completed and commissioned.”
“Universities are centres of development for any serious country. And, as such the commitment to developing projects, such as the power plant across all the pilot institutions, is not in doubt and that is why I am visiting the site to access the level of work done by the contractor and to allay the fears of the university authorities and students that the project might have been abandoned by the Federal Government.”
Agba, therefore, assured stakeholders that the current administration under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari would add more values to the educational sector and make Nigerian universities “Centres of Self-reliance” in research, innovation and academic drive.
Speaking on the project, a Part Five Law undergraduate of OAU, Jesutofunmi Adeyemo, applauded the project and commended the efforts of the Federal Government and that of the university management for their renewed vigour to power the university and permanently tackle the challenge of erratic power supply stagnating academic and research development in the ivory tower.
The student stated: “With the introduction of the electricity power plant that will be powered by a mix of generation sources from gas, wind and solar to hydropower and nuclear, it will work in tandem across many different energy markets towards the development of the institution.
Meanwhile, the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, once in his remarks, was said to have expressed gratitude over the initiative by the Federal Government, saying: “We must on behalf of NUC express our gratitude to REA, the President and the Minister of Power, Works and Housing for this initiative.”
Similarly, Vice-Chancellors of benefitting universities also expressed joy over the innovation and moves by the government to end many years of power problems in their campuses, even as they stressed that the universities would be placed again on the path of high academic performance and excellence.
While signing the MoU in 2017, the Head of Special Projects, REA, Mrs. Anita Otubu, was noted to have said that the Federal Government had resolved to ensure that federal universities and other institutions are at par or ahead of their other contemporaries across the world.
Otubu said: “The Federal Government is keen on ensuring that Nigerian universities are at par with their international counterparts, and recognises that access to power is an essential commodity to achieve this dream.”