IT IS interesting to observe that the federal government, in its bid to improve the living standard in the hinterlands, made generous provision in the 2021 Budget to install five million solar home systems on what it calls “under-served and off-grid communities across the country”.
According to reports, the renewal energy programme is the off-shoot of a coordinated implementation of the Economic Sustainability Plan [ESP] which is a response mechanism by the federal government to frontally address one of the disastrous effects of COVID-19 pandemic. The programme which includes the assembly and manufacturing of off-grid solutions to facilitate growth of local manufacturing industry, while the use of local content, will be incentivised. The programme will cover up to 5million households, serving about 25 million individual Nigerians who live mostly in the rural communities and not currently connected to the national grid.
It is significant to acknowledge the fact that availability of electricity in the rural areas will facilitate greater socio-economic activities in a large scale and will go a long way in creating sources of massive jobs for the unemployed and under-employed youths, who migrate to urban and semi-urban towns for the ever-elusive means of livelihood. Failure to have meaningful means of daily living predisposes them to anti social gambits and criminalities.
The aims and objectives of the solar energy for the rural areas are to quicken socio-economic growth and development which is comparatively cheaper compared to other sources of energy. Given this scenario, there is a need to accord primacy to budgetary releases so that the contractors will have no reason to do shoddy job and in critical situations abandoned projects are littered in the rural communities where the projects get stalled for constraints in budgetary releases. This scenario is abhorred which will defeat the laudable objectives of the federal government to light up the hinterlands.
There is every likelihood that there will be unhindered budgetary releases, given the rise in the crude oil prices in the international market which hovers around 70 dollars while the budget benchmark was 40 dollars per barrel. With prompt budgetary releases to the contractors, there will be quantum leap in the otherwise tardy and feeble efforts at improving the social, economic and environmental welfare of a preponderant population residing in the rural areas. In other words, there will be no case of the saying that “the devil is in the details” in terms of constraints in the prompt release of the budget for the execution of budgets.
The project will also generate massive jobs, increasing internally generated revenues of the sub-national governments and above all, lessen the cost of production which will in turn have considerable impact on the inflationary trends in the post-COVID-19 pandemic. Prompt budgetary releases for the complete execution of the projects is far better than the situation where the federal government has been spending over N50 billion monthly on subsidising electricity with respect to phenomenal increases in the cost of electricity to augment the shortfall by the GENCO.
It is of great economic sense to undertake radical power sector reforms to attract competent foreign investors. It stands to reason that privatising state-owned refineries will dramatically improve the energy sector. This will stem the raging and dire insecurity and allow unfettered productive activities and the safety of investors.
The international institutions had expressed preparedness to assist the emerging economies to explore renewable energy to improve the living standard of millions of people who lack reliable and affordable electricity.
Speaking at an online dialogue for leaders convened by African Development Bank (ADB), noted that African countries have abundant and untapped renewal resources while only two per cent of global investment in renewal energy for the past decade as old models of development and energy use have failed to provide Africans with universal energy access as hundreds of millions of people still lack reliable and affordable electricity or cooking with polluting and harmful fuels.
“We can provide universal access to energy in Africa through renewal energy. I call for support to meet this objective ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in November 2021”.