RURAL Electrification Agency (REA), as one of the agencies under the then Federal Ministry of Power and Steel, was established in 2006 by an Act of the National Assembly. The main purpose for its establishment was to light up most of the rural communities by linking/connecting those areas to the national grid or through the solar power system. Before its creation, the duty of this Agency was hitherto carried out by a Division in the Federal Ministry of Power and Steel, through the Implementation Committee on Rural Electrification whose Secretary was Engr. F.N.A. Olapade (FNSE) – a Deputy Director.In those days, the Implementation Committee on Rural Electrification depended heavily on the Engineers and Technologists from the defunct National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) to carry out its mandate. Little wonder then, that most of the pioneering staff the Rural Electrification Agency were drawn from NEPA which later metamorphosed into Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) after the strategic deregulation of the power sector.
Although the establishment of the REA was part of the reforms in the power sector, it wasn’t a smooth ride for the agency in the beginning. At a particular time, the agency went comatose. The situation became so worrisome then that some of the engineers who were seconded from the defunct NEPA went back to their original establishment for fear of the unknown. According to the grapevine then, the administration of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua saw the agency as a duplication of what the state governments should be doing to better the lot of the rural dwellers in their Areas of Jurisdiction (AOR). But, by the time the former President Goodluck Jonathan took over the reins of power after the demise of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, the agency bounced back into full recognition as one of the agencies to be reckoned with in the Power Sector Reform.
The above narration serves as the abridged historical background in the formation of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) that is presently blossoming after it went through and survived adverse political torrents by the special grace of God.
The aim of this article is to both commend the foresight of the founding fathers of Power Sector Reforms for the establishment of this agency and also to encourage the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to continue with the good job through proper and increased funding of the Power Sector and the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) in particular, mainly for the purposes of stimulating economic growth/development and also the enhancement of our national security.
First and foremost, through increased funding of the REA, most of our rural areas will have access to electricity which will trigger off a lot of economic activities. Since most of our rural dwellers are farmers, some of them will be encouraged to go into Mechanised Farming to increase their farm yields/harvests, since there will be electricity to power their cold – storage rooms. Some of the farmers, with technical support from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, may want to go into the value-chain process of their farm produce- thus creating employment/job opportunities for young secondary school leavers and graduates.
In the same vein, apart from the establishment of cottage industries to employ both skilled and unskilled categories of labour, most of our technicians/ artisans and dealers/retailers of perishable items who need electricity to power their businesses will be encouraged to stay back in their villages and contribute their respective quotas to the economic growth/development of their areas instead of rushing to the cities.
The presence of electricity in our rural areas will also encourage the telecoms network service providers to spread their coverage to those areas with the possibility that some businessmen can take due advantage of these services to establish cybercafes/business centres where job seekers can log online and search for their dream jobs through the Internet, instead of rushing to the cybercafes in the urban areas to search for such jobs and fill their applications online.
In addition, rural electrification will also improve the social life of the rural dwellers. For instance, the locals can establish television viewing centres, especially for sports’ lovers. Instead of trooping to city centres to watch their respective football clubs’ matches, they will be encouraged to stay put in their domains. The multiplier effect of all these economic and social activities being stimulated by rural electrification is that rural – urban migration will be discouraged and be at its lowest ebb – thus discouraging overcrowding and reduce high waves of crimes in our urban centres.
The carnage on our roads will also be reduced since people will be discouraged from embarking on unnecessary journeys while transiting from the rural areas to urban areas for activities they could settle on the Internet or just through making phone calls. Except for the purposes of collecting cash where there are no banking services, most services can be obtained online by our rural dwellers without getting to the city centres.
Apart from reduction of the crime wave in the city centres, rural electrification will also improve community policing in the rural areas. This is because, when the whole place is without darkness in the night, there will be no hiding place for criminal elements to use the cover of darkness to hide and swoop on their victims unawares. In that same respect, Rural Electrification Agency should be encouraged to spread its tentacles to cover and power the lights on our rural – urban roads for the purposes of the commuters who may need to embark on night journeys.
When the roads and the highways are well lit in the night with proper security patrols, it will also encourage economic activities with standard restaurants and motels springing up to cater for the refreshment of our highway/ road travelers in the night.
This particular point of safety on our highways has actually been mentioned in some previous articles. However this repetition here is worth it for the sake of laying emphasis and to underline this crucial point as it relates to national security.
In a nutshell, when Rural Electrification Agency is further encouraged through increased funding to extend its good services to more areas of our rural communities, the government’s spending on social housing and fighting of crimes in the urban areas and on our highways may be drastically reduced, all things being equal. We say all things being equal because the power sector is a chain.
REA proper impact as a unit in the Distribution Group of the Power Sector cannot be felt if there is any form of disturbance in the generation and the transmission of the power to the Distribution Companies under the supervision of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN). And that is why all hands must be on deck to give public support to the sustainability of the ongoing Power Reforms of the present administration.
Olakunle is the General Secretary, National Prayer Movement. Abuja