UAM, third varsity to get off national grid •Plant saves varsity N13m monthly power bills •Four others battle to complete projects

UAM, third varsity to get off national grid •Plant saves varsity N13m monthly power bills •Four others battle to complete projects

Nine universities owned by the Federal Government are beneficiaries of a N10 billion fund to enable them get off the national grid and enjoy steady power supply from renewable energy sources. KOFOWOROLA BELO-OSAGIE and UJA EMMANUEL report on how the project, launched in 2016, is changing teaching and learning in one of the institutions.

 

Four years after the launch of the Energising Education Programme (EEP), designed to provide 37 universities with regular power supply, the Federal University of Makurdi (UAM), Benue State, has unveiled its 3.5 megawatts solar hybrid power plant.

The plant will be inaugurated tomorrow as part of activities to mark the third anniversary of Prof. Richard Kimbir’s tenure as vice chancellor.

UAM is the third of seven pilot universities to have been weaned off the national grid under the project funded by a N10.69 billion Sovereign Green Bond raised in 2017. The first university to start using its plant that generates one megawatt of electricity is the Alex Ekwueme Federal University Ndufu-Alike Ikwo (AE-FUNAI), Ebonyi State, since last year. The 0.5 megawatt plant has been in use at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Gubi Campus, Bauchi, since February but has not been officially inaugurated because of COVID-19, according to the Director of Information, Mr Andee Iheme.

“We are yet to launch it as Coronavirus disorganised the whole arrangement of commissioning the power plant but it is already in use since February.  It is a 0.5 megawatts power plant.  It only powers our offices for now since the school is not in session. We have started training staff who are meant to carry out its maintenance,” he said.

Other universities under the project with either solar hybrid or gas-fired plants are: Bayero University Kano (BUK), Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun (FUPRE), Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka (NAU), Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, and the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto (UDUS).

Speaking on the plant which roared to life in August, Kimbir said it was adjudged the biggest singular solar power plant in the West African sub-region.

He said it has solved the perennial problem of electricity supply from the national grid and saves the university N433,333.33 daily, which adds up to N13 million monthly and N150 million per annum.

When he assumed duties three years ago, he said power supply was epileptic and he made it a priority – lobbying the ministry, NUC and the contractor to ensure that the project was completed.

Kimbir said since the university went off the national grid, there had been relative peace on the campus. Solar-powered street light illuminates the campus at night – improving security, and teaching, learning and research activities can now go on seamlessly.

“There is enhanced learning, research and conducive atmosphere in various offices by both staff and students,” he said.

He also said water supply had become steady with the solar plant, making it a good time to expand its capacity.

“We shall also explore the possibility of upgrading the water place since there is 24- hour power supply,” he said.

Speaking on the effect of regular power supply on his studies, a 200-Level Mechanical Engineering student, Terwase Kyado, told The Nation he now reads his books into the wee hours without fear of mosquitoes and power interruptions as was the case with public power supply.

A lecturer in College of Agronomy who pleaded anonymity also praised the new source of power. He said he can sit in his office and set examination papers, supervise and mark scripts without the usual Makurdi scorching heat which was the case when the university depended solely on Jos Electricity Distribution Company (JED) which hardly supplied electricity for 24 hours on campus.

A security guard on campus told The Nation that patrol at night was now made easy with solar-powered street lights on campus.

“We now see through various roads which have 24 hours street light.  It makes patrolling the nooks and crannies easy,” he said, adding that theft of office items in offices on campus had reduced.

The university’s host communities are not left out as they share in the power supplied by the UAM plant.

Mrs. Ukeyima Agba, who operates a kiosk in the village market, said she now enjoys more patronage because her shop remains open late into the night for customers under the solar-powered streets light.

 

Status of the EEP in other varsities

The EEP is at various stages of completion in the other six universities.

The Nation learnt from some of the universities that the project was being delayed by either lack of funds or other issues.

At the University of Lagos (UNILAG), the Ag Director of Work, Mr. Samuel Ajayi, an engineer, said he was not authorised to speak on the project being handled by Sterling and Wilson Nigeria Limited.  However, a source said the project was just at 10 per cent completion because of the sand filling of the site and paucity of funds.

The source said: “The sand fill was at the level of 85 to 90 percent, so the installation of the power plant and then the energisation is what I will say is at the level of 10 percent.  Work has not started on the energy level because the project is still at the sand filling stage and it has not been completed.”

The source said the project was stopped in February, saying: “The project was stopped probably due to non-funding, so the delay in the project is the funds.  If fund is generated work will start on the project and the contractor on the project sterling and Wilson Nigerian limited will start work immediately.”

At the OAU, the Public Relations Officer, Mr. Abiodun Olarewaju, said the project was almost complete.

“It is almost nearing completion.  We should also put into consideration that this year alone we had COVID, we had EndSARS.  All which also contributed in delaying the project. In February, the Minister of State for Power, Jedy Agba, came to inspect and said the Federal Government was eager to complete the project. We keyed into that statement of the minister,” he said.

Vice Chancellor of FUPRE, Prof. Akpofure Rim-Rukeh, said the 1.35 megawatts project has been scheduled for inauguration between 16th and 18th of this month, while the Director of Works at the NAU, Awka, Ikechukwu Onwumere, said the pandemic disrupted the project completion timeline.

Bayero University Kano (BUK) would have a 7.1 megawatts plant when completed. Its Director of Information, Ahmad Shehu said the project was yet to be completed.

 UAM VC celebrates varsity’s progress

as the Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Agriculture Makurdi (UAM), Prof. Richard Kimbir marks three years in the saddle this week, he recounted the progress the institution has made under his leadership.

Speaking on his achievements during a press briefing at the weekend, Kimbir said the university was able to attract a grant of N450 million from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Poultry Revival Project ( PRP).

“The CBN Poultry Revival Project will take care of mass production of poultry from Benue, Taraba, Nassarawa States and the entire middle.  The money is already in the bank and we have set up committee to work out detail programme” he said.

He also spoke of progress made in other areas.

“Since the inception of the varsity in 1988 this is the first time that reticulation of water on the whole  campus has taken place plus the completion and inauguration of the University Liaison Office in Abuja , a dream project which is as old as the university.”

However, he said the institution suffered from under-funding and industrial actions. He appealed to the Federal Government to increase funding to enable the university tackle major challenge of road network and lecture theatres . “Despite the progress made by the University in the past three years efforts at modernization of infrastructures to back up teaching, research and extension services are being constrained on several fronts

“Apart from inadequate funding which is a major challenge in realizing the mission and mandate of the university, strike by industry unions on campus has been a remarkable challenge.”

On efforts towards generating internal revenue, the vice chancellor stated that the University has gone into massive commercial farming in partnership with other stakeholders In agriculture, and has rehabilitated the University Feed Mill in town with enhance capacity utilization as well as mini feed mill on campus .

“The way forward to attain rapid food self -sufficiency and reliance through the generation of modern agricultural technology that are high- yielding and adaptive to specific agricultural problems and environmental stress shall continue to define the focus of of the University of Agriculture (UAM)”.

 

  • Additional contributions by Elo Edremoda (Warri), Emma Elekwa (Awka), David Adenuga (Bauchi), and Olabisi Salau.

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The Nation

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