Markudi varsity becomes third to get off national grid

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JS Tarka Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi has become third Nigerian university to independently generate its own electricity off the national grid.

This comes four years after the launch of the Energising Education Programme (EEP) of the federal government.

The EEP at inception was designed to provide 37 universities with regular power supply.

The university on Thursday unveiled its 3.5 megawatts solar hybrid power plant.

The plant is being inaugurated as part of activities to mark the third anniversary of Professor Richard Kimbir’s tenure as Vice-Chancellor.

The university 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.

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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.

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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 universities.

Sources said 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.”

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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.

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