President Muhammadu Buhari Tuesday commissioned a 9.5 megawatts (MW) capacity off grid gas-fuelled power system built by a private consortium under the Energising Economies Initiative (EEI) of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) to supply electricity to up to 47,000 shops and small businesses operating at the Ariaria International Market in Aba, Abia State.
The market, which supplies its renowned ‘made in Aba’ products to countries along the West Africa coasts and Central Africa, had reportedly been challenged with the problem of inefficient electricity supply from the national grid, and this had often forced its occupants to rely on exorbitant alternative power sources.
Speaking shortly before he commissioned the plant, which also has an extensive distribution network and metering systems for each shop, Buhari told traders in the market that his government had considered their challenges with stable electricity supply and its impacts on their productivity and decided to support the private operator — Ariaria Market Energy Solutions Ltd (AMES) — to build and operate the plant and its distribution network.
He said that his government had elected to take up their challenges to grow their productivity. “We have demonstrated that if the common good is our mission objective, it can be achieved irrespective of party differences and constitutional limitations.
“I was elected to office on the convincing argument my party made about our commitment to security, developing the economy and fighting corruption. Some of the sound economic choices we made for Nigeria are self-sufficiency, self-reliance, national productivity, job creation, promoting made in Nigeria products and facilitating ease of doing business.
He further stated: “By providing a dedicated electricity supply to the traders and small businesses in this area, we are strengthening the made in Nigeria policy for which Abia and in particular, Aba and Ariaria are already well known. “Reliable power supply is critical to ease of doing business to ensure sustainability and improvement. I am told that before this intervention, traders in this market only got power for four hours a day and pay exorbitantly for it which constantly affect the viability of many businesses. This is the sad thing we inherited, and which we are replacing with this power supply which is cleaner and better.
“What is happening in Ariaria today by way of clean, independent and reliable power to market and small businesses is happening in Kano, Lagos and Ibadan. Jobs are also being created through the initiative.”
He further noted that his government has been methodical in governance, adding: “Slowly but very efficiently, we are cleaning up the mess. We are moving our economy away from rent and avarice, and heading resolutely to building an economy that rewards investments, enterprise and hard work.”
Promising the traders that his government would remain committed to them, the president said: “I congratulate all the traders in this market for contributing to national productivity and salute your resoluteness over the years. “Now we are here, you will experience better days and prosperity as the African market awaits your products.”
In his remarks, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, said there were about 6,000 petrol and diesel generators in Ariaria that could go out of operation from the commencement of the new power system. According to him, the government of Abia, and a former Minister for Power, Prof. Barth Nnaji, were equally committed to the project despite his claims that the local electricity distribution company — Enugu Disco — was against it and had instituted a legal action to stop it.
Similarly, in her remarks, the Managing Director of the REA, Mrs. Damilola Ogunbiyi, provided an overview of the project under the EEI which she saw was a Federal Government initiative to support rapid deployment of off-grid electricity solutions to provide clean, safe, affordable and reliable electricity to economic and business clusters like markets, shopping centres, and industrial zones across Nigeria through private sector developers.
Ogunbiyi noted that Ariaria has 11 sections and over 37,000 shops with trading activities ranging from clothing and shoes production, printing and fabrication of tools and mechanical parts. She said that out of the 37,000 shops in the market, the first 4,000 shops have been connected to the system by AMES, with the remaining 33,000 shops expected to be powered within the year.
Also, the off grid power plant was granted regulatory licence by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) within the embedded electricity generation and independent electricity distribution guidelines of the commission.