Imperative of improving electricity in Nigerian varsities
EnergyDay Editorial Board,
Unrestricted access to uninterrupted power supply in tertiary institutions and university teaching hospitals in Nigeria has been one of the biggest challenges and barriers to effective research, student learning and institutional operations.
This is unacceptable as it impedes learning.
As a newspaper, we are deeply concerned with the sorry state of the absence of electricity in our institutions of higher learning when their peers elsewhere in other parts of the world are in the forefront of invention and innovation in science and technology, including the latest technology in renewable energy.
In this wise, there’s a need for more synergy between the school authorities and governments on the imperative for the schools to generate their own power.
We are however, enlivened by the fact that such initiative has already started, as seen in Rural Electrification Agency’s initiative in Bayero University Kano which incorporated students in the field from its inception and is being operated by same. That way the initiative has given them first hand experience while in school and challenged them to go out equipped with required practical knowledge.
The rising hope on independent power generation in our universities was given a boost last year when the Minister of State for Power, Mr. Goddy Jedy-Agba revealed that the federal government was planning to increase the deployment of clean energy systems in schools and hospitals across the country.
Jedy-Agba noted that the government acknowledged the critical role that renewable energy plays in increasing energy access, adding that the government was pursuing plans to diversify the country’s energy supply, saying the administration was aiming at utilising Nigeria’s massive renewable energy resources efficiently.
The government, the Minister noted, was of the view that off-grid electrification is key to accelerating national development.
The Managing Director, REA, Mr Ahmad Salihijo, emphasised that off-grid electrification was key to accelerating national development.
On June 15, 2020 at a meeting in Abuja, the hope of Nigerian universities was further raised to heights when the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) unveiled the first phase of its Energizing Education Programme (EPP). The programme was aimed at installing and supplying electricity to 37 federal universities and seven university teaching hospitals, across the six geo-political zones of the country.
In the first phase, nine federal universities and one teaching hospital were selected. The institutions included in this first phase are, University of Lagos; Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Federal University, Ndufu Alike Ikwo; Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun; Usmanu Danfodiyo University; Bayero University Kano; Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi; Obafemi Awolowo University, Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital Complex; and Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University.
Under this programme, the REA will provide off-grid captive solar or gas-fired power plants and distribution networks infrastructure for the generation and adequate supply of electric power to the institutions. It will also install street lighting to illuminate some roads within the main campuses towards enhancing safety and ensuring security.
Additionally, it will develop and operate centres that will provide power-related training to students of these institutions. The project was also anticipated to result in the distribution of power to surrounding communities in the second tier of each phase with increased economic activity and improved health and general wellbeing within those communities.
This newspaper is of the view that a much more significant and direct connection exists between research output in our tertiary schools, and the availability and regularity of the supply of electricity.
Constant supply of electricity is of strategic importance in the conduct of research. In Nigeria, it has been extremely difficult to meet international research standards due to epileptic power supply in our tertiary institutions, which is a reflection of the generally poor supply of electricity in the country.
We make bold to state that universities and other research institutions, however, deserve special attention as no nation can make progress without adequate input from these institutions. When unavailable, the lack of electricity supplies often constitute a menace to the highly sensitive teaching and research equipment
It is a given in this age and time that we need to drive the importance of our institutions of higher learning being places that drive developmental initiatives.
“There is no other time than now to encourage the government to support the universities where there are Professors of electrical engineering to proffer solutions to a national challenge like this by doing something different.
They can generate power and deliver to the neighborhoods thereby creating income.
We must drive the notion of our tertiary institutions being solution centers and not government- dependent for fund, when they have become economically driven they would produce graduates who would solve society’s problems and create wealth for themselves in a capitalist economy like ours. “
It is sad that epileptic power supply has destroyed research efforts and damaged cutting edge machines in some universities.
We are aware that there are two Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, ( NMR) machines available in Nigeria; with one of these at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. These machines must be switched on 24-hours a day to maintain the magnetic field and prevent damage, an impossible task with the present condition of electricity supply in Nigeria.
OAU has tried unsuccessfully to maintain this feat over the years and the N460 million machine which had been repaired twice, has again become non-functional.
Our governments at all levels should know that cutting-edge research is currently impossible in most of our universities, not because of inadequate personnel or knowledge but, due to the irregularity of power supply. If Nigeria must take its rightful place in the comity of universities, the issue of electricity must be considered foremost among those to be given immediate attention and generous financial support.
It is sad to note that though universities and other research institutions pay several millions monthly, with some universities paying as high as N60 million every month, this essential commodity has continued to be irregular and erratic. The result is that our universities are now flooded with thousands of ineffective diesel generators with fluctuating voltage and the attendant pollution and damaging effects.
Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari while speaking at the Planet One Summit in Paris in 2018 expressed Nigeria’s readiness to pursue the achievement of Article 2 of the Paris Agreement. The main purposes of this instrument are; to make global warming mitigation effective, make adaptation possible; and make finance available to fund low carbon development and build resilience to climate impacts.
The EEP will reduce air and noise pollution from diesel generators and other alternative power supplies, and encourage the development of renewable energy in fulfillment of the Paris Agreement.
The EPP stands out as one of the best projects ever envisaged as a way of salvaging the Nigerian tertiary educational system. It will tremendously assist in improving the global ranking and status of Nigerian universities and teaching hospitals.
Recently, Lagos State University was among the three universities in Nigeria that made the list of 1000 Times Higher Education Global Ranking, yet for the past three weeks, the main campus of the institution has been in total darkness. It is high time we stopped the darkness in our tertiary institutions.
One feature of the current electriticity supply deficit is the wrong prioritizing by the government and the politics of acquiring scholarly expertise in the field of electrical engineering. In our view, merit should be the driving force devoid of political or primordial consideration.
This newspaper is concerned about the quality of students sent abroad for training and scholarship in electrical engineering. In order to restore sanity to the beleaguered energy sector, the brightest minds should be encouraged and sent abroad for necessary technical expertise and education.
We do not understand the efforts being made by the administration. What is the direction of such efforts? And what are criteria for selecting enlisted candidates for scholarships…?
We feel these processes should be open to scrutiny.
More depressing is the fact that we have aplenty professors of engineering without adequate input from them beyond mere pontificating.
We would have thought that these eminent professors ought to have thought out solutions to decades of electricity challenge, instead of being given a direction and useful thought process by outsider such as these current efforts by EnergyDay.
It would seem our learned professors and scholars in the field of electrical engineering have failed in their duty, they have failed the nation.
At the Landmark University, some years ago, their engineering department was able to work on turning waste to electricity..
The University of Nigeria, Nsukka has also come up with their own solution which has enabled them to have independent power outside of the national grid. These examples are encouraging, and point the way other universities should go.
We enjoin our engineering professors to come out of their shells and embrace quality research that will attract funding.