By Bashir Rabe Mani
Nigeria is certainly a major and critical stakeholder in the international community. It currently has an estimated population of over 200 million people. This is no doubt a great demographic comparative advantage in the global schemes of thing.
The country, the largest black nation in the world and Africa’s strongest nation, has a land mass of 923,768 square kilometres. Being Africa’s largest economy, there are overwhelming colossal demands for sustainable energy supply.
This, therefore, brings to the fore, the recurring crisis bedeviling the energy supply sector in the country, just like other African countries, as well as other parts of the globalized world.
Countries have therefore been saddled with the arduous responsibility of safe, sustainable, cheap, efficient and affordable energy to the citizens. Nigeria is not left out in this unending race to power the nation, effectively and diligently. Yet, the crisis has persisted and the search for plausible solutions is unending.
It is therefore, apt and timely, when on Monday, November 23, 2020, the Solar Energy Society of Nigeria joined the race to provide solutions to the lingering energy crisis in the nation.
The erudite and prolific members of the forum and other critical stakeholders in the nation’s energy supply sector thronged the Seat of the Caliphate, Sokoto, for the 38th Solar Energy Forum. It had as its theme: “Solar Energy in Post COVID-19 Economy.” Indeed, the epoch-making event was a convergence of the who and who on solar energy.
Speaking, the chairman of the occasion and Minister for Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, said that, for the country to make meaningful progress in its development, it must embrace science, technology and innovation to strengthen its economic base.
Similarly, the Minister noted that solar energy and other renewable energy technologies were the enablers of energy transition being currently embraced globally to mitigate global warming.
“I therefore challenge all the solar energy experts and investors in solar energy technologies to take the energy demand – supply gap in the country as an opportunity for innovative deployment of solar energy to bridge the gap,” Onu said.
He made the remark on Monday in Sokoto at the 38th National Solar Energy Society of Nigeria’s Forum organised by the Solar Energy Society of Nigeria.
According to him, the nation must cause deliberate action towards the direction of strengthening its capacity through committed efforts at developing a sustainable solar-driven base for economic balance.
“It is the only sure way to measure up our energy demand for productivity across actors of economy,” he pointed out.
He noted that Covid-19 pandemic has ravaged the nation and world at large health wise with negative impact on Nigeria’s economy which largely depends on crude earnings.
The Minister, who chaired the Forum, also observed that no nation has developed without deliberately putting science, technology and innovation in its rightful place, adding that: “Nigeria cannot be an exception.”
He however explained that development in energy, medicine, agriculture, transport and other aspects for national growth were science, technology and innovation driven.
“It will interest Nigerians to know that for the very first time in the history of the country that President Muhammadu Buhari led government through the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology emphasis is placed on ST&I,” he pointed out.
Onu , who was represented by the Director General , Energy Commission of Nigeria, Mr. E. J. Bala described the Forum’s deliberate efforts as inspiring for experts to take stock of opportunities that solar energy offers in revamping the country’s current economy and post Covid-19 era, noting that the nation’s 2020 sustainable economic plans were tailored at mitigating the effect of the novel pandemic, hence recognised the role of solar energy in driving it to reality.
“By doing so, our vision 30:30:30 and indeed our National Determined Contributions would be met and the solar energy component of the 2020 plan is intended to support 250,000 jobs and impact up to 25 million beneficiaries through the installation of soar home systems and mini-grids,” he pointed out.
The guest speaker and Kebbi State governor, Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, said the government and people of the state were embracing the Distributed Renewables for Energy Access (DREA). This is just as the governor disclosed that the technology had benefitted no fewer than 150 million people around the world since 2009.
The governor added: “The DREA systems are present in both urban and rural areas and the developing world.
“And they provide a wide range of services, including lighting, appliances, cooking, space heating and cooling, biomass cooking stoves, biogas and solar cookers, electric stoves and many productive uses.”
Bagudu also stated that the state government and the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to cultivate 20,000 hectares of cassava and sugarcane for biofuel production.
According to him, the ethanol project was jointly financed by the state government and NNPC, to the tune of N 1 billion.
He added: “So far, the state government has assigned 5,000 hectares of land for the project, out of which, 2,675 hectares have been cultivated and fully established purpose of generating seedlings and raw materials, for a test run of machinery.
“This will not only boost the internally generated revenue of the state, but, more importantly create thousands of direct and indirect jobs for our teeming youths.”
Bagudu averred that energy is an important index of socio-economic development of modern society, as it powers hearing, cooling, lighting, transportation, communications, health and agriculture among others.
The governor also said that, the country was endowed with abundant energy resources like oil, gas and coal, solar energy, biomass resources, wind power and hydropower resources among others.
Bagudu however regretted that the country was yet to fully utilize her abundant renewable resources, to provide adequate energy access to the citizens in the rural, semi-urban and urban communities.
He said that, the theme was apt and timely as COVID-19 had brought out how interdependent on oil and other countries could spell doom for nations.
He also noted that the era of hydrocodone has come to an end, while the only plausible solutions remained renewable energy sources, especially solar power.
He opined that, some policies put in place by President Muhammadu Buhari were efficacious and that was why nation’s economy was still working.
He cited the example of the pumping of over N2.7 trillion into the economy by the Federal Government, to cushion the devastating effects of the pandemic.
He commended the Solar Energy Society of Nigeria for conferring the ‘Advocates of Solar Energy and Fellowship,’ on him, promising to sustain his partnership with the society to better the lives of the people of his state.
The host governor, Alhaji Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, Mutawallen Sokoto, represented by the Commissioner for Energy and Petroleum Resources, Alhaji Aliyu Dandin-Mahe, commended the society for choosing the state for the important event.
Tambuwal stated that the country has abundant renewable energy resources; hence, significant energy could be provided using solar power.
According to him, the state is also energy resources endowed, as such, the Ministry was created to fully harness these budding resources.
The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abu bakar, who was represented by the Wazirin Sokoto, Prof. Sambo Wali Junaidu, maintained that energy was an important element in human life without it, there would be no life.
Abubakar further urged the Federal Government to take the bull by the horns, to give more money for the development of energy to the benefit of the people of the country.
Earlier in his address, the Vice Chancellor of Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, Prof. Lawal Suleiman Bilbis, noted that solar energy consumption rate was an important indicator for the development of a nation’s economy.
He said solar energy powers numerous economic aspects as health, water supply and communication among others, saying renewable energy is the answer today in the nation as a dependable and reliable source of power that can be accessed free and cheap.
Bilbis however, decried lack of regulating hydrocarbon, which he noted was doing more harm than good to human and environmental health and animals.
President of the Solar Energy Society of Nigeria, Prof. I.J. Dioha said with strong energy law, solar energy has the capacity and impact to address and mitigate challenges in energy demand and supply.
Mani, Dan Masanin Mani, is a Sokoto-based journalist.