The Cross River State Government's rural electrification project has provided a boost to industrial activities in rural communities, besides providing employment for young men and women.
The dawn of industrial revolution in the 18th century brought with it many inventions, chief among which is electricity. Machines invented needed to be powered to work efficiently and tirelessly too. Since then electricity has remained a key component of industrialisation. It has other uses too.
As the hub of industrial activities, electricity propels the wheels of human progress. As noted above, industrial goods need power to function. At the small and medium scale industries levels, power remains a sine qua non. This explains why in Nigeria government at all levels budgets every year for the provision of electricity.
With most urban centres of the country already connected to the national electricity grid, attention has now shifted to the rural areas where a bulk of the population resides. The nation's country sides are backward in terms of development. Lacking infrastructure and basic social amenities, life in the hinterlands is unbearable hence the rural-urban drift.
Aware of this and in compliance with its self reliance drive, the Cross River State Government embarked on an aggressive rural electrification project. Through this programme, over 1,000 villages have been provided with electricity, according to the State Electrification Agency (SEA). Work on the second phase of the programme is already on.
The rural electrification programme of the Liyel Imoke administration is the tonic of economic activities in Cross River State. It is to its credit that small and medium scale businesses are springing up in different parts of the State. Hair dressing/barbing salons, computer training institutions for the acquisition of ICT knowledge, business centres etc are now a common sight. There seems to be competition among rural folks now how to become self employed in the face of mounting unemployment in the state.
Making a Difference
Rural electrification programme forms part of the rural transformation agenda of the Imoke administration. As a well thought out programme, rural electrification remains the singular project that has so far made a difference in the lives of the people. With it, there has been a drop in the purchase of generators from urban centres. Those who have already purchased generators now use them sparingly.
There are 18 Local Government Area in the State. Of this number, there is none without electrification project. Villages far flung from the urban centres have been electrified. Besides completing all abandoned projects of its predecessor, the Imoke administration went ahead to initiate more projects. Today, the government has executed rural electrification projects more than previous governments put together SEA said.
Interestingly, contracts for rural electrification projects are awarded to reputable companies. These are firms with a track record of performance in electrical engineering. The award follows due process which means the job is monitored and payment effected according to level of performance. Any shoddy job is revoked as the State Government does not compromise standards. All this put the contractors on their toes.
Despite the rocky terrain of some Local Government Areas in Cross River North Senatorial district, the State Government has not failed to take electricity to villages buried in valleys or on mountain tops. This explains why villages in Obanliku and Obudu Local Government Areas are today linked to electricity. The same applies to communities in marshy terrain or coastal environment in the southern part of the State.
A census of the villages already electrified will reveal that those yet to be connected have not been forgotten. This is because rural electrification remains the most outstanding achievement of the Imoke administration. The desire of the State Government is to take populist projects like this to the people. This is the only way to spur the people into economic activities.
More investors are today encouraged to venture into rural communities. Some have conducted feasibility studies on their line of business while others have signed Memoranda of Understanding with the State Government.
Some of these communities are blessed with raw materials which have been wasting away over the years. But with their connection to the electricity grid and construction of access roads to them, these communities are in for a new lease of economic life.
Before now, rural parts of the State had no store selling electrical appliances. But with the coming of electricity, electrical/electronic shops are being opened for people to buy from. Instead of traveling to the urban centre to buy bulb or any electrical part, rural dwellers walk to the nearby store to make purchase. Transport fare is saved and time of going to the city used for farming or any other income yielding activity.
There seems to be a competition among rural folks on the ownership of satellite dishes to watch cable television. It is a fad among them. This has been made possible by the provision of electricity. Both the young and old today watch European football and other international television programmes in the confines of their homes.
Operators of digital satellite receivers make money from those who come to watch football matches. In some villages, fan clubs have emerged with members of each club forming themselves into thrift societies. In others, members identify with a colleague who is bereaved or getting married. All this is borne out of love and portrays a spirit of camaraderie among young people. Without electricity, the world may not have truly become a global village to these communities.
Closely connected with the aforementioned factor is the increase in the purchase of television sets by rural dwellers. The availability of electricity means every household should struggle to have a television set for relaxation. Those in the hinterland are lovers of Nigeria's home movies. They purchase films as they are released and learn a lot from them since Nollywood teaches true life stories.
Another development associated with the advent of electricity in rural areas is the interest shown by young people in electrical/electronic engineering. Many have taken to acquiring skills in this field in urban centres. Those who have acquired vocational training in this field are today into conduit and surface wiring of houses. They also install satellite dishes foe people. Some combine plumbing and electrical works during training and are today adept in both.
Electrification is a big plus for the State Government. Today, rural people watch its development programmes on television. They are now convinced that government is alive to its campaign promises as they can easily see government in action.
Government projects are no more hearsay but visible. They also follow programmes of government as they are always informed on radio and television. Viewing centres are helping out too.
Electricity holds the key to man's income yielding activities. The Imoke administration realised this and decided to embrace it. Since it is pivotal to all economic activities, electricity like water is life. Without it the wheels of progress will not turn and development will be stagnant. And like road project, electricity is one public utility that benefits the populace. It is a project that everybody feels, sees and touches.
A recent media tour of the state revealed how much the state government has done for villages in dire need of power. The state Commissioner of Information, Mr. Akin Ricket, said the rural electrification programme was a deliberate effort of government to expedite development and industrial activities at the grassroots.
"This project is meant to give our people a sense of belonging. We have also realised that it is the shortest route to stimulating economic activities in our rural communities. With electricity, we hope to open our villages to investors besides making life bearable for those in the remote parts of the state", he told journalists on the tour.
And since a greater part of the population of the State reside in the rural areas any meaningful government project of this nature is bound to impact positively on the people. They are the ones who need government most. Thus, provision of electricity in rural Cross River is one way of teaching the people how to fish, instead of giving them fish to eat.