Wary of its chequered management history, which included an alleged N5.2 billion scam that led to its initial closure in 2009, the ferderal government has asked the newly approved supervisory board of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) not to unduly interfere in the management and operations of the REA.
The government's warning yesterday in Abuja came with its disclosure that as much as N16 billion has been approved by it for REA to undertake electrification projects across rural communities in Nigeria, in line with the provisions of the Electric Sector Reforms Act (EPSR 2005).
While inaugurating an 11-man supervisory board of REA as recently approved by President Goodluck Jonathan, Minister of State for Power, Hajiya Zainab Kuchi stated that the government targets to achieve about 75 per cent rural electrification access by 2020 and as such would not condone undue meddlesomeness of the new board in the affairs of REA.
Kuchi told the board which is chaired by former deputy senate leader, Senator Jonathan Zwingina that it is the responsibility of the management of the REA to transparently handle all its procurement processes without undue interference from the board in line with extant laws guiding its operations, adding that the rural economy of Nigeria remains important and in dire need of electrification.
She said: "There were backlogs of payments that needed to be addressed, even though we are still battling with some of these payments, the government has budgeted N16 billion this year as funding for the REA. There is also a strategy plan for REA that is still awaiting the president's approval.
As you take on your office today as members of the board, let me make it clear that the board should realise that its function is advisory and that of monitoring and evaluation of projects in the various catchment areas to which you will be assigned."
"the management of the REA under the managing director must be allowed to perform their day to day duties unencumbered by the board, however, members of the board must meet quarterly to review its state of implementation of projects by both the federal, state and other actors and bring up advise for the attention of the government through the ministry.
Our target is to achieve 75 per cent rural electrification access by 2020. This is your charge. There should be unity and teamwork in your approach, while all procurement processes should be handled and managed by the agency transparently. The rural economy is so important to all Nigerians that we must ensure zero tolerance for corruption," Kuchi added.
The minister noted that government will measure the success of the board with the number of rural communities that have access to electricity, number of investors attracted into the rural electrification subsector, extent of rural electrification technology garnered and applied as well as the number of jobs created from the activities of the REA.
Owing to its previous suspension by the government, REA has as at the last count about 1,946 on-going rural electrification projects, which are yet to be completed across the country. The agency had also since it was resuscitated by the government, operated without a supervisory board until now.
Chairman of the board, Zwingina in his remarks noted that the board will undertake a study of the capacity, scope and viability of existing REA projects with the intent to foster government's reform of the power sector.
While calling for supports from local and international donor agencies, Zwingina also stated that the board will explore other revenue sources beyond the annual budgetary allocations of the government to execute projects in the subsector.
Apart from Zwingina, other members of the new board as listed by Kuchi include: Umar Hiliya as vice chairman, Lawan Karasuwa, Senator Davou Zang, Biola Akinpade, Ezekiel Aywonya, Chime Jide Sirajo Rufai and Nuhu Sada.
Kenneth Achugbu who is the Managing Director of REA and Blessing Egwu completes the board.