The Senate Committee on Power, Steel Development and Metallurgy has asked the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) to explain before the end of this week, how the environment of a federal university is classified as a rural area in its 2018 budget estimates.
The REA had appeared before the Committee for their budget defence, but the Committee members were shocked to see in their document, the planned use of N10bn to delivered solar-powered streetlight project in nine universities across the country as part of their 2018 expenses.
While answering questions from the Chairman of the committee, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, and other members on the issues, the Managing Director of REA, Mrs. Damilola Ogunbiyi, listed Rural Electrification Access Progamme in Federal Universities with N10,148,146,829.00 earmarked for it.
She told the committee that the agency was already working in nine federal universities to upgrade electricity supply in the institutions.
The lawmakers expressed their dissatisfaction with the REA boss’ defence of the project, noting that it was coming at a time when the power sector had been privatised.
However, a more worried member of the committee, Senator Mohammed Hassan, said he could not understand why the agency was spending a huge amount of money to provide solar power in universities when rural communities for which the agency was created were left in darkness.
Ogunbiyi listed the University of Lagos, Nnamdi Azikiwe University in Awka, Usman Dan Fodio University in Sokoto, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University in Bauchi, and Ado Bayero University, Kano as some of the federal institutions to benefit from the solar-powered installations.
Before the end of the rowdy session, the Vice Chairman of the committee, Senator Buka Mustapha, insisted that the details of the project must be disclosed, including “who is paying for the installations when the power sector has been privatised.”
In a more questionable defence of the inclusion, REA boss, agreed it was the responsibility of the Federal Government to provide power in the rural areas, saying her agency added the universities because many of them, were located in rural areas but not defined “rural areas” as demanded by the committee.