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Monday, July 15, 2024

Rural Electrification Agency: Undergoing Reforms while Making Strides

We acknowledge the recent surge of publications discussing various petitions, investigations, and allegations of corruption within the Rural Electrification Agency (REA). Notably, a recent report by Premium Times highlights significant changes within the Agency, prompted by media coverage, shedding light on longstanding issues plaguing the organization.
We want to make it clear that Engineer Ahmad Salihijo Ahmad, the current Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Agency, has been a steadfast leader who has tirelessly guided REA through challenging times, even in the face of internal, external pressures, and resistance to anti-corruption efforts.
While the Agency may have maintained silence, it was not due to a lack of information but rather a deliberate effort to focus on the right processes, personnel, and a culture that prioritizes doing what is right. 

Over the past few months, we have collaborated closely with the Ministry, National Assembly, anti-corruption agencies, and process organizations to initiate further reforms within REA, despite numerous obstacles. The Honourable Minister of Power, Chief Adebayo A. Adelabu directed a thorough committee review of the relevant issues that have influenced the Agency’s response to the alleged situation.
The Agency can confirm that recent publications accurately reflect that some members of staff have been redeployed, suspended, or are under investigation due to process deficiencies and a prevalent lack of accountability. To keep it concise, the most significant change is the redeployment of the Director of the Funds and Accounts Department – a seconded officer from the Office of the Accountant General. The allegation leveled against the then Director is undergoing investigation by the anti-graft authorities including the core REA staff alleged to be involved. This marks a significant step forward, as it demonstrates the Agency’s commitment to accountability.
For context, since its establishment in 2006, REA faced numerous challenges, including a lack of strategic direction during its initial ten years. In 2017, a new Board and Management were appointed, initiating a cultural shift within the Agency. Despite these efforts, rural electrification goals remained unmet due to institutional and sectoral challenges.
Since 2020, the Executive Management and Board have been dedicated to aligning electrification projects with the goal of improving the lives of rural communities in a sustainable manner. These efforts have resulted in various electrification programs, such as the Nigeria Electrification Project (NEP), Energizing Education Programme (EEP), Rural Electrification Fund (REF), Energizing Economies Initiative (EEI), a programatic budgeting program for capital projects and others, with a particular focus on supporting the energy transition policy. 

In addition to electrification, the Executive Management haveworked to reform the Agency and improve the delivery of public goods and services, addressing issues like underinvestment, outdated processes, and limited technology adoption, which have hindered the Agency’s functions.
Upon assuming the role of MD/CEO at REA, Engineer Ahmad Salihijo Ahmad encountered a myriad of unresolved staff issues within the Agency. Recognizing the immense challenge of repositioning the Agency for effective project delivery, human resources became a pivotal consideration. In response, Engineer Ahmad wasted no time in addressing concerns related to the organization’s processes, structure, and staff welfare, with the aim of fostering a conducive work environment for optimal performance. 

His first step was to initiate a comprehensive institutional assessment and appraisal of the Agency, carried out by a globally renowned organizational re-engineering firm. This assessment rigorously evaluated the Agency’s project delivery, institutional structure, and processes to determine its capacity to meet its mandate. The recommendations from the assessment were meticulously reviewed and approved by the Agency’s Board and the Minister before being put into action, resulting in significant accomplishments.
During his tenure, Engineer Ahmad Salihijo Ahmad has been committed to reforming REA while keeping the Agency’s focus on its core mission. Notable strategic interventions and reforms include:
1. The Agency’s vision, mission, and mandate were aligned with current policy statements – the Rural Electrification Policy (REP), Rural Electrification Strategy and Implementation Plan (RESIP), National Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Policy (NREEP) etc.
2. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) were introduced into the daily activities of the Agency for each department, ensuring consistent and efficient practices.
3. The deployment of a robust monitoring and evaluation framework including the implementation of harmonized technical standards for improved project delivery.

4. Engineer Ahmad ensured the clearance of the backlog of overdue staff promotions and ensured that all eligible staff received their well-deserved promotions. As of today, no staff within the Agency lags behind in their career progression.
5. He obtained approval for a robust organizational structure from the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation on September 29, 2022. This approval provided a seamless pathway for staff career advancement.

6. To address the issue of inadequate staffing due to a lack of approved establishments, Engineer Ahmad secured approvals from the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation to recruit additional staff across different cadres. Subsequently, a rigorous employment aptitude test and oral interviews were conducted to select 43 new staff members, who have since been inducted and assigned to their respective roles.

7. Engineer Ahmad successfully redefined departmental job descriptions and specifications, ensuring that staff roles were clearly defined.

Indeed, these strategic efforts highlighted above have yielded the following remarkable results:

1. From 2020 to date, REA has provided power to over 7.5 million people including 1.5 million households, delivering 130 Mini-Grid Projects, including 1.3 million standalone home systems.
2. The Agency has equally deployed over 1,650km of solar streetlights, improving power, security, and economic growth in rural areas.
3. REA completed 1,403 projects under the capital budget, delivering solar streetlights, mini-grid projects, standalone home systems, and grid extension works.
4. Through various programs, including Energizing Education Program, Energizing Agriculture Program, Beyond COVID-19, and Economic Clusters, REA delivered over 65MW of power across Nigeria’s six geo-political zones.
5. REA has delivered over 500MW of power, electrified numerous communities, created 500,000 new jobs, and attracted over $2 billion in investments in the renewable energy sector over the past decade. 

6. In advancing these achievements we have established partnerships with the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the Global Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP), Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Sustainable Energy for ALL(SE4ALL), Agence Française de Développement (AFD), the United Kingdom Nigeria Infrastructure Advisory Facility (UKNIAF), the European Union, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the Global Environment Facility (GEF), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the Korean Institute of Advancement of Technology (KIAT) etc.
7. In 2022, as part of the National Poverty Reduction and Growth Strategy (NPRGS) Program, REA secured an additional 4 billion in capital injection grants to provide clean power standalone home systems to over 50,000 locations, including rural homes, micro-businesses, schools, and faith-based institutions.
8. Most recently, on the back of the success of the Nigeria Electrification Project (NEP), REA negotiated and secured the advance approval of a $750 million facility with the World Bank to expand renewable and rural electrification initiatives, providing additional resources to Nigeria during a challenging period.
9. In response to subsidy removal, REA is implementing interventions to develop electric mobility, mini-grids, distribute home systems, and deploy streetlights, potentially supporting up to 250,000 households in the coming year. 

Conclusively, we invite the public to join us in our comprehensive efforts to bring power to unserved and underserved areas in Nigeria and to support the ongoing reforms led by Honourable Minister of Power, Chief Adebayo Adelabuand  the Agency’s leadership, in line with the RENEWED HOPE Agenda of the President.

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