Cross River State Governor, Prof Ben Ayade is never short of lofty dreams to uplift the state but delay in the execution or completion and commissioning of some of such dream projects has been the bane of his government in the past three years.
The governor has a burning desire to light up the state because, without regular electricity supply, the talk about industrialization will be a pipedream. To this end, he budgeted N33,272,275,744.72 cumulatively for the entire power sector this year.
This is split between the parent ministry of power which got N16,550,039,803.09 for major projects across the state and the State Electrification Agency (SEA) which received N16,722,235,941.63 for rural electrification basically.
For the Ministry of Power, a higher amount of N23,896,823,965.20 was allocated in 2017 out of which the actual revenue/expenditure between January and October was N179,400,000.
The greatest challenge every government faces, even at the federal level, is the ability to provide regular electricity supply to drive industrialization. In spite of the billions of naira spent on power generation in the country over the years, electricity supply from the national grid has never been regular.
This has persisted for several decades, forcing manufacturing companies to spend millions of naira on maintaining and fuelling of their electricity generating plants. Individuals are also compelled to seek alternative source of electricity supply by buying electricity generators to run their homes or businesses.
With this as the order of the day across the country, a state such as Lagos, has long ceased to depend totally on power supply from the national grip. As one of the nation's largest industrial hubs, the state embarked on independent power project some years ago and it is reaping bountifully from it now.
Perhaps to complement his industrialization drive, Ayade is toeing the line of pragmatic governors by constructing two 26MW Gas Fired Power Turbine in Calabar at a cost of N5,970,000,000.
This amount was allocated in this year's budget. Last year's budget for the same project was N1,970,000,000. A separate total amount of N4.2 billion has also been allocated in this year's budget for the S-Power Programme of the state. Nothing was allocated to it last year. However, not much is known about this programme.
Another N800 million was earmarked for the completion of the Calabar Power Plant in the 2018 budget. Nothing was allocated in 2017. This project seems dear to the governor's heart. It won't surprise many if the governor weeps the day it is commissioned.
The construction of Obudu street light will gulp N853,122,623.00 this year, while last year N1 billion was allocated to it. The sum of N635 million was allocated for the construction of electricity meter manufacturing factory in 2018. Also this year, the construction of electric poles manufacturing factory will gulp N505 million.
The sum of N390 million was earmarked for the design and construction of 132KV line from Calabar to Obudu. In 2017, N3 billion was allocated while the actual revenue/expenditure between January and October was a mere N165 million. Another N300 million was also allocated for the development of embedded power plant in Obudu. The same amount was budgeted in 2017. The hydro-power plant at Obudu Ranch was allocated N110,250,000, a huge reduction from the 2017 budget which was N2 billion.
The long stretch of Murtala Mohammed highway, the major artery in the state capital, will look a lot better at night if the retrofitting of street lighting from Calabar to Tinapa Junction is successfully implemented.
For this project, N300 million has been set aside in this year's budget. Last year, N200 million was allocated for the same project. Street lighting installation for Ogoja Urban will gulp N300 million. The sum of N500 million was allocated in the 2017 budget.
A total of N250 million was earmarked for the design and construction of hydro-power plant at tourism site, Agbokim Waterfall. This is a fraction of the N5 billion allocated for the project last year.
Another tourism site, Kwa Falls in Akamkpa, was allocated the sum of N300 million for the construction of 2MW hydro-power plant. The sum of N221,816,725.7 was budgeted for the construction of 33KV Bye-pass power line at Obudu. Last year, the amount was N100 million.
Energy City got N50 million, while in 2017 the sum of N35 million was allocated to it. Power supply, installation of street lights in three government estates at Ikot Effanga/Ikot Ekpo will gulp N220,973,361.00, same as last year's allocation. On paper, these are lofty projects. But in reality, their implementation is what the people need to better their lives.
While Cross Riverians await the commissioning of these electricity projects, rural electrification is still at a dismal level. This is within the purview of the State Electrification Agency (SEA) which was given a separate allocation of N16,722,235,941.63 in this year's budget as earlier stated.
It got N6,888,257,765.94 last year, while the actual revenue/expenditure between January and October was N227,311,181. Rural electrification shouldn't be a mere slogan or something government officials merely pay lip service.
Rural dwellers want to feel the impact of SEA. They want to have electricity and benefit from it. They need transformers and feeder pillars and other accessories required by power distribution companies to connect them to the national grid.
Some of the communities need basic things such as feeder pillars or transformers to get connected. The rural-urban migration narrative will change if basic amenities such as electricity, pipe-borne water, good roads and health facilities are provided in the rural areas. Now that there is a clarion call to return to agriculture, making the rural areas attractive would serve as an impetus to lure teeming unemployed young men back from the cities.
Meanwhile, the story making the rounds is that the much touted Calabar Power Plant would soon be commissioned after which government officials said uninterrupted electricity supply in the city would be the order of the day. Governor Ayade was quoted as saying an Indian company, Skipper Seil, which handles Dangote Group's power projects, is in charge of the Calabar Power Plant project.