(Culled from BusinessDay)
The plan by the federal government through the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) to test-run an uninterrupted off-grid power supply system with Ariaria Market in Aba, Abia State, as case study, may suffer temporary setback.
This is due to a court injunction procured by Emeka Offor’s Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) from a federal high court in Umuahia, Abia State capital. The order is meant to stop work on the Federal Ministry of Works’ plan to supply uninterrupted and cheap electricity to the famous Ariaria market in Aba, Abia State, and boost productivity and revenue generation in the popular market that serves most of West Africa.
The Ariaria experiment is said to be a private sector driven project with full backing of the Ariaria International Traders Association, the Abia State government, and the federal government ostensibly to find solution to power disruptions in the country even after privatization of the nation’s electricity sector. It is said to be part of the ‘Energise the Economy’ project of the present administration aimed at targeting some viable centres for steady supply of power.
The project owner is Ariaria Market Energy Solution Limited (AMESL) which is to generate and distribute off-grid power to the 32,000 shops in Ariaria in three phases, starting with the first 12,000 shops. Should the experiment prove viable, the Federal Ministry of Works plans to replicate it around Nigeria to supply power to universities, major markets, and some other centres, through the off grid system. This is said to hold the prospect of reducing pressure on the national grid and provide alternative power supply system that is cheaper, stable, regular and clean, according to industry insiders who spoke to BusinessDay Friday evening.
AMESL is said to have acquired the necessary approval and licenses to begin the Ariaria project which was inspected by the Minister of Works, Babatunde Fashiola, and later by the Vice president, Yemi Osinbajo. President Muhammadu Buhari is equally said to be keen on the experiment and could be the one to personally commission it in August 2018.
The attractive point of the Ariaria experiment is said to be the hope that over 32,000 shop owners who spend a minimum of N600 per day to run their generating sets may now get steady and clean power supply for about half of that cost. This is said to have won the hearts of the traders and artisans especially as about 24 shops have been connected as sample to show what the real deal would look like. Other shop owners are said to be yearning for full implementation of the Ariaria stable power supply scheme.
The speed of work seemed to receive a huge shock on Friday, June 1, 2018, when a court injunction flew from the Unuahia Federal High Court to Ariaria. EEDC is said to insist that their purchase of the entire Eastern Nigeria area under the 2011 privatisation scheme meant that Ariaria belonged to them. They are said to be demanding huge sums as ‘damages’ in the court case.
A competent source in EEDC confirmed to BusinessDay that such an injunction was obtained and served on AMESL. The source could not give details because he had no authorization to speak to the press.
The president of AMESL, Ubani Nkaginieme, told BusinessDay that he was aware of moves in a court in Umuahia against the Ariaria Project but said his firm was yet to be served.
He however described the Ariaria experiment as a blessing to the Enyimba City and a win-win to the traders, the association, the investor (AMESL), the Abia State government, and the federal government. He wondered how any person would want to stop such a laudable project that could transform Aba into a highly productive centre in West Africa.
He said all the necessary approvals were obtained, but that their lawyers would do the needful as soon as AMESL was duly served.