By Izunna Okafor, Awka
The Anambra State Commissioner for Power and Water Resources, Engr. Julius Chukwuemeka has revealed the Ministry’s transformative journey towards a vision that will propel the state into a more environmentally conscious and technologically advanced era, fostering economic growth and enhancing the overall quality of life for its citizens.
Commissioner Chukwuemeka, who disclosed this in an interview with newsmen in Awka, said part of the the vision, aside ensuring the use of renewable energy, would also revolutionize the state’s energy landscape, promoting sustainability and ensuring a constant and reliable power supply for residents and businesses alike.
According to him, the Ministry, under his watch, has a focus, enshrined in the acronym ISE, which implies that every project the Ministry will execute must be Impactful, Sustainable, and Eco-friendly.
Engr. Chukwuemeka also credited the improved power supply being enjoyed in the State now to Anambra State’s strategic Memorandum of Understanding with the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC), while also noting that the government will not relent in its efforts and forward-thinking initiative to ensure 24/7 power supply in the State.
Going memory lane on how far the Ministry has gone in ensuring clean and sustainable energy for Ndị Anambra, the Commissioner said some feeders in the state now generate up to 22-hour power supply in a day, as against the maximum generation of 15 hours they inherited when Governor Chukwuma Soludo’s Administration came on board. This, he said, was above the 18 hours they earlier targeted upon assumption of office. The Commissioner, who said the state government would not relent until it achieves 24/7 power supply in the State, also revealed that the Soludo Administration was making efforts to diversify the state’s energy generation sources, leveraging on the its abundant gas reserve, water bodies, wastes, and solar radiation.
While attesting that Governor Chukwuma Soludo has special interest in the State’s power sector, the Commissioner also recalled that the state government, through the Ministry has resolved the Rights of Way challenges, land-related issues and other issues that were hitherto stagnating or impeding the execution of the some federal government’s interventional projects in the power sector in the state for long time.
The Commissioner further revealed that the resolution of those issues has now resulted to the speedy execution of those projects, which include the ongoing construction of the 132KV Umuchu Sub-station and the 133KV Aguleri Sub-station. He also noted that the Ministry was working hard to achieve such resolution and execution in other places in the State where such issues still exist, including the Ogidi Area.
While disclosing that some communities and local government areas in the State, including the Anambra West Local Government Area and parts of Anambra East Local Government Area, such as Eziagulu-Otu, Enugwu-Otu, and Mkpunando had never been connected to the national grid and thus had never seen electricity before; the Commissioner said the arrival of the Soludo Administration had brought relief to people from the area, as some of the communities have now been connected to the national grid while efforts are till in progress to connect the remaining ones.
Concerning the opportunity presented by the Electricity Amendment Act, 2023 which authorizes states to legislate on their power, Commissioner Chukwuemeka said the draft of the Anambra State Electricity Policy and Electricity Bill, which are prerequisites for establishing the Anambra State Electricity Market, were currently ready for the consideration of the State Executive Council and the State House of Assembly. He recalled the recent commissioning of meter manufacturing company in the state which has the capacity to manufacture over 1.4m meters annually, adding that such initiative will help to close the metering gap in the State.
On streetlighting of the State, the Commissioner said the state government, in line with the visionary leadership of Governor Soludo to cut down the cost of governance and promote all-round environmental sustainability, had so far converted over 25,000 diesel-powered streetlights to solar streetlights in different parts of the State and also installed over 1500 new solar-powered streetlights in other parts of the State, including the Okpoko community where over 563 solar streetlights have been installed. He recalled that the present administration inherited over 25,000 diesel-powered streetlights in the State which was costing the State over nine hundred million naira monthly to power them, adding that the amount and the general cost of governance would have soared higher by now, if not for the switchover to solar streetlights by the present administration, given the current price of petroleum products in the country.
“Aside from reducing the cost of governance, environmental concerns, eco-friendliness, human health, and efficiency of operation also take centre stage in the Governor’s visionary decision to embark on the switchover,” he said.
While noting that the government has made it a policy that any streetlights to be installed in the State henceforth must be solar-powered, Commissioner Chukwuemeka also explained that the three-in-one streetlight being installed by the government charges fast and discharges slowly, switches itself on and off at the appropriate times, and stores power for uninterrupted illumination even during the cloudy and rainy days, among other numerous advantages. He also explained that, aside the streetlights, many facilities in the State are currently being powered by solar, including the State High Court rooms, High Court Judges residence, Federal High Court rooms, Court of Appeal rooms, Umueri General Hospital, Enugwu-Ukwu General Hospital, and Ekwulobia General Hospital, as well as the various correctional centres in the State. He further hinted that plans were already on motion to also ensure that the Anambra State Secretariat, health centers and water facilities in the State are powered by solar.
The Commissioner also recalled that the water facility inventory his Ministry had when he newly assumed office showed that over 70 percent of the water facilities in different parts of the State were not functional, mainly because of power source, which are largely diesel generators that are expensive to maintain and environmentally unhealthy; hence, the need for alternative source that will be more effective, efficient, and eco-friendly.
He also disclosed that the state government had resuscitated and converted many hitherto diesel-powered and non-functional boreholes to solar-powered boreholes in different parts of the State, including the moribund 50,000-liter water facility newly renovated and converted to solar by the State Government at the Civil Servants’ Quarters, Iyiagu Estate, Awka. Others, he said, include those converted at Iyiora, Anam, in Anambra West Local Government Area with 5000 gallon tank; and the solar-powered borehole recently constructed for the people of Ibuhugwu village in Umuchu, Aguata Local Government Area, as part of the compensation for the sub-station being constructed on their land.
Commissioner Chukwuemeka also revealed that Governor Soludo had given a marching order for the resuscitation of the various water schemes and facilities across the state to ensure uninterrupted clean and portable water supply to the people of the state. This, according to him, would be done under the Private Public Community Partnership (PPCP) model, which will have both the private sector, the government, and the community actively involved in the project and initiative, both in the pre-execution stage, the execution stage, and the post-execution stage (the management and maintenance) of the projects.
He also explained that work had already begun in the five urban water schemes in the State, which include the Awka, Onitsha, Nnewi, Ekwulobia and the Otuocha Water Schemes, adding that the schemes would also have water labs upon completion, which will serve purposes and accrue many benefits to the parties involved.
“We didn’t stop with the people in the city. There are about 55 semi-urban water schemes in the state, but we have selected 15 (five from each of the three senatorial zones) for now as where to begin the first phase of resuscitation. We also did same in the rural area, we have 68 water schemes, but chose to begin with few from each local government area,” he explained.
He attested that the state government also had special interest in the Water sector, which, he said led to the creation of the Anambra State Water Resources Management Agency, headed by Engr. Ikeobi Ejiofor. He also acknowledged the existence of the Anambra State Urban Water Asset Holdings Corporation, and the Anambra State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (RUWASSA), all working towards provision of clean and portable water for the people. He also recalled that, immediately after the 2022 flood disaster, the Ministry attracted intervention from the United Nations Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) that led to the rehabilitation of 98 hand pumps in the communities affected by the flood disaster, to prevent the people from resorting to drinking from the subsided flood or the contaminated rivers in the area as they had been doing in the past due to scarcity of water.
Commissioner Chukwuemeka said Anambra, during the 2023 World Toilet Day, was the only state in the southeast honoured and awarded for achieving Open Defecation Free status in three local government areas (Anambra East, Aguata, and Nnewi North Local Government Areas), even as the Ministry also works hard to achieve a state-wide Open Defecation Free status before the end of the year. He also revealed that the State’s Fire Service, which is also under his Ministry, has been rated as the overall best performing Fire Service in the southeast, 3rd in the entire southern Nigeria, and the sixth in the entire country.
The Commissioner recounted how he met the Fire Service with no firefighting equipments and in lack of functional firefighting trucks despite a good number of firefighting trucks that were abandoned in the premises due to lack of maintenance culture. This, he said, moved him to procure new firefighting kits and equipments that will serve them for years, as well as repair all the spoilt and abandoned firefighting trucks and fixing them to standard again, rather than buying new ones, in line with Governor Soludo’s disregard and intolerance for wastage. He further announced that the Ministry had developed a yet-to-be-launched Fire App to help the public promptly report fire incidents and get response even when they don’t have airtime on their phones.
Going statistical in the response and operational efficiency of the State’s Fire Service in fighting fire in the State, the Commissioner, who attested to great improvement revealed that, out of 141 fire outbreaks recorded in the state 2022, the fire service contained 136 (representing 96.5%); while in 2023, they contained 102 out of 105 (representing 97.1%).
Commissioner Chukwuemeka also highlighted Governor Soludo’s recent signing of pact for out-of-court settlement of the 14-year-old lingering dispute between the state government, the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreation Service Employees (AUPCTRE), and the staff of the defunct Anambra State Water Corporation Board, as another remarkable stride in the Ministry’s journey towards achieving its vision and mandate to the people.
While appreciating the Governor and urging Ndị Anambra to expect more transformative strides from the Ministry, Commissioner Chukwuemeka further advised the people to always take full ownership of government facilities in their areas and protect them against vandals; even as he advised the citizens to desist from anything capable of slowing down the actualization of the Governor’s vision to make the Anambra a livable and prosperous homeland.