UNN’s 500KVA Electricity Plant: Another missed opportunity?

History was again recorded at the University of Nigeria (UNN), Nsukka over the weekend with the design and fabrication of 500KVA Refuse-Derived-Fuel Gasification Electricity Plant. The plant designed by a team of engineers led by Prof. Emineke Ejiogu of the Faculty of Engineering at the university, according to reports, set a new record in electricity supply in the country. There is no doubt the feat will help address electricity challenges in the country.

At the unveiling of the plant, the Minister of State for Power, Mr. Goddy Jedy Agba, commended the scientists and expressed joy at the innovation which is said to be a gas plant that use organic refuse to generate electricity. An elated minister told the world at the ceremony that the “Federal Government will key-in into the project, ensure massive production of the plant to help boost much needed electricity supply not just at the UNN, but the entire country”. To walk the talk, Jeddy Agba promised to immediately forward a proposal to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for approval, stressing that government’s investments in alternative energy was to conserve scarce foreign exchange, boost electricity supply nationwide and as well, reduce the country’s dependence on hydro-power supply”.

The minister did not mince words, neither did he make any mistakes when he remarked that “UNN has always set the pace for others, especially in terms of innovation and technology”, and promised listing UNN among beneficiaries of the second phase of Energizing Education Programme.

Also speaking, leader of the research team, Prof. Ejiogu explained that the plant was designed and facilitated by the university‘s Laboratory of Industrial Electronics, Power Devices, and New Energy Systems (LIEPNES), noting that the plant was capable of reducing diesel consumption by 60 percent, adding that they were already working on expanding the plant from 500KVA to 1Mega Watts plant.

Also, the UNN Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Charles Igwe said the pains of being forced to pay a bill amounting to between N70 million and N80 million monthly by the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC), forced them to put their heads together to see how they can come out of such humongous bills, adding that Prof. Ejiogu’s refuse gas plant which will go a long way to ameliorate the and solve the problems of power supply in UNN and possibly the entire country.

Recall that in March 19, 2019, this same Prof. Ejiogu led a research team which set the record of electricity generation in the country using organic waste. They were able to design, fabricate and install 100KV Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) Gasification Plant at the Nsukka campus of the university. This plant uses refuse from toilets and other organic sources to generate the content used to generate the electricity, which is still in use at the university. The additional 500KV capacity plant which was unveiled last week has been connected to supply electricity to the administrative building of UNN.

With the beautiful stories above, would that be the end of story? If the Nigerian factor is anything to go by, one should not be surprised that the story has ended. It would not be a shock to hear that the entire effort has been sabotaged or that it amounts to nothing. On the contrary, it would be surprising that the innovative efforts are allowed to run full stream and function optimally with the set maintenance processes followed diligently.

Don’t get us wrong, this is Nigeria where the absurd takes precedence; where the unexpected happen and nothing is done to ameliorate.

Since a set of scientists at the same UNN performed the feat of designing electric car, has anything again been heard of the innovation? One would not be shocked because that has been our pattern. It appears that in Nigeria, our political leaders loath to hear the word innovation. It appears they have been cocooned to accepting only items produced in other countries and would stop at nothing at lending support, or even moving the nation’s scarce foreign resources to pursue the actualization of such, just as we did with petroleum refineries in neighbouring, even arid countries, instead of fixing ours or putting up new ones. We prefer to spend our scare resources importing fuel, diesel, kerosene and other crude derivatives even though we are among the global producers of crude oil. What a shame!

When the UNN team designed and rolled out their electric cars, was that innovation not driven into coma? The AUTHORITY is asking the authorities to please come out from where they are and do the appropriate thing. It is this same attitude that made it impossible for us to do the needful with the home-made covid-19 remedies. Several months after indigenous researchers, including the globally acclaimed Prof. Maurice Iwu submitted their remedies to the Federal Ministry of Health through the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), what else did we hear of those remedies? It appears, dead on arrival? We prefer to patronize foreign-made product, otherwise, why did Nigeria rush to procure AstraZeneca Covid-19 Vaccine and immediately deployed same without even the simple process of passing same through NAFDAC certification?

The AUTHORITY is not questioning the efficacy or otherwise of the vaccine here, but we are appalled that NAFDAC, to the knowledge of the public, never did what it ought to have done, to assure members of the public that it is not into any double standard! And all the controversy about the vaccine arise to a reasonable extent because it appears there is a cabal which never wanted NAFDAC to play its traditional role, while ensuring that those who came up with local remedies never saw the light of the day.

If we should ask: would there be any problem if NAFDAC had carried out its work on those local covid-19 remedies with dispatch and recommended modifications if noticed, than keeping the nation in the dark? Now that UNN has shown capacity at innovating, why should it take the Federal Government any blinking of an eyelid for the authorities to move in and lend the necessary support towards improving and quickly mass-producing both the electric car and electric generating plants?

With the issues arising from electricity across the country, should we wait for Angels from heaven to drum it into our ears that supporting innovation is the only road to extricating ourselves from the strangulating technological and forex problems? While we still sleep on the issue as we slept on insecurity in the country, God forbid that the innovation by Prof. Ejiogu goes down in history when some people are at the helm of affairs. Where will history count you in the annals of top political office holders?

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