Engineer Ibrahim Ali is a one time Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and once served as Managing Director of the Nigerian Housing Authority (NHA) credited with supervising the construction of the famous Gwarimpa Housing Estate in Abuja. In this interview, Ali who is executing Governor Kashim Shettima’s industrialisation policy speaks on the kick-off of the Borno Solar Panel Factory.
What is the motive behind plans to unveil the Solar Power Panel Factory in Maiduguri?
It is Africa’s biggest and is fully automated. The idea is wholly that of Governor Kashim Shettima, and his intention is to set the stage for the industrialisation of Borno State in line with his desire to kick-start the economy of the state in response to the dislocation wrought on the state by a decade-long insurgency. In this district where all the nine industries are located, one can see an unprecedented level of activity to redefine our targets and objectives in a way that will change the narratives and build a future of prosperity and growth.
What are your targets for the power sector?
We have all seen the implication of the Obasanjo/Jonathan kind of privatisation of the power sector, how he sold the assets and how the sector has been bastardised leading to very serious power crisis. We are supposed to look inward in order to identify how best to respond to the crisis in the power sector in relation to getting our priorities right.
In Borno and in the North, we have abundant sunshine, and I wonder why we cannot invest in solar energy to provide realistic and affordable power to our people in order to fast track growth. It is the global trend because 20 per cent of power generated globally is from solar. In April, we will roll out.
Our target is to produce certified quality solar panels and each panel will have capacity for 300 watts. As you know 1,000 watts equals to one kilowatt and 1,000 of that is one megawatt.
Each year, we would have an aggregate of 40MW. Borno requires not more than 120 to 150MW to power its industrial drive, lubricate the economy, give access to small scale entrepreneurs and propel growth. It means in just three years, we can achieve self-sufficiency in power generation.
Have you identified the market for the solar power panels?
We are a business and as such we are a global brand. But my eyes are set on providing cheap and affordable electricity to the very people that are in critical and dire need of it to have access to power to improve their performances and businesses and to push them out of poverty. In this category we have boreholes, clinics, hospitals, schools, kiosks and other small businesses, street lights, market places, villages and even Tsangayas.
In fact, we believe that we will change the way we do irrigation in the North, Nigeria and the whole of Africa. It is very difficult for farmers to make profit in tandem with the sweat they put in because getting the energy to power their water generating sets is very costly due to fluctuating oil prices. We will provide access to energy through less costly but highly effective and affordable solar power to make it profitable and less strenuous for farmers to power their sets.
It is said that solar power is not fully solving electricity needs due to its low voltage. Do you consider this?
Before I come to that question, I will like to re-emphasise the endowment God Almighty has given us in virtually all of Africa. There is just no reason whatsoever for African countries to shy away from investing in solar energy. I am aware that the sub-standard power panels most people have access to have proved to be problematic and as such, there is apparently a kind of lack of confidence in them.
We have addressed all those fears by establishing a world class solar panel factory, the best and biggest in Africa and it is fully automated. We produce highly qualitative panels through a well-thought out and meticulous engineering process that will stand the test of time. We know the challenges and there was no stone that was left unturned in the process of actualising this dream.
Our first priority is Borno, and because of our peculiar circumstances and situation, our objective is to address those peculiarities in order to provide a way out of our economic dislocation.
Germany’s 20 per cent electricity is solar generated even when they are not as endowed as we are, sun wise. It is all about believing in yourself and your ability to identify your shortcomings and needs and which best is the way to go about solving them.