Ahmad Salihijo Ahmad – Top 10 CEOs of 2021

Engr. Ahmad Salihijo Ahmad is managing director/CEO of Rural Electrification Agency of Nigeria (REA), where he has mandate to develop and implement plans and strategies for rural electrification across the country. 

He is the man driving the mission to provide access to reliable electric power supply for rural dwellers irrespective of where they live in Nigeria and what they do. His job essentially is to apply technology to solve energy problems in Nigeria’s rural communities.

The Agency is tasked with electrification of rural and unserved communities through public and private sector participation, co-ordinating rural electrification programme and administering the Rural Electrification Fund (REF) to accomplish the objectives.

Ahmad has provided effective leadership at the agency that has brought in innovation in the task of lighting up the rural communities in Nigeria. The agency has flagged off and commissioned several solar projects across the country under Ahmad’s leadership.

He has unveiled the rural power provision structure of the government and translated same into reality through energy efficiency projects that are completed or ongoing, across the six geo-political zones of the country.

REA has implemented a number of electricity projects under the Rural Electrification Fund, Energizing Education Programme, Grid Extension (capital projects), Energizing Economies Initiative and Solar Power Naija Programme.

In 2020, the agency commissioned a 234kWp solar hybrid mini-grid in Shimankar, a rural community in Shendam Local Government Area of Plateau State. The project is one of the largest capacity mini-grids deployed by REA to power an unserved community.

Last September a 100kWp Solar Hybrid Mini-Grid at Kasuwan Magani, Kajuru market, Kaduna State, built through public-private partnership, was commissioned. The project provides constant and reliable electricity to over 500 shops in the market, one commercial bank, one police station, and one fire service station.

Earlier in February this year, the agency commissioned a 1.35MW Solar Hybrid Power Project at the Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun, Delta State. The project is the 5th under Phase 1 of the Energizing Education Programme implemented by REA.

A 100kWp Solar Hybrid Mini-Grid Grid Project was also commissioned in the same month in the Adebayo community, Ovia South LGA, Edo State. The community has existed for over 60 years without electricity.

The Ahmad-led agency also commissioned a 30kWp solar hybrid mini-grid project in the Mbela Lagaje community in Adamawa State. This mini-grid was delivered through REA’s capital projects.

Also, the agency has energized many federal universities, including the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, Bayero University Kano, Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi, Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu Alike-Ikwo, Ebonyi, among others with solar hybrid captive power plants.

Some other projects have been commissioned in the last two years and REA’s management promises that hundreds more currently ongoing across the country would soon be realised. Ahmad assures that the federal government is poised to ensure the deployment of equitable electricity to rural dwellers across every nook and cranny of Nigeria.

“True national development happens when there is equitable deployment of such sustainable interventions. Leveraging on the leadership and support of the federal ministry of power, we will ensure that unserved and underserved communities across Nigeria continue to feel the impact of the federal government’s energy interventions,” he said.

The targets for the rural electrification programme of government is to increase access to electricity to 75 percent and 90 percent by 2020 and 2030 respectively. It is also set to achieve a minimum of 10 percent of renewable energy mix by 2025.

A sustainability platform is built where beneficiaries under Rural Electricity Users Cooperative Societies (REUCS) will own, operate and maintain the infrastructures in cooperation with DisCos and other professional private sector companies providing the know-how required to operate the systems.

REA provides the training required to operate such systems effectively and efficiently. REUCS is an initiative of the agency, which is aimed at mobilizing benefiting communities to achieve sustainability of electrification projects.

The agency utilises decentralized solutions in its effort to increase access to electricity. This involves a mix of centrally coordinated, demand-driven and market-oriented projects. Grid extension strategies are supported by stand-alone systems under which mini-grids are developed to provide critical services for hardest-to-reach customers.

The off grid electricity strategy is to provide access to clean and sustainable electricity to millions of Nigerians. Some of the key objectives are to develop 10,000 mini grids by 2023 to serve 14 percent of the population, meet reliable electric power needs of 250,000 SMEs and to deploy five million solar standalone systems for residential communities and SMEs by 2023.

Ahmad has taken steps that have facilitated the execution and delivery processes of the power projects of the agency through collaborations and partnerships. He led the agency to a partnership with Development Bank of Nigeria to structure affordable financing plans for REA’s projects. This includes the REF Call 2 projects, through selected commercial banks.

The benefit is to create an avenue for mini-grid developers from the recently finalized REF Call 2 while engaging with financiers, development finance institutions as well as digital financial institutions within the solar space in Nigeria to access debt financing.

Ahmad has also pulled through partnership agreements between the agency and six companies on the Output-Based Fund agreement under the Stand-alone Solar Homes System component of the Nigeria Electrification Project. With the signing of the grant agreements, about 75,953 SHS Units have been added to the existing 200,000 SHS connections since the project was launched in 2019.

Ahmad holds a Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and management from the University of Leeds. He also holds a Master of Development Studies from the Nigerian Defence Academy and a Master Diploma from CADD.

He also holds a certification from The Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria. Prior to his appointment at REA, he was a member of the executive management team of a private energy consultancy where he provided thought leadership and strategic operationalization of various solar energy projects across Nigeria. Other roles that Ahmad has held include special adviser to the minister of environment and principal infrastructure officer at the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission.