SPEECH BY THE GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF OSUN, OGBENI RAUF AREGBESOLA, AS THE CHIEF HOST AT THE ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING AND 11TH INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE AND EXHIBITION ON POWER AND TELECOMMUNICATION (ICEPT 2015) OF THE NIGERIAN INSTITUTION OF ELECTRICAL AND ELECTRONICS ENGINEERS (NIEEE) HELD AT THE LEISURE SPRINGS HOTEL, OSOGBO ON OCTOBER 13, 2015
I must thank the executive committee and members of the Nigerian Institution of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (NIEEE) for the kind invitation to attend your Annual General Meeting and 11th International Conference and Exhibition on Power and Telecommunication (ICEPT 2015). Theme: “Power and Communications: New Frontiers for Investment””. I must thank you also for choosing our dear state as the venue of your meeting. It is a wise choice. Osun provides the serenity and ambience necessary for a successful brainstorming, a peaceful environment that provides an escape from the bedlam of other urban centres. Even nature has endowed us with enviable natural formations, foremost of which are the Oluminrin Waterfall at Erin-Ijesa, the Osun Groove at Osogbo, which has been designated as World Heritage Site by UNESCO and other breathtaking sights that reflect the wondrous works of God in the most sublime form. All these are in addition to the warmth, accommodation, hospitality and the good nature of our people. I will implore you to explore the rich bounties of nature our state is endowed with after the completion of your conference. You are welcome to the State of Osun, Ipinle Omoluabi.
The theme of your conference: “Power and Communications: New Frontiers for Investment” speaks for itself. While power is evidently needed and in short supply, telecommunication is one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy. From recent reports, power generation hits 4,800 megawatts from an installed capacity of 5,500 megawatts, the highest peak we have ever achieved, but peak demand is estimated at 12,700 megawatts. However, with suppressed demand, the real power demand is estimated to be 50,000 megawatts. There is a humongous shortfall here. It needs no repeating therefore that there is a wide room for investment in generation, transmission and distribution. This will include equipment and accessories like turbines, cables, pylons, transformers, metres and so on. These should generate at least one million jobs.
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) recently informed that there are 145.6 million active telephone lines in Nigeria. This is a staggering improvement, a quantum leap from the 145,000 NITEL landlines, before the coming of mobile telephones. This is still a growing sector, especially in broadband penetration and rural access and efficiency. I need not reiteration that most jobs in this sector are also lost abroad through importation of essential equipment and accessories, especially mobile phones and low manpower, necessitating the importation of high level experts from abroad.
If there are 146 million active lines, then we can reasonably expect there should roughly be the same number of phones in use and definitely double this number would have been used and discarded since the introduction of mobile telephony in 2001. We can then imagine what value would have been added to our economy if half of this figure had been manufactured in Nigeria.
In Osun, we are laying the foundation to take a sizeable chunk of the telephony business. First, we are building capacity in ICT education. We have introduced e-learning tablets, Opon Imo, to our secondary schools. This is a standalone computer tablet that contains all the recommended textbooks for WAEC, NECO and JAMB examinations, their past questions, audio tutorials, ethics and sexuality education.
Secondly we have established an electronic manufacturing company, RLG Adulawo, which produces mobile phones, LCD television sets, laptop computers and other household products. It already has the capacity and will soon begin the production of our e-learning tablet, Opon Imo.
As a body of engineers, my first challenge to you is whether you have claimed ownership of the electrical and electronic industry first before talking about investment. By this I mean the depth of your input into the science and technology of the business. What we trade in mostly are ready made imported technology with little or no local input. The drivers of the power industry are still the Marubeni, General Electric and so on while Siemens, Alcatel, Samsung etc rule the telecommunications industry.
Virtually all our universities and polytechnics have electrical and electronic engineering departments but how has this affected the production of knowledge requisite to the sector? The Industrial Revolution began circa 1760 with the forming of synergy between the intellectual class and the mercantilist class when knowledge met entrepreneurship. Why is there no such synergy in Nigeria? Is it that there is no knowledge or there are no entrepreneurs? The challenge therefore is that you should first take possession of knowledge and then find ways to attract the investors. This is how we are going to develop a truly indigenous industry, create wealth and provide jobs for our people.
My second challenge is the teaching of science, which is actually related to the first. One of the reasons why creativity is lacking is the poor teaching and consequent reception of science education, especially mathematics, in our society. The obnoxious idea came with colonialism, that only a tiny few and exceptionally brilliant minds can understand and should study science. This has scared away the interest of the youth in science. Yet, the motivation of science is curiosity and the impulse to solve problems by questioning received wisdom. This exists in most humans and could have been a good foundation to build science education. The creativity of the youth must be explored from the kindergarten through primary, secondary and ultimately tertiary levels of education. Your body should make conscious efforts to encourage and promote science education. This is how you will be able to develop a vast reserve of human resources needed for the high level manpower in the power and telecommunication sectors and the cutting edge research and creativity needed for knowledge generation.
In Osun, we have made special arrangement with a team of experts, led by Prof Adeniran Adeboye of Howard University in the United States for the teaching of mathematics in our secondary schools. This effort should be complemented by corporate bodies, NGOs and other institutions.
Let me conclude with this admonition from Socrates who said ‘Who will move the world, let him first move himself’.
Once again, I thank you for inviting me and I wish you a fruitful and successful parley.
I thank you all, for your kind attention.