It is one year today since the Aba Ringed-Fence Area, comprising nine out of the 17 Local Government Areas in Abia State, was officially handed over to Aba Power Ltd by the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) following the amicable settlement of the dispute with the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC), and Interstate Electrics.
The dispute arose out of the manner in which the privatisation of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) assets was carried out in 2013 in the Southeast geopolitical zone by the National Economic Council without regard to the existing agreement with the Federal Government of Nigeria and such relevant agencies as the PHCN, BPE and the Federal Ministry of Power, on the one hand, and Geometric Power Ltd, on the other, on the building of a power plant in Aba, as well as the distribution of electricity in Aba and environs which was signed in 2004 and amended in 2005.
Though the Ringed-Fence Area was handed over to us legally and officially a year ago, we did not take full control until six months later for reasons we need not discuss here.
The first six months were considered a transition period, and we received no kobo for the service we provided. In broader terms, we are still in the transition period because getting the workforce to adjust to a new corporate culture takes quite some time and resources.
The equipment, machines, systems and vehicles are still being modernized. Even many members of the public have not reconciled themselves to the fact that a private firm now provides electricity to Aba and environs, and they should, therefore, pay for it; for several of our people, free electricity supply is their own share of the proverbial national cake. Some staff members have, on occasion, been beaten up mercilessly, and their tools and vehicles seized for merely asking that people pay their bills.
Still, the management and staff of Aba Power have done their best in the last one year to ensure that we provide the people of Abia State constant, reliable, quality and affordable power. They do the job, and I take all the credit! Much as I am the first person to acknowledge that the journey ahead is still far, we are proud of what we have achieved so far.
Our four brand new power substations are of the highest global standard, costing us three times the amount we could have used to fix the regular type that dots the Nigerian electric power landscape. Three substations inherited from the PHCN have been refurbished.
Over 150,000 kilometres of overhead wires have been put in place. Electricity has been restored, with massive cooperation from the Nigerian Navy, from Aba City to Owerrenta after two years of darkness, as we have done in parts of Ukwa. Places like the Aba-Owerri Road now receive power for, on average, 20 hours per day. When we took over, the LGAs we service used to receive, on average, less than 30 megawatts, but we now pick load of up to 97.44 MW. Things are truly shaping up.
As regards the Geometric Power Generation Company, we are also proud of what we have done. Despite Nigeria’s hostile economic environment, we chose to purchase and install three brand-new turbines from General Electric of the United States, the world’s oldest and biggest electricity equipment manufacturing firm.
Even though the three new turbines capable of producing 141 megawatts were never in commercial operation, we sent them back to the United States in 2019 for a comprehensive check and retrofitting in line with the best global standards.
Very few cities in the world have our kind of tubular poles that can easily withstand earthquakes. Work will soon be completed on the 27-kilometre gas pipeline from Owaza in Ukwa West LGA to the Osisioma Industrial Estate in Aba.
We have worked with the best in the energy sector worldwide to provide Nigerians with the best. We have worked with, among others, ABB, Group 5, KS Energy of Turkey run by former GE engineers, NRECA of the United States, and Oilserv, the foremost indigenous petroleum pipeline-laying firm.
We have made the training and retraining of our workforce a way of life because we are a learning organisation committed to organizational learning and knowledge. In terms of staff welfare, we doubled the salaries of staff inherited from the EEDC. The list goes on.
Our goal is to have a world-class company that will serve as a model in the power sector in Nigeria and beyond. This may seem impossible in the eyes of some people, but it is achievable. We have to stretch ourselves to achieve this goal. There is nothing the talent we have seen in Aba Power cannot achieve with the right environment and the right incentives.
Let me end by thanking President Muhammadu Buhari, whose government made the resolution of the nine-year dispute over the Aba Ringed Fence possible, the government and people of Abia State that believe in our vision, the African Exim Bank which provided the critical facility to conclude the Aba Power project, our Nigerian lenders, Diamond (now Access) Bank, Stanbic IBTC Bank, Bank of Industry, Central Bank of Nigeria, and AMCON whose contributions are not quantifiable, the Umuojima community where we are based, and so many others that cannot be mentioned here.
May the Good Lord continue to guide, protect and bless these institutional and individual partners, as well as all their families.
Professor Nnaji, CON, NNOM, FAS, FAEng, former Minister of Power, is chairman of Geometric Power Group.