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HomeAbia State DiaryFOR THE RECORDS: THE POWER TO DREAM

FOR THE RECORDS: THE POWER TO DREAM

Governor Alex Otti, Mrs. Agatha Nnaji, wife of the Geometric boss Barth Nnaji, and Governor Otti’s wife, Mrs. Priscilla Otti watch as Vice President Kashim Shettima presses the button to remotely switch on the turbines to formally commission the Geometric Power Plant in Aba, Abia State.

BEING TEXT OF SPEECH DELIVERED BY THE GOVERNOR OF ABIA STATE, DR. ALEX C. OTTI, OFR, AT THE OFFICIAL COMMISSIONING OF GEOMETRIC POWER PLANT, OSISIOMA INDUSTRIAL LAYOUT, ABA, ON MONDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2024.

Protocol,

It is with a great sense of fulfilment that I welcome everyone who has come from far and near to be part of this epoch-making event; the commissioning of Geometric Integrated Power Project, a 141MW, expandable to 188MW power generation and distribution facility built to supply uninterrupted electricity to businesses and households across 9 local governments in Abia State within the Aba ring-fenced area.

I am very honoured to welcome His Excellency, the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Senator Kashim Shettima, GCON, members of the Federal Executive Council, and other very senior government officials to Abia State, God’s Own State, and particularly to Aba, The Enyimba City.

The Vice President’s presence here points to the great significance of today’s event. It also speaks to the commitment of the Federal Government to support private sector investors in the search for a robust model for the electricity value chain in the country.

Permit me to also welcome other very important dignitaries from the public and private sectors, who have come to witness the dawn of a new era in the business of electricity generation, transmission and distribution in Nigeria.

It would be fair to appreciate at this point, Prof. Barth Nnaji, the board, management, and staff of Geometric Power Limited and all the partners whose vision, diligence and resilience saw to the actualisation of the project we have gathered for its commissioning.

Commendations are also due to elite group of public sector officials and multinational partners who gave so much to see that Aba Geometric Power Plant and its array of support facilities and structures are completed — despite several frustrating twists and turns.

The commitment of the Federal Government to the actualisation of what started off as a pipe dream 20 years ago, the faith of the financial partners, the goodwill of the Aba business community, and very importantly, the patience of the investors, tell a very exciting story of what we can achieve as Nigerians when we mobilise ourselves and resources to take on any task.

As a leader in the private sector many years ago, and now as the Governor of the State, I consider the Geometric Integrated Power Project to be very special and dear to my heart because of the immense potential it holds for the economic and social rejuvenation of Aba as a preferred destination for enterprise growth, family life and leisure.

Ladies and gentlemen, permit me to share my story with Geometric. In 2010, Prof. Barth Nnaji came to see me in First Bank, Lagos, where I served as an Executive Director. He needed the support of the bank to complete the project, the funding of which had been unfortunately stopped two years before, by the bank that originally started the project. This bank happened to be Diamond Bank. After securing approval for an $85m facility from First Bank of Nigeria, Geometric Power could not draw on the facility as it had become public knowledge that I was resuming as the Group Managing Director of Diamond Bank, shortly. As I resumed in Diamond on March 1, 2011, I put together a team that saw to the restructuring of the challenged facility and resumed funding of the project to completion. By the time I left Diamond towards the end of 2014, the three General Electric turbines and the 27km gas pipeline were in place. A combination of factors including ownership tussle over the Aba ring fence, sale of the oil block where the feed gas was going to come from to a new investor, and additional funding challenges conspired to delay project delivery for close to 10 years. On assumption of office May 29, 2023, my team and I quickly folded our sleeves and started working with Geometric to resolve the gas supply problem by directly interfacing with top management of NNPC and today we have gas flowing to the turbines. Just as recorded in Romans 8:28, “All things work together for good to them that love God”. I’m therefore pleased that 14 years down the line, God arranged everything such that the final resolution of all the issues and the firing of the turbines would happen when He had handed over the mantle of stewardship to me. May His name be glorified!

I consider it appropriate to acknowledge the efforts of former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu, who gave the initial waivers to Geometric, thereby derisking the transaction. I thank specifically, the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe, CFR, who was the Chairman of Diamond Bank at the time, and who played a significant role in the resolution of the ownership tussle of the ring fence tussle. I cannot fail to recognise Prof. Okey Oramah, who got Afreximbank, his bank, to support the project with the required funding to get to the last mile. Many thanks to Engnr Mele Kyari, the GMD of NNPC, who God used to solve the gas problem.

This city is very pivotal to the economic trajectory of Nigeria and the West Africa region, and I knew for a fact that if we got the fundamentals right, Aba would not just be a city that makes millionaires of dreamers, it would become, a land of solutions to the many socio-economic problems that assail us – including worrisome level of youth unemployment and pervasive poverty.

My faith in Aba as an economic powerhouse meant that when I first saw the proposal for the Geometric Integrated Power Plant, I knew I had to be involved immediately because if just 50% of what had been proposed could be achieved, the industrial output from this great city and its environs would triple and millions of new jobs would be created directly and indirectly in the short to medium term.

We have therefore gathered to celebrate the actualisation of a lofty dream, the beginning of a new epoch and the reaffirmation of our limitless abilities as a people. Certainly, the success of this power project will not just validate my unyielding belief in Aba but would send a clear signal to local and international investors that Aba is open for business.

Whatever your line of business, manufacturing, agro-processing, metal fabrication, woodworks, ICT, fashion, services, or retail, whatever be it, Aba is waiting to embrace you warmly because in addition to steady improvements in urban infrastructure, especially roads as we have witnessed since mid-2023, Aba residents and businesses will now enjoy reliable power supply all year round, thanks to Geometric Power.

The onus is now on us to pay our electricity bills as and when due. There must be no attempt to sabotage the revenue flow to the company because projects like this require steady cash flow for effective operations — including payment for gas supplies.

Community leaders must also work closely with security agents to guard against any form of vandalisation of critical supply or distribution infrastructure either for reasons of criminality or wilful sabotage.

On its own part, the business division of Geometric Power must consistently guard against any form of customer extortion, under whatever guise. I am glad to learn that the company had recently embarked on mass metering of households and business premises. It is my wish that the initiative is sustained until every customer gets a meter to gauge and manage their electricity consumption.

Furthermore, standard practice with respect to customer protection as spelt out in the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) Customer Protection Regulations, 2023, must apply across service frontiers — customer disconnection, meter reading, billing, management and resolution of complaints. It must be borne in mind at all times that the customer is king, especially in these economically challenging times.

Your position as a monopoly within your operational area would in the medium to long term either become a door opener to other equally strategic markets, or a burden that would hurt the company’s capacity to expand to new territories. The choice is yours to make but I am of the view that if you serve Aba right through quality service delivery, wallet-friendly billing and responsiveness to customer complaints, the sky will simply be your starting point.

As a government, and partner, we shall offer every necessary support to guarantee the success of this project because so much depends on it. My doors will remain open to engage and listen to you. I am also certain that other body of stakeholders including landlords, business and community leaders will never withhold their cooperation, if efforts are made to build faith and trust in your business model.

My message to Geometric Power and its subsidiaries is that their investments are very safe in Abia State, and will be profitable in the long run because Aba has always rewarded industry and innovation.

May I, again, conclude just as I started, on a note of gratitude. Aba is grateful. Abians are excited, and optimistic. My promise is that events like this will now become more regular in the light of our on-going discussions with several local and international investors — so we are just getting started. In no distant time, Umuahia and environs will hear from us as we are working on a solution for them.

Your Excellencies, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the honour of your presence in Abia today. I wish you journey mercies as you return to your various destinations and see you at the next commissioning ceremony.

Dr. Alex C. Otti, OFR,
Governor, Abia State
26/02/2024.

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