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FOR THE RECORDS: ‘Aba is now primed to enjoy reliable, quality and affordable electricity’ – Obasanjo

 AS ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, marks his 87th birthday today (yesterday) here is the unpublished speech he prepared, but delivered on his behalf by his son, Dr Seun Obasanjo, at the presidential commissioning of Geometric Power in Aba, Abia State, last week.

It is a great pleasure to be invited to speak on this occasion. The commissioning of the 188-megawatt Geometric Power plant located in the Osisioma Industrial Layout of Aba, the Great Enyimba City, and Aba Power Ltd which will distribute electricity to nine (9) of the seventeen (17) Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Abia State is historic in every sense of the expression.

This is a red-letter day in the annals of not just Aba or Abia State, but also the entire country. I had for months assured my brother and friend, Professor Bart Nnaji, that I would attend this event physically, in flesh and blood.

However, the ongoing funeral rites during the same period of a fallen hero of African liberation, President Hage Geingob of Namibia, in his country and the follow-up meeting in Angola have made it impossible for me to be with you in person. I have, therefore, sent a worthy representative in person of my son, Dr. Seun Obasanjo.

I have heard a lot of reasonable members of our society claim that the Geometric Power Group is a product of the far-reaching reforms that our administration decided to carry out in the national economy after the 2003 general elections.

Geometric Power is, indeed, part of the product of that reform programme, but, in reality, it preceded the 2003 elections. Our administration in 2000 wanted to build an emergency power plant to provide power to the Central District of Abuja pending the completion of the Shiroro- 2 Abuja power line by the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA). Two companies were final bidders for the 30MW plant after repetitive bids. One was Scottish and one Nigerian.

The Nigerian company, Geometric Power, was led by Professor Bart Nnaji. I asked the then Minister of Power to share the project equally among the two companies.

Geometric Power built a 22MW Emergency Power Plant in Abuja to ensure reliable delivery of the required 15MW to provide electricity to some critical parts of the Federal Capital Territory during the period.

We felt it was in the overriding national interest to allow this team of young Nigerians to showcase their knowledge and skills rather than award the whole contract to a foreign firm.

This gave birth to Geometric Power becoming the first indigenous Nigerian private power company. I am happy these Nigerians did a very good job. There was no power failure in the Presidential Villa, the NNPC Corporate Headquarters, the Central Bank of Nigeria Headquarters, the Federal Secretariat, and the entire Abuja Central Business District for the period they supplied electricity to these places.

The success of the 22MW Abuja Emergency Power Plant resulted in the birth, in 2004, of the 188 MW Geometric Power plant and the Aba Power Distribution Company.

The success rekindled our belief that the private sector, not the government, should play a commanding role in the power sector. We started with Aba simply because of its reputation as the home of indigenous industrialization.

Given that the existing law invested in the Federal Government the sole power of electricity generation, transmission, and distribution, we reached a special agreement with Geometric Power to carve out Aba and the environs from the national electricity arrangement and make it operate as a kind of island.

We thought that the success of this business model would be recommended across the country. Hence, the Electric Power Sector Reform Act of 2005 made the electricity business in Nigeria private-sector driven.

I came to learn that during the privatization of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) successor companies in November 2013, the government of the day did not respect the Federal Government’s MOU with Geometric Power in 2004, with substantive agreement in 2005, to make Aba a Ring-fenced Area. This action led to a loss of public confidence in the privatisation programme and many years were lost in the development of the Aba Ring-fenced Area.

All that is behind us and Aba is now primed to enjoy reliable, quality, and affordable electricity. Quality and regular power supply will, by extension, benefit all Nigerians, not just the people and businesses in Aba.

Constant power supply can reduce the cost of doing business in Aba significantly; this will translate to cheaper products and services. I felicitate with the people of Aba for what this 188MW gas-generating plant will contribute to living and business experiences in Aba.

I congratulate Geometric Power and its driving force, Professor Bart Nnaji. Let this example be followed in other cities and business areas in other parts of the country.

Thanks for listening.

 

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