WELCOME ADDRESS BY PROF BART NNAJI, CHAIRMAN/CEO, GEOMETRIC POWER DURING H.E. PRESIDENT GOODLUCK JONATHAN’S VISIT TO THE ABA POWER PLANT ON WEDNESDAY, MARCH 24, 2015
On behalf of Geometric Power and other investors in this project, I welcome you to the Aba Integrated Power Project.
Your Excellency, this project is a child of necessity. The desire of Aba Industrialists including the small and medium scale industries and our desire to contribute our quota to increasing power supply in the nation converged over ten years ago. We realized that the best way to ensure that this city will quickly have reliable and affordable electricity is to build this off-grid power project that serves the Aba metropolis. At the same time, the then World Bank President, Mr Wolfensen and the then Finance Minister who is your current Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr (Mrs) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala came to meet with the Aba Industrialists, including the Aba Ariaria Manufacturers (SMEs). At the meeting, the Ariaria manufacturers were asked to identify their number one problem which if addressed would significantly improve their production; they unanimously said that it is reliable electricity.
Mr President, this convergence of desire for reliable electricity is what led us to this historic Aba Integrated Power Project. At that time, I and our development partners from the IFC of the World Bank, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund (now known as FMFM), wanted to find a business model for power development in Nigeria that is sustainable, can stand on its own, and can be easily replicated by various investors in other major cities in Nigeria. We recognized that the nation will not be able to afford sovereign guarantee for all of its power needs, we therefore developed a model of customized embedded generation that would not require sovereign guarantee. Consequently, we set about developing this integrated power project to satisfy the electricity needs of Aba metropolis at a time when the Power Sector Reform Act of 2005 was not yet enacted. The Federal Government in 2005 concessioned Aba metropolis as the only security of the investment in the project instead of the normal sovereign guarantee. We have met the terms of our concession agreement with the Federal Government by building this 141MW Power Plant with state of the art equipment from General Electric (GE) and rehabilitating the entire distribution network in Aba.
Specifically Your Excellency, in addition to the Power Plant, we have built over 105 km of 33kV Over Head Lines within the Aba metropolis. You can see Mr. President that the steel tubular poles used to build the 33kV line infrastructure is unlike any other in Nigeria. We have also built over 40km of new 11kV lines in Aba. We have completed 5 new substations consisting of the Power Plant’s 3x60MVA Sub Station; four (4) brand new 2x15MVA substations at various parts of Aba town. In addition, we have refurbished the only three existing PHCN Substations which are dilapidated, by building three (3) brand new control buildings with outdoor substation gantries within the premises of the existing PHCN sub stations. In order to ensure the reliability of gas supply, we built a 27km gas pipeline from Imo River to this Power Plant and built the gas infrastructure to support the supply of reliable gas to the Power Plant. To date, we have invested over $500Million or in today’s money over N100 BILLION in this project.
Mr President, this power project is virtually complete, the Power Plant, various sub stations and 33kV lines have been energised and fuel is available for this project. The remaining interconnection work on the distribution network within the premises of the existing PHCN sub stations and the 11kv lines should take less than two months. This was the remaining work that was being done by our Contractors before the entire Enugu Electricity Distribution Company was handed over to another party by the BPE without excising Aba from the sale. This action in spite of our valid concession Agreement and your assurances that the agreement is sacrosanct emboldened the operators of EEDC to stop our work and chase away our contractors from the sub stations thereby ensuring that Aba people will not get benefit of this project. This means that the BPE in effect double-sold Aba metropolis (which includes Aba and Ariaria Electricity Business Districts) to our company and to Interstate Electric as part of the sale of Enugu DisCo. This is in spite of the very fact that the Agreement we have with the FGN clearly states that whenever there is privatization, our company has first right to purchase the facility in Aba hence our heavy investment in this project. As you can see Mr. President, the developers and investors in Aba IPP have developed a world class electricity infrastructure with the belief that their investment is safe in Nigeria. We have made all effort to get BPE to correct what (for choice of words) may be called an “error”. So far, they have not yielded to doing the correct thing. Rather, they have sought to justify this error and have continued to politicise the situation unnecessarily, thereby playing with the investment of this magnitude by people who have the interest of our country and the people of Aba at heart. Mr. President, I and the other investors in the Aba IPP answered the call of our beloved country to come home and be part of the development of our dear nation. The investors and stakeholders include members of the Aba Business Community, USAID and our Banks, especially Diamond Bank. This travesty has been very cruel to all of us. People in the investment community continue to wonder if this can happen to Nigerian investors with a well-structured Agreement, how then can they be sure that their investments and agreements will not be breached in the future. This action by the Government has certainly put a cold feet on the legs of potential investors. The only instrument for doing business in developing and developed nations across the globe is an Agreement, which must be respected and held sacrosanct by all parties. All the various Committees set up to look into this issue have come up with the same answer: that our Agreement should be respected by the Federal Government and that Aba Power should be offered the Aba and Ariaria Electricity Business Districts as enshrined in the Agreement. I have been assured by Mr. Vice President that the Technical committee of National Council on Privatization (NCP) and the NCP Legal Committee have made the same recommendation. However the painful fact is that this critical issue has been left festering since November 2013. It costs our company $3.5m (Three and a half million US dollars) in bank interest charges alone; plus more than N30 million for insurance coverage; other operational expenses every single month to carry a project that is not yielding any revenue due to the deliberate, hostile and crippling action of Enugu DisCo and the BPE over 15 months ago!
Mr President, so far about 8 committees, including committees of the NCP, NERC, and Ministry of Power amongst others have investigated this matter and come up with the same recommendation. There is no more need for another committee; all that it requires is your decision and firm action that will ensure the full implementation of their recommendation to sell Aba metropolis to Aba Power. We are therefore pleading with you to take a decisive action today and rescue our company and the people of Aba from the shackles of deliberate man-made mischief. We also plead with you to ask Enugu DisCo (EEDC) to immediately allow our contractors to complete the interconnection works that will allow Aba to receive this power. Please give the people of Aba an opportunity to get the intended benefit of this project, which is absolute reliable electricity. It is unfortunate that the powerful economic and political saboteurs within the system have denied your administration the golden opportunity of using the Aba metropolis electricity ring-fence as a shining example of your power reform agenda. Nevertheless, we remain fully committed to ensuring that this project will be completed under your watch for the benefit of Aba Business Community and the Nigerian people.
Mr. President, our team has worked very hard and made personal sacrifices to ensure that this project will be the first fruit of your power reform initiative in which the private sector will be empowered to drive power production and distribution in Nigeria. It is for this reason that it gives our people tremendous joy that you are here today. We thank you immensely and hope that your visit today will liberate the Aba Integrated Power Project and release the huge economic potentials of an “Enyimba City” (Aba) where electricity will be taken for granted. We are confident that your action in finally resolving this issue will do wonders for the regional economy and create hundreds of thousands of jobs for our teeming youths. We hope that you will oblige us by coming as you had promised in the past to officially commission this first totally private sector built integrated power project in Nigeria. We thank you Mr. President for the opportunity and honour of hosting you today at our Geometric Power Aba Power Plant.