Teddy Nwanunobi, Abuja
The people of Aba and its environs would have reasons to smile, as the Presidency’s intervention has led to the resolution of the issues that have hindered the take off of the 144 megawatts Aba Power Plant, after many years of intense litigation and crisis.
The Aba Integrated Power Project (IPP) was designed to supply reliable power to industries, businesses, residences and other power off-takers in Aba ring-fenced area through construction, operation and delivery of electricity from the 140mw gas fired power plant to all off-takers in Phase 1 of the project.
Geometric Power and Aba Power secured a 20-year concession from the Federal Government to supply power exclusively to the Aba industrial city and its surrounding communities.
At privatisation, the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) ignored the existing contract and sold the area to Interstate Electric, 60% shareholders in Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC).
After months of dialogue and negotiation initiated by Vice President Yemi Osibanjo, Geometric Power and Enugu Disco resolved to set aside their differences and hand the facility back to Geometric.
Speaking at a signing ceremony supervised by the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, both parties pledged to work together in the interest of the people for whom the project was constructed.
A Director at Enugu Disco and former Minister, Prince Adetokunboh Kayode, thanked the President for intervening in the matter.
“We thank the Vice President who six months again, sometime in December, initiated this discussion between Geometric Power and Interstate Electricity owners of 60 percent stake in Enugu Electricity Distribution Company. It has always been our intention to resolve this matter. It is just that we went to court. But we saw the common sense in sitting down together, especially with the support of government to resolve this. We are now publicly signing documents to show that all the issues between us have been resolved. That is one.
“Two, this has also led the foundation for future cooperation, because as soon as power begins to come out of that, we are hoping to have another 100MW that we can feed into the system from our own part of the distribution territory, the entire Eastern part of Nigeria. We know the importance of power. We know the efforts of government and its interests. We know the energy that the Minister is putting into this,” Kayode said.
He was optimistic that the project would revolutionize economic activities in the region.
Promoter of the project and Chairman of Geometric Power, Prof. Barth Nnaji, described the singing ceremony as historic, assuring that the project has been completed and would come on stream before the end of the year.
“This is a historic day. It is historic in the sense that this is a sector that is largely driven by private enterprises and seeing its first major crisis resolved. It is wonderful that it being resolved by the efforts of the Minister and this administration.
“We like to extend our gratitude to the Vice President for initiating the dialogue in the first place. I remember that the Vice President said he wanted to approach the issue differently after seeing us hit at each other and said it was about negotiation like this. We also appreciate Mr. President for having been looking after all of us.
“We thank our colleagues at EEDC for finding the will to come to the roundtable. It is not an easy thing to do. Every one has recognised that a big mistake was made. We all went fighting in court. But sometimes, even when you win in court, you still have to find peace. With what we have done here, we have achieved peace and we have achieved progress.
“We believe that what Aba Power Plant was set up to do was to create a model whereby power is embedded within an enclave to deliver reliable electricity. The intension was that government could use it as a laboratory to understand how to solve the problem of the sector.
“We appreciate very much the efforts that the Minister has made to crystallize this for it to actually happen so that Aba would become that place where we have reliable electricity from this action that has occurred today. On behalf of my colleagues in Geometric and Aba Power, we thank the government of Nigeria very much. We talked to ourselves to talk to ourselves for the benefit of all sides. We have excess power that we will give Enugu Disco,” he added.
Fashola thanked the parties for coming to an understanding and promised that the Aba Power Plant model had shown that two or more operators could exist within a distribution area.
“It is a very a very momentous milestone. It is symbolic in many respects. I must express gratitude to the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osibanjo, for initiating the process of resolution before the ministers joined, but for trusting our ministry for the responsibility to see this through.“For me it is a strong lesson that courts are the appropriate place to pursue issues, but common sense is much more important than the rights that come out of courts. Common sense will make meaning to the people of Aba. It will make more meaning to the people to the traders in Ariaria. It will make more meaning to produce more made-in-Nigeria goods, because I know what is possible in that place. I used to do business there and I know they made suits. They make good shirts. They make good trousers, but they need power. And that is common sense. That is what you have achieved today.
“Common sense is also the realization now that the electricity market is just beginning. It is a transition. Many things will happen. As I said in the intervention that I made recently, there are so many things that happened that we can not even contemplate now. What has happened by this agreement is that you have shown that within one disco, two players, and there would be more players. That is a groundbreaking event today.
“For me, in spite of the energy crisis that we are undergoing currently, which, to me, is very temporary, there are many more blessings. I see more hope. I see more opportunities round the corner. One of these is that with this deal now, investments in the region of over $500 million coming there can feel safe. We can expect to see power delivered within a few months down the line, because the project as I learnt is almost completed,” he said.
Fashola stressed that the project would revive industrial activities that Aba was known for.
“More importantly, you will have peace rather than victory, because they are now looking to take power from you. I think this is the way to go. There is not enough power in the country. So, how do you share what is not enough so that everybody gets enough. It is difficult, if not impossible. So, what we need to do is to get more power on. So, about 200mw coming from there is good news for the market. It adds to what we have.
“I am confident that with incremental power, we will meet the target set by Mr. President last week,” he said.