Dr Mrs Ngozi Okonjo Iweala
The Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has described Geometric Power Ltd, founded by the erstwhile Minister of Power, Prof. Bart Nnaji, to generate and distribute electricity in the country as a trailblazer.
Okonjo-Iweala said while other independent power producers (IPPs) seek sovereign guarantees to execute their projects, Nnaji’s Geometric has never sought a power purchasing agreement (PPA) from the government.
The minister made the revelation at the weekend after a tour of the company’s premises in Aba, Abia State.
She revealed that Geometric wanted to build the 188 megawatt power plant for only manufacturing firms who were experiencing acute electricity shortages in Aba, often called the Japan of Africa because of its large indigenous industrial base, but decided to include all categories of electricity users in the city following a visit of the then World Bank president, James Wolfensohn, in 2004.
Okonjo-Iweala, who accompanied Wolfensohn during the visit, said it was heartbreaking to see that the power crisis was also paralysing the work of a large army of small and medium scale manufactures at the Ariara industrial market producing high quality shoes, handbags, belts, clothes and other items which they labelled “Made in Italy”, “Made in France,” etc.
“Geometric Power’s uniqueness in our national history owes not so much to its being Nigeria’s first indigenous power company as to its ability to combine both electricity generation and distribution.
“This is because Geometric will sell its power direct to the consumers when it is commissioned next February”, noted the minister who played a key role in the establishment of the facility in Aba.
“I informed Wolfensohn of a globally respected Nigerian professor of robotics in the United States, Bart Nnaji, who could build a power plant in this city to solve this severe problem,” stated Okonjo-Iweala, who was then the finance minister in the Olusegun Obasanjo administration.
“I told Wolfensohn that Nnaji had by 2002 built a 22 megawatt power station in Abuja and operated it successfully for almost three years without any interruption for one second, and everyone was excited.”.
The World Bank boss was thus favourably disposed to the International Finance Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank Group being involved in the $500 million project.
She praised Obasanjo for agreeing that Aba metropolis be concessioned to Geometric and also Nnaji for his patriotism and doggedness in starting the project even before the liberalisation of the power sector with the 2005 Electric Power Sector Reform Act.
“It was something like a leap of faith for him to embark on this huge project despite the near paralyzing odds”, she stated.
Nnaji thanked the minster for her unflinching support, observing that the capital-intensive project would have been finished earlier than but for inconsistent public policy and the global economic meltdown of 2008 which affected project financiers like the European Investment Bank, Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund and the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank Group.
The governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, and his Abia State counterpart, Theodore Orji, had earlier in the day visited the facility and expressed satisfaction.
“I am delighted that plans have reached an advanced stage for Geometric to supply power to the leading industrial cities of Nnewi and Onitsha, which are located in my state,” said Obi, who is also the chairman of the Conference of South east Governors.
Orji described Aba project as “a perfect example of Public Private Partnership in Nigeria”, saying that “it is a thing of great joy that Aba will soon become the first city in West Africa to enjoy quality and uninterrupted power supply.
“Investments will now flow into our state ceaselessly and on an unprecedented scale”.
The governor promised to construct the road leading to the Geometric plant before within three months.
National Assembly members led by Senator Nkechi Nwogu (Abia Central) had inspected the facility the previous day and commended Nnaji for showing a “worthy example in the reversal of the brain drain and capital flight phenomena.”
The federal legislators were accompanied by local government chairmen, traditional rulers and other prominent people from the area who pledged to protect the company’s facilities against vandalism and praised Geometric for demonstrating “a very impressive sense of corporate social responsibility even before starting commercial operations.”
The visits were in preparation for the take off of the project in February.