Former Minister of Power, Prof. Barth Nnaji
By Charles Ajunwa, Charles Onyekamuo and Emeka Osondu
Former Minister of Power, Prof. Barth Nnaji, Thursday got an official clearance from President Goodluck Jonathan following the controversy that surrounded his exit from the cabinet on Tuesday.
Jonathan, at a town hall meeting in Onitsha, the commercial nerve centre of Anambra State, also explained why he accepted Nnaji's resignation despite his accomplishment in the power sector during his short tenure.
The president who said the former minister did nothing wrong, added that he accepted his resignation to protect the privatisation process.
In his first comment on the matter, the president said at the meeting with stakeholders after inaugurating some projects initiated and executed by the state government and some private individuals, as part of his itinerary during his official visit to the state that the former minister only resigned in order to give credibility to the privatisation of the power sector.
Nnaji, in a statement on Wednesday, had rebutted reports that he was forced out of government, saying that he voluntarily resigned his position to protect his integrity.
He said he voluntarily resigned to protect his integrity, which he stated had come under scurrilous attacks recently by "powerful vested interests" that were hell bent on destroying all he had worked for over the years.
The president said before an assemblage of Anambra elite and the entire South-east, that he was seizing the opportunity of being in their midst to exonerate the minister.
He said: “I have to make it clear that Professor Nnaji is a very competent professor; he is a product of the World Bank, a professor of engineering. He is very competent in the sector but we agree that there are expectations and that is what happens all over the world.
“In all civilised societies when certain things happen, certain questions are raised to make sure that credibility is sustained. That is what happens in a decent society. Because of the issues that took place, and I know that before we started this privatisation, some major stakeholders who had access to me, came to me and said
‘Mr. President we heard all these privatisation of projects in power sector had already been shared amongst the people and we want Mr. President to assure us so that we do not waste our time.’ I said ‘no you can keep faith in the process’.
“In the privatisation process, there are some errors we have made, I don’t normally criticise people. We are all human beings, we make mistakes…I don’t want to oversee a privatisation that Nigerians will not like.
“He (Nnaji) didn’t commit any offence. Definitely we will get another power minister with such competent level.”
Apparently explaining his acceptance of Nnaji’s resignation, given the fact that he had willingly disclosed his relationship with the two companies who are bidding for Afam Power Station and Enugu Distribution Company, which gave rise to the conflict of interest that made Nnaji to resign, Jonathan said he did so to safeguard the privatisation exercise.
The president commended the Anambra State government for initiating the Orient Petroleum Refinery (OPR), which he said, has made Anambra a member of the league of oil-producing states.
The refinery, initiated by the Chinwoke Mbadinuju administration, is located in Aguleri-Otu, Anambra East Local Government Area of the state.
Oil was first struck in the location about 45 years ago by the multinational company, SAFRAP, now Total Plc.
OPR, which will soon start full-scale refining after the inauguration of its refinery section in a few months time, has the capacity to refine a 55,000 bpd.
The president also pledged his administration’s commitment to building the Second Niger Bridge, which he said he had promised the people of South-east and South-south since it is the only link between the two zones and Lagos.
On the gully erosion ravaging the South-east zone, Jonathan said the World Bank would support the zone with a credit facility of $450 million for erosion control. The loan, he added, has a 40-year repayment period and 10 years of grace.
He also harped on the need for credible elections in Nigeria, devoid of imposition of candidates as a way of deepening the democratic process.
Jonathan also said Nigerians would begin to enjoy the fulfilment of his campaign promises by next year.
He said his desire to boost private sector investment informed his inclusion of some state governors such as Peter Obi of Anambra State and Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State as well as members of the private sector in the National Economic Management Team.
The projects Jonathan inaugurated included the N4.6 billion River Port; unveiling the statue of former Biafran leader, the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, as part of efforts to immortalise him; and a multi-million naira soap factory of Orange Drugs Limited, a private company; SAB Miller Breweries and the Roll Over Pilfer Proof (ROPP) Cap Manufacturing plant.
Obi, while expressing his excitement that finally Anambra State had joined the league of oil-producing states, promised that the people of the state would support Jonathan, having overwhelmingly voted for him in the last election.
The governor said that with the flurry of private sector investments springing up in the state, it has proved once more that it is the home of Africa’s greatest entrepreneurs.