Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja
The federal government has solicited the assistance of the World Bank to tackle the current challenges confronting the country’s power sector.
The sector is afflicted by serious liquidity challenges with the distribution companies locked in a serious confrontation with the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola.
As part of efforts to resolve the multifaceted problems in the sector, the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, Thursday called for the intervention of the World Bank.
Adeosun, who spoke at a meeting in Abuja with the World Bank’s Vice-President for Africa, Mr. Hafez Ghanem, acknowledged the bank’s interventions in Nigeria in areas such as education, health and water, and conveyed the federal government’s appreciation to the visiting World Bank chief.
However, she added that the bank’s intervention in the power sector was critical at the moment.
“A lot of things have changed in the Nigerian economy in the last 10 years and we hope to accelerate the growth and the interaction with the World Bank. How do we do that? How do we leverage on the technical capacity and global reach and wealth of experience to ensure we not only preserve the growth, which is quite slow at the moment but to accelerate the growth so that we don’t have boom and burst circles?.
“We need continued growth. We commend the World Bank for the projects, particularly at the sub- national government level with the fiscal transparency and accountability project that the World Bank is helping us with, and of course, there are projects in education, health and water that the World Bank is doing which we are excited about,” she said.
Adeosun told the World Bank’s vice-president that: “One area where we are hoping to make a lot of progress is the power sector reform programne, which is an extremely important programme for us as far as the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth is concerned because it is really going to accelerate growth and all the things that we need to do to get the power sector reform programme off the ground.
“For us , it is our number one priority at the moment. How do we sort out the challenges in power sector value chain and leverage on the World Bank, its relationship and its wealth of experience in getting us to move the sector forward.”
Earlier in his opening remarks, Ghanem said Nigeria’s position on the Africa continent was not lost to the bank.
“I am happy to be here. I took over as vice president for Africa a long time ago. Before that, I was VP Middle East. I really wanted to come to Nigeria as quickly as possible. The reason is that my family and I spent three wonderful years in this country and I wanted to come back and see my old friends.
“The other reason is profession. World Bank objective in Africa is to help countries to grow in the 21st century. If we talk about growth in Africa, Nigeria is the largest country in Africa. Africa cannot grow unless Nigeria grows. “For us in the World Bank, Nigeria is a very important country. I want to come and listen to you; how we can support Nigeria, how we can help Nigeria so that Nigeria can grow faster and achieve her development objectives,” he said.
Ghanem was World Bank Country Director to Nigeria 10 years ago during which he oversaw Nigeria’s Office for three years before he was transfered to the Middle East as vice-president