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Geometric Power to the rescue

The other day, I had the privilege of undertaking a facility tour of Aba Integrated Power Plant (IPP), the signature project of Geometric Power Limited. It was a worthwhile experience. The Aba IPP, an ambitious project conceived by Prof Barth Nnaji, is a revolution about to happen in the power sector. It is a response to the gaping hole which the absence of regular power supply created in the Aba business fabric.

It is a strategic vision borne out of the overriding need to reclaim Aba from industrial atrophy. Aba, a city that once bubbled with industrial and commercial concerns, went under owing to neglect by government and other relevant authorities. Yet, the brawny and can-do spirit of the Aba artisan held on tenaciously to the inventiveness and innovation the city is known for. They have continued to make Aba a city that must command attention, regardless of the willful abandonment by those who ought to lift the city from ruin. Significantly, Aba got that compulsive attention when James Wolfensohn, then the President of the World Bank, visited the city in pursuit of the bank’s Development Assistance to Africa programme.

After his assessment of the industrial potentials of the environment, he recommended to the Nigerian government that a power plant be set up in the city. The then government of Olusegun Obasanjo accepted the idea but, curiously, chose to site the power plant in Abeokuta.

The infamous decision left a yawning gap in the Aba business community. It was this lacuna created by the Obasanjo government that Nnaji set out to fill when he, in 2004, conceived the idea of Aba IPP. Nnaji, a William Kepler Whiteford Professor of Engineering and Baker Research Fellow, knows what it means to create an industrial base. He knows what it means to tap into the vast industrial potentials of an environment. It was on the strength of this that he set sail. He did not need to discover Aba. The city already has a ready market. What was needed was to deliver the right industrial roadmap. Prof Nnaji saw the Aba IPP as capable of doing the magic. He was right.

The project has now come to fruition. In a matter of weeks, it will be delivered to the Aba business community, and with it, things will never be the same again with the city. The $500 million power plant boasts of three gas turbines, four substations and three other substations leased from the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN). The plant is to serve the entire Aba metropolis and neigbbouring Osisioma and Owerinta. It is a massive facility which will make our unreliable PHCN and its handlers look green with envy.

Looking at the revolution that is Aba IPP, one cannot but take another look at the on-going (or is it concluded?) bids for the electricity distribution companies unbundled from the behemoth called PHCN. We must recall that Prof Nnaji who was Director of the United States National Science Foundation returned to Nigeria with a boatload of experience. He was chairman, Presidential Task Force on Power and Special Adviser to the President on Power. He was later to become the Minister of Power.

It is significant to note that Nnaji’s exposure at Geometric Power put him in a very good stead to manage the power sector in Nigeria efficiently. While he was in the saddle, he was able to resolve the many problems bedeviling the power sector. The Power Reform Act which he set up was the vehicle for the attainment of these goals. Apart from the leap in the quantum of power supplied, the power sector reform made it possible for the private sector to get involved in power issues.

In recognition of his stellar performance, the Bankers’ Committee rewarded him with an award. Given Nnaji’s expertise and the positive changes he brought to bear on the power sector, it is strange that the Nigerian government which sought his services on account of his expertise treated him as an intruder. While the man was working to lift the country out of darkness, some entrenched and destructive interests were up in arms against his progressive bent. From what we know and can see, he was set to midwife a transparent process in power sector reforms. But because Nigeria has been programmed by revisionists to remain a lame duck, Nnaji was seen as a strange bedfellow who was out to upset the apple carte. They resisted him fiercely.

But do we really blame those who saw Nnaji as an obstacle? They are simply fighting for survival. But the regret is that they are doing it at the expense of Nigeria and the system that drives it. But the bigger regret is that the duplicity of agents of darkness was sanctioned by the Jonathan Presidency which, until the bubble burst, was still pretending that it was out to reform the power sector. If there is anything which has exposed the underbelly of the Jonathan administration in the area of power sector reforms, it is the sale of the electricity distribution companies to some firms and consortia whose competence in the power sector is questionable A company called Southern Electricity Distribution Company (SEDC) has since joined issues with the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE) and the National Council on Privatization (NCP) over what they consider to be underhand dealings over the bids. SEDC lost the bid for the Benin Distribution Company in circumstances it could not understand. Consequently, some of the interests behind it, notably Governors of Edo, Delta, Ekiti and Ondo cried blue murder.

But they were confounded the more when the chairman of the Technical Committee accused SEDC of submission of two different bids in contravention of the bid requirements. The controversy is yet to be settled. But the case of Enugu Distribution Company is a different story all together. Owing to the resentment for Prof Nnaji by some powerful elements that control the Jonathan Presidency, the bid which involved South East Governors was manipulated in a manner that would ensure that Geometric Power does not have a stake in any of the electricity distribution companies. By rigging geometric out of the process, the post- acquisition success of Enugu Distribution Company now looks bleak. But let us leave the Jonathan Presidency to its devices and begin to focus some attention on Aba and its environs.

The decay that the city has suffered in recent years has attracted national and international attention. A city that was once an industrial and commercial hub has become a shadow of its old self. Owing to the collapse of vital infrastructure in the city, many of the industries which used to operate in Aba have left. With their exodus, the economy of the city, indeed, that of Abia State, is bleeding. One of the most notorious factors that killed Aba’s industrial growth is power supply. James Wolfensohn was told this much when he visited. From what he saw, it was clear that regular power supply would help Aba to return to glory. This is where Geometric Power comes in.

The Aba power plant is set to bring back the magic of Aba. It is believed that regular power supply which the commissioning of the IPP will bring about will make Aba to bubble again. Some of the industries that left will return and new ones will find the impetus to come to Aba and operate. But there is a snag. The roads in Aba are the new jinx that must be kicked off if the city must begin to function again. It is an indisputable fact that Aba parades the worst roads in the country today.

The situation has become scandalous. I felt even more scandalized as I navigated through the macadam that is the road leading to Aba IPP. It is simply an embarrassment to the government of Abia State. We need not emphasize the fact that Geometric Power has done well to give Aba a new face. But the government must complement its efforts by making the roads in Aba motorable.

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  1. chuks November 15, 2012 at 10:58 am

    Prof. Bath NNaji, I hail you. I have always maintained that we have always been unfortunate to have dullards at the helm of our affairs. Fix power in Nigeria and our present predicament will become history before one year. Jobs will emerge from nowhere, kidnapping and robbery will come insignificant and the economy will boost while Andrew will return immediately.

  2. Don James Ukpai November 15, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    I am begging my Igbo people to have brotherly love to each Igbo’s, it’s just because both Yeruba and Hausa hate South south and South East; Tell me; how can Obasanjo sale the right of Aba city to Abeokuta? And late Abacha did the same thing; does it mean that we Igbo’s are blind? Please I am begging Mr. President Good Luck Jonathan to equips Aba City with all industrials material because Aba is a city that can provide and also contracts any thing; All Nigerian neighboring countries always come down to Aba to buy both Shoe,Bags,Belt,creams,soap,motor car seat, motor car cover and some constructions works. I don’t know why Nigerian Government are not care for Aba city, but I assure my follow Igbo’s both home and abroad to join hand together and build up Aba with industrial equipment since Nigeria government don’t care for Aba. Go heaven and come down, Aba is Japan of Africa.

  3. uche, November 15, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    I am not in doubt that OBJ would swap a power plant meant for Aba to Abeokuta. No average Igbo man will be surprise to this development, the oppressors of the last order will never be interested in the development of the south east. My only concern is that the Igbos are not united hence the millipede development we are witnessing in that region.

  4. solution November 15, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    I knew that Jonathan woul fail Ndi Igbo. When some of us claimed that he is our brother (Ebele, Azikiwe), I laughed. He promised to fix power within some months of assumption, here we are. No hope in sight. If not for the illustrous son of Ndi Igbo, Prof. Nnaji, whom some enthrenched interests under Jonathan’s watch sabbotaged his sincere efforts, I wonder what would have become of the power sector by now. Jonathan seems clueless. He can hardly muster the political will. Its high time he learnt how to take the bull by the horn. As for Ochendo, let him try and fix the roads in Aba, so that when the plant will start generating power and we improve on what we know how to do best – creative production. When they come we will tell them the last price. May God help us.

  5. Sam November 15, 2012 at 9:42 pm

    THANK GOD for prof. Ochendo, should look into the whole task force in aba. I mean those that collects revenue in aba. They use to maltreat innocent citizen in aba. They r been sent by some of recent and formal gov. Office holder all in the name of abia, state gov. I know 1 or 2. At 173 hospital and 89 azikwe rd aba.

  6. kevin November 16, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    Hope this your predict about Aba IPP will come to be a reality. If not we will hold it for you for praising a project that never impacted on the common good.

  7. Tony November 16, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    Honestly dude – I have no clue what you’re talking about. I just spent 10 minutes of my life reading this write up and clearly don’t get your point.

    Are you doing PR for Prof. Nnaji or what? You journalist should write meaningful journalism and stop all this crap you write.

    My father owns a factory in Aba – Osisioma to be in fact and there’s nothing happening there. Let’s wait and see what Geometric does. One propaganda after the other.

  8. Alex Ogwo November 16, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    Dear Sir, I think you really touched the very important thing in this piece. Nigeria government has since after the war wanting to subdue the igbos by all means but, this time diplomatically. To God be all the glory, their plan will not work. One thing also pain and bath my imagination, the government in Abia has also contributed immensely to this sorry state of Aba and Abia people. How come that the people of Abia still remains weakling yet the are tagged as the spirit of Igbo land? I asked after election that brought back Theodore Orji ‘That is the people of Abia too weak and coward to defend their votes? What about what happened in Imo state? now the are crying foul. May God help people of East.

  9. Alex Ogwo November 16, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    As for Prof. Bath Nnaji, he has done his bit but the cabal that gain from this sorry state of Nigeria will not let a good man be there. He should wait until when we shall have BIAFRA. Long live Biafra state.

  10. Anaele justin November 16, 2012 at 9:37 pm

    U dont need to tell me about prof nnaji, he is a guru wen it comes to energy, he read electrical electronics n practiced it to the core.down there in usa,he has inventions on energy relations little wonda he is being celebrated .our clueless gej allowed himself to be decieved by clique of criminals dat surrounded hm,the electricity employees dat benefited 4rm the old order started striking n organisin rallies against nnaji n they celebrated hs exist but we r nt fools, a chick dat wil grow to a full better fowl is always spotted at d firstday its hatched. Nnaji is a shinin example. Let the bow hat otueke man remain clueless.anu mpama

  11. chukky November 17, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    Hype!, Hype!!, Hype!!!. This piece of article is not worth spending time for. Perhaps you should have included in your article that the License for Geometric/Aba Power was issued to Prof. Nnaji since 2005 on the guise that he wants to generate emergency power to revitalize industries in Aba and Osisioma industrial layout. Ask people in that location and judge by their response. Rather than develop same he left it and use it as a yardstick to buy off PHCN asset. Now that he has lost out, he is back with his bread and butter journalists to hype his ego to attract undeserved attention. Enough of this Hype.

  12. chukky November 17, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    Amanze Obi without sounding immodest is a bread and butter journalist. Should Nnaji be given Enugu Electricity because he has the support of South East Governors or because he can perform. He was given Aba and Osisioma since 2005 but since then he has not improved power there. Geometric has no technical experience at all in power sector. Since 2005 they have been saying they will commence operation in weeks. Seven years have gone we have seen nothing. Nobody should take this writer serious.

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