Speech at the Official Commissioning Of Aba Integrated Power Project


Professor Bart Nnaji, CON, NNOM, FAS, FAEng

Chairman, Geometric Power Group

26 February 2024


Your Excellency Mr. Vice President, Senator Kashim Shettima, GCON,

Your Excellency, Governor Alex Otti, OFR

Honourable Deputy Speaker of the  House of Representatives, Chief Benjamin Kalu, CON

Your Excellency, Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR

Your Excellency, Former President Goodluck Jonathan, GCFR

Your Excellency, Mr. Peter Obi, CON

Honourable Minister of Power,

Honourable Minister of Petroleum Gas

Distinguished Senate Committee Chairman for Power

Distinguished Senators,

Honourable Members of House of Reps

Your Excellency, former Anambra State Governor Peter Obi, CON

Honourable Members of House Assembly,

Honourable Commissioners,

My Partners and Financiers of the Aba Integrated Power Project,

My Lords Spiritual and Temporal

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

On behalf of Geometric Power and other investors in this project, I welcome you to the commissioning of the Aba Integrated Power Project (Aba IPP).

Your Excellencies, this project is a child of necessity.  It was born 20 years ago, when the desire of Aba Industrialists, including the small and medium scale industries, to have additional and good quality power supply, and our desire to contribute our quota towards increasing power supply in the nation converged. It became apparent to us that the best way to ensure that the Aba metropolis would quickly have  reliable and affordable electricity was to build this autonomous power project to serve the Aba metropolis, with excess power delivered to the national grid.

At the same time, the then World Bank President, Mr Wolfenson and the then Finance Minister who is now the Director General of WTO, Dr (Mrs) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala came on March 17th 2004 to meet with the Aba Industrialists, including the Aba and Ariaria Manufacturers (SMEs). At the meeting, the Ariaria manufacturers were asked to identify their number one problem which if addressed would significantly improve their production; they unanimously said that it wass reliable electricity.

Your Excellencies, this convergence of desire for reliable electricity is what led us to this historic Aba IPP. At that time, our development partners from the IFC of the World Bank, and the European Investment Bank (EIB) and I, wanted to find a business model for power development in Nigeria that was sustainable, that could  stand on its own, and could be easily replicated by various investors in other major cities and industrial clusters in Nigeria. At that time, as of now, Nigeria could not afford sovereign guarantee for all of its power needs. We, therefore, developed a model of customized embedded generation that would not require Sovereign Guarantee. Consequently, we set about developing this integrated power project to satisfy the electricity needs of Aba metropolis at a time when the Power Sector Reform Act of 2005 was not yet enacted. Upon our request, the Federal Government concessioned Aba metropolis to us, to ensure security of the investment in the project and a big relief to the Federal Government on a sovereign guarantee. In line with the arrangement, we have built 141MW Power Plant with state-of-the-art equipment from General Electric (GE) and rehabilitated the entire distribution network in Aba. In addition to the Power Plant, we have built over 105 km of 33kV Over Head Lines within the Aba metropolis. You can see Your Excellencies, that the steel tubular poles used to build the 33kV line infrastructure is unlike any other in Nigeria. We have also built over 40km of new 11kV lines in Aba in addition to rehabilitating thousands of kilometres of sub transmission and low voltage lines. We have completed 5 new substations consisting of the Power Plant’s 3x60MVA Sub Station; four (4) brand new 2x15MVA substations at various parts of Aba town. In addition, we have refurbished the only three existing dilapidated Substations which we inherited as part of our acquisition of the Aba Ring-fenced Area from EEDC by building three (3) brand new control buildings with outdoor substation gantries within the premises of those existing sub stations. In order to ensure the reliability of gas supply, we built a 27km gas pipeline from Imo River to this Power Plant and built the gas infrastructure to support the supply of reliable gas to the Power Plant. To date, we have invested approximately US$800Million.

Your Excellency, Mr. Vice President, Excellencies, Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, this power project is now completed and ready for commissioning.

There are many people and institutions that have made today possible.

This project was initiated by the grace of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo when he was President. He was gracious and visionary enough to approve the request which his then Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala and I presented to him. He has continued to provide support to the project since then.

We thank Dr. Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for her unwavering support for the project which has continued.

When the project’s only financial security which is ARFA was wrongfully sold by the BPE during privatization, it was President Buhari’s team of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, GCON and Minister of Power Babatunde Fashola, SAN that mediated an out of court settlement for the return of Ring-fenced Area to Aba Power but with refund of what was paid by the core investors in EEDC including penalties we had to pay on behalf of the Federal Government.

The Government of President Tinubu and Vice President Kashim Shettima has also continued to support the project. Mr. Vice President just last week intervened to resolve a way forward on what was becoming a very dangerous issue for Aba Power. Prior to that, the Honourable Minister of Power had also intervened on another issue. We thank you Your Excellency, for making the time to come to commission this historic project.

I want to use this opportunity to thank president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR, for giving me the opportunity to highlight the possibilities for sustainable power delivery in Nigeria. The work we did with the roadmap to the power sector reform and privatization was a paradigm shift that opened up huge investment opportunities that have yet to be fully tapped.

Various administrations in Abia State have over the decades provided support in their various ways and as needed. Starting from the administration of Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, to Senator T.A Orji, to Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, and the current administration of Dr. Alex Otti. Dr. Ikpeazu played an active role during our road shows with financial institutions in Nigeria and internationally. He was very unequivocal in eloquently communicating to potential investors in this project of the benefits of the Aba IPP to the State, and the numerous reasons why the Abia State Government will continue to support the project. In the case of the current administration, the Governor’s support started when he was the CEO of Diamond Bank, and to now as Governor of this State. He has been chief liaison for the project companies with various FGN agencies. The planning and execution of the commissioning has been seamlessly managed by the Government and the staff of Geometric Power. This relationship is critical for the success of a government and that of a private company operating within a State and which is an instrument of rapid economic development of the State. We thank Your Excellency for your support. We will continue to enlist Your Excellency’s support as we continue to serve the people of Abia State with reliable and affordable electricity. This is a partnership we cherish and would continue to build.

We started this project when Nigerian banks could not lend to the power sector. The sector was a NEPA monopoly. It was the concession granted to us by President Obasanjo that made it possible for financing consideration. Yet, it was only Diamond Bank with vision and wisdom of its founder, Dr. Pascal Dozie that saw the viability of this project and mustered the courage to lend to it. This move boosted the confidence of Stanbic IBTC which joined Diamond Bank. Subsequently, two FGN institutions helped the two banks to create more room to lend more funds to complete the project. AMCON bought part of the debt of the banks, while CBN through the Power and Aviation Intervention Fund managed by BOI provided further funds to the project of which the two banks took up the credit risk. We are forever grateful and proud of Dr. Pascal Dozie and these Nigerian financial institutions for the vision in doing what all the banks should be doing to ensure that major infrastructure projects can be undertaken. Diamond Bank’s successor Access Bank has continued to be a key supporter. In fact, if the then CEO Dr. Herbert Wigwe of blessed memory, the CEO of AMCON, the CEO of Stanbic Bank, CEO of BOI, and the CBN did not agree to the restructuring that brought in Afreximbank, this project would have died an unnatural death. I also use this opportunity to appreciate the CEO of AMCON for his steadfastness, encouragement, and integrity.

Much appreciation goes to Afreximbank and its President, Prof. Benedict Oramah. Again, it is the capacity to look through a rubble and see gold that I use to describe how Professor Oramah and his team evaluated Aba IPP that was stalled for several years. The bank has a first-class team that processed our facility. I cannot mention each person for fear of missing any important contributor. Please, just know that Afreximbank and its team are, and will remain very dear in our hearts forever. We like to recognize the professionalism of their Technical Adviser, Tetra Tech for doing an excellent job throughout the due diligence process and continuing.

We very much appreciate the key Federal Government institutions that have been and continue to be key success factors for Aba IPP. They include Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission, TCN, NDPHC, GACN, NCP, BPE, and others.

We particularly want to thank the NNPCL, and its associated companies, NUIMS, and NEPL for their concerted focus in ensuring that the Imo River AGG plant is refurbished after many years of its being moribund. They have also continued to work towards ensuring that we have reliable gas supply. Thanks to the GCEO of NNPCL, the CUIO of NUIMS, the MD of NEPL and your various key officials who worked very hard at various levels to achieve today.

Now that this project is completed and being commissioned, the test of whether Nigeria can have reliable electricity is here. That test is partly about gas supply. We can guarantee that if we have reliable gas supply, we will provide reliable electricity to Aba metropolis. The onus is now on the Government to demonstrate that reliable power is possible in Nigeria by ensuring that this project gets reliable gas supply.

We would like to thank our power plant host community, Umuojima Ogbu of Osisioma LGA, the various host communities where we have our infrastructure spread over the nine (9) LGAs, the traditional rulers, the mayors, and all our customers in the metropolis. The last few months have been very challenging due to the inadequate supply of power from the grid. We thank you for your patience and pledge that we would ensure that we keep our promise of empowering the people by providing reliable and affordable power supply to Aba DisCo customers.

Your Excellencies, our team has worked very hard and made personal sacrifices to ensure that this project will be a success. We will forever remain grateful to them for their fortitude and endurance. In the last 20 years, we lost a few of them, and other pillars of supporters of Aba IPP. We pray for the repose of those heroes past. Their labour was not in vain.

Thank you, Mr. Vice President, thank you our Governor Otti, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.

Let there be light in the mighty Enyimba City!

Thank you for listening.

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