Aba Power is a National Project

Aba Power is a National Project

By Ibrahim Momoh

Dr Kenny Adeniran’s widely circulated “Geometric Power and the Yoruba Omoluabi” makes compelling reading. It brings an entirely fresh perspective on the national discourse on the place and importance of Nigeria’s first integrated power project in national development. The author argues that even though that the recently commissioned 188-megawatt Geometric Power thermal plant is located in Abia State, like the Aba Power Electric Company which takes power from the plant and distributes to nine of the 17 local government areas in the state, Yoruba persons in government have over the last two decades gone out of their way to ensure the realization of this key electricity project.

He posits that these Nigerians of Yoruba extractions are driven by the Yoruba philosophical concept of omoluabi, or strong commitment to the public good rather than parochial or personal interests.

The instances which Dr Adeniran cites are interesting enough. Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, following a request by then-World President James Wolfensohn and then-Nigeria’s Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, carved out Aba from the national electricity network to generate its own power, distribute it and collect money from the people, so as to fulfill Aba’s enormous potential as an industrial centre. This was at a time both subnational governments and the private sector were not allowed to participate in the generation, transmission and distribution of power. President Obasanjo’s concession to Professor Bart Nnaji and his team at Geometric Power is historic and path-breaking.

Dr Adeniran recalls how the Yoruba Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Bola Onagoruwa, lost her job during the privatization of the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) in 2013 because she wanted the National Council on Privatization (NCP) to respect the Federal Government’s 2005 agreement with Geometric Power on the development of the Aba Ring-fenced Area. It is, indeed, interesting that the mess created by the manner the EEDC was privatized was resolved by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Power Minister Babatunde Fashola, both Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs). As Dr Adeniran has revealed, both President Bola Tinubu and Power Minister Adebayo Adelabu acknowledge Geometric Power’s critical role in Nigeria’s power development and have ensured that relevant Federal Government agencies are on the same page.

The ordinary interpretation and summary of Dr Adeniran’s article is that Geometric Power is a key national project sited in Aba, Southeastern Nigeria, and that successive Yoruba people in government have demonstrated a profound understanding of this fact. The truth is that while Prof Nnaji and his team may come from the Southeast, the Aba Independent Power Project (IPP) is a huge national asset. It will definitely benefit Nigerians in all parts of the country.

Power Minister Adelabu and Prof Nnaji as well as Governor Alex Otti of Abia State have stated that Aba and the environs may not absorb more than 90MW right now. Therefore, the excess of 51MW, or 98MW as the case may be, will be sent to the national grid. This will mean improved power availability throughout the country. What is more, the 25MW hitherto supplied Aba from the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) via the national grid will be taken to other parts of Nigeria, thereby making more electricity available to the Nigerian people.

During the commissioning of the Aba IPP on February 26, 2024, ex-President Obasanjo stated that with constant, quality and affordable power supply in Aba, such international manufacturing firms as PZ which have their production plants in the famous Enyimba Industrial City will produce more and more toiletries at lower costs. Power accounts for 50% of production costs in Nigeria because manufacturers practise electricity self-generation. As automotive gas oil (AGO), popularly known as diesel, now goes for at least N1,700 per litre in the southern part of Nigeria, electricity may be responsible for a bigger percentage of production cost. However, all things being equal, the prices of Joy soap and other toileteries produced by PZ may not go up; they  may even come down as a result of constant, quality and affordable power supply.

The same thing can be said about the costs of leather products. Many of the handbags, shoes and belts in Nigeria and neighbouring countries with the emblems of “Made in Italy”, “Produced in Spain”, “Manufactured in France”, and “Made in the UK” are actually produced in Aba, and given such labels as Gucci, Calvin Klein, etc. They are of high standards, but given well-established foreign labels for marketing purposes. This practice is common in leading manufacturing nations like China and Vietnam.

Such large national institutions as the Nigerian Army, Nigeria Police Force, Nigeran Navy, Nigerian Air Force, National Youth Service Corps, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps can rely on Aba for their boots and belts. Needless to state, the Aba leather industry can depend on an endless supply of hides and skin from Kano and other places in Northern Nigeria. The onus is now on the public and private sectors in the North to drive the regeneration of the leather industry which centuries ago brough their region to international attention.

The army and similar organisations can also depend on Aba for their uniforms. Aba is famous for its fashion industry. Its suits can compete with the best anywhere. Its African designs are unrivalled. With the dollar so scarce in the country and the naira depreciating at an alarming rate which makes inflation unprecedented in our national history, Nigeria’s military and paramilitary organizations as well as the police force need to look in the Aba direction. As someone born and raised in this city, I know what Aba can offer.

Geometric Power may have been started by some Igbo people and located in their part of the country, it is a true national asset. While Vice President Shettima was being conducted around the Geometric Power premises on February 26, we saw on Arise TV which was beaming the ceremony live that the top Geometric Power official explaining the workings of the facilities was one Engineer Usman who hails from Borno, the same state as the vice president. There are many Nigerians from different states holding high positions in the Geometric Power Group. I am aware that the company goes for the best talent in the country and the world.

It is gratifying to watch Power Minister Adelabu tell Nigerians that the Tinubu administration is watching the Geometric Power Group closely with a view to replicating it in different parts of the country, so as to end Nigeria’s perennial and shameful electricity crisis which has impeded the country’s rapid progress. May there be more Geometric Power Groups throughout Nigeria.

Momoh, a lawyer, is a entrepreneur in Abuja.

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