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The mandate of Nkanu East Consultative Forum is to ask our brothers and sisters to support Nkanu East to produce the Governor of Enugu State in 2023- Bart Nnaji

The mandate of Nkanu East Consultative Forum is to ask our brothers and sisters to support Nkanu East to produce the Governor of Enugu State in 2023- Bart Nnaji


The mandate of Nkanu East Consultative Forum is to ask our brothers and sisters to support Nkanu East to produce the Governor of Enugu State in 2023- Bart Nnaji

It is difficult to talk about Nigeria’s power sector development and science without mentioning Professor Bart O. Nnaji. Professor Bart O. Nnaji is Chairman/CEO, Geometric Power Limited, the first indigenous private sector power company in Nigeria. He championed the process of power reform and reform in the science and technology ministry, not to mention the recent takeover of power in Aba by his company. Our correspondent had an exclusive chat with him on issues from science, power, to politics. Dateline: March 19, 2022.


You were Nigeria’s Federal Minister of Science & Technology in 1993 and later Minister for Power. What was it like as a Minister in both Ministries?

As the Minister for Science and Technology, I was there for a short time. Before I came on board, the Ministry had been abolished because in the past, the government didn’t know much about what the ministry of science and technology was about. When I came on board there was only a decree to re-set up the Ministry, then I started what is now known as the Ministry for Science and technology from my hotel room, and put together some of the agencies already scattered; some to health, some to education, some to agriculture and the presidency. I gathered them together, and that was it.


I got an office in the Federal Secretariat and set it going. The critical thing was to educate my colleagues and the cabinet about what the ministry was supposed to be. It is supposed to be an institution that does research in science and technology, and the commercial products will become industries. That’s it. There used to miss the connection as it concerns this, but I am happy that since then, this has not been an issue, the Ministry has never been abolished again.

In the Ministry of Power, I came on board, when the government was doing power reform, the Electricity Power Sector Reform Act (ESPRA), but the Act was more on the shelf than in action, except for the regulatory commission, the electricity regulatory commission. It was on our shoulders to implement the Act. In order to implement it, we had to actually have a plan. With the plan, part of the implementation is what we now know as privatization. It means that the private sector would handle the generation and distribution part while the government handles the transmission part of it. This didn’t mean that transmission couldn’t be concessioned and still driven by the government. I felt that before the reforms, we needed to ensure that power continued to improve so that the reforms would make sense to people. So, at that time, we made sure that power improved, that then some parts of the country could attest to two weeks of uninterrupted power.

That was a big improvement for us, and if things continued that way, with a plan to roll power to about 100,000 Megawatts, and to attract investors, things would have been better, But, for now, things are rough for that.

There were issues around your exit, some said you resigned, some said you were sacked. What actually happened?


I resigned. If anybody prefers to call it a sack, it’s up to the person. Few days after my resignation, the President was in Onitsha and he asked “What did our son do?” He said “Prof. Nnaji committed no offense”. You don’t sack somebody that committed no offense. That’s it. President Jonathan knows the truth and I do, but there are people who like to say things they like.

Geometric Power had a long battle. Perhaps you could you give us a hint

There have been too many battles Geometric Power had to fight. Geometric Power is the first private power company in Nigeria. So, you can imagine how it was. The good thing then was that the President, Olusegun Obasanjo, then saw the importance of the private sector. The EPSRA made it possible for private power companies to exist but at the time, there was none. First, there was the NEPA battle before setting up Geometric Power. We had to get a model; to build a power plant or to build a power plant with distribution. We chose the model that would work, which was, acquire an electricity territory, get a power plant embedded in that territory, generate electricity and supply to that territory. That way, the territory won’t rely on the national grid. This way, you remove the sensitivity of the national grid transmission, instead you rely on this distribution infrastructure. But you have to improve on it because the Nigerian distribution infrastructure was dilapidated. We needed to improve on that by investing heavily on that, to make it more stable, more reliable, and improve on the connecting system and the systems to deal with the commercial part of the business. We also had to improve the technical part of the system. You can’t have a system where the response time is so elongated. If someone’s transformer blows, you don’t respond quickly, that’s a problem. We need to be able to respond, to fix power lines fast. You need to use the appropriate cables, so you won’t have issues with the sub-transmission infrastructure. This was the model we designed, but it required that the government should concession or sell a territory to you. If this is done, you can now ask the government to give you what is called Sovereign Guaranty. All the people that would build a power plant would need the sovereign guarantee because of the enormity of the cost of building a power plant. At the rate of $1.3million per megawatt at that time, now it’s probably $1.5million or so. It’s quite expensive as you can see.


As we were doing this, about 90-95% completed, the distribution infrastructure, power plants, power lines, sub stations, gas transmissions pipelines, 27 km; we built all these, when suddenly the territory that was concessioned to us which said we should buy the territory from the government if we had privatization, got sold to someone else after we had invested $500million. So, we went to court and after a lengthy battle, we won in court. The people who bought the territory refused to move, until the new government mediated and we were able to get back the territory, and had to pay back what those who bought the territory paid to the government, plus penalties.

With the progress made by Geometric Powers, what’s the implication as your company takes over electricity provision for Aba? Any plans for the entire southeast?

Well, in terms of distribution, electricity is somewhat territorial. So, a distribution company operates within an electricity district zone. You can’t allow people into your zone and you can’t enter other zones. For now, what we have is Aba, which has 9 out of the 17 local governments in Abia state, about 4,000 square kilometers of land space. We supply electricity like any other disco within that region. We have mandated ourselves to make our supply reliable, to achieve a 24/7 electricity supply. This is what Aba should expect. We are not going outside of the territory unless the people who own the rest of the distribution infrastructure agree to work with us. Our connection with the transmission company is to import power if we need it and to export power if we have an excess. Our district is autonomous.

On the possibility of Geometric Powers distributing energy to the entire southeast, we set up a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) called Uma Power. We have a partnership with a US company, General Electric Company, to build bigger power stations and we have completed the development. The development takes years to do and it costs millions of dollars. However, at some point, the government suspended signing power purchase agreements with all companies. The SPV was to build a 1080 megawatts power plant, with the intention to be a national grid power.

Let’s look at Nkanu East Consultative Forum which you lead. What is it about?

First, let me begin with zoning. The zoning arrangement has been good for the state because it has maintained relative peace and what the governor said is that he wants to sustain that. The previous governor did the same. It started from Enugu East zone, went to Enugu West and now in Enugu North zone. It is about returning to the Enugu East senatorial zone. Now, we in Nkanu East believe that since it’s returning to our zone, we should ask our brothers and sisters in other local governments, key stakeholders in Enugu State, to support us. The mandate of Nkanu East Consultative Forum is to ask our brothers and sisters to support Nkanu East to produce the Governor of Enugu State in 2023.

Politics is about consultations, communication and appealing to people who have the capacity to do so and that’s what Nkanu East Consultative Forum is about.

Constitutionally, every other local government in Enugu East Senatorial Zone has the right to field candidates, including Enugu West and Enugu North senatorial zones, but it’s just about fairness. In the course of our consultations, prominent leaders of the local governments making up Enugu East zone are convinced that Nkanu East should be supported. It is believed that Nkanu East, Enugu East and Isiuzo are to be considered more in terms of fairness. So, we from Nkanu East are saying that we should be supported. That’s just it.

Recently, after Sen. Ike Ekweremadu declared his guber ambition, we saw Enugu West zone leaders provide a document (minutes of a meeting) where zoning was said to be endorsed in 2013. Now, Ekweremadu’s group have denied the authenticity of the document and have gone ahead to argue that if zoning is claimed to have started in 2013, what produced the 2 past governors of Enugu State? Do you not think that they have a point?

Well, for me, I prefer to be practical. We have had movement of the position of the Chief Executive of the state from one zone to another. Even if it had not been written, you can now see the practical aspect in the rotation.

Those who have run the state like former Governors Sullivan, Nwodo, Chimaroke, have spoken on this and what they have said can be used to check the facts. I do not want to get into arguments or debate about signing or not signing because I wasn’t part of the signing but what I know is that zoning is very good for the state. At the national level, when it looks like the North has held on to power beyond what it should be, we say it’s not fair, right? So, we are saying that this rotational arrangement works even in towns for production of traditional rulers where there’s no inheritance of the traditional rulership.

In clear terms, are you running for Governor of Enugu State in 2023?

Did I say anything like that? I have not said anything like that to anybody but I have been going around saying “support Nkanu East” and in no place did we mention the name of any candidate. We want somebody from Nkanu East to become the Governor. When it comes to Nkanu East, we will sort it out. Do not try to pin me down to a particular position. My answers are fair.


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