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Jonathan Disagrees with US Assessment of Nigeria

Written By Joseph Y. Musa on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 | 4/23/2013 07:59:00 am

Against the backdrop of a report by the United States of America that there is deep-seated corruption in the country, President Goodluck Jonathan Monday reacted to the report, stating that the recent US appraisal of corruption in the country was skewed and unrealistic.

This is just as the president promised that Nigerians must have electricity for domestic and industrial use despite the challenges of obsolete infrastructure and sub-standard corporate delivery.

According to him, the level of graft, hitherto described by the US report as “massive” was overblown and did not reflect the spirited efforts being made by his administration to tackle the issue, saying “there are issues of corruption in this country but somehow it has been over amplified.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry last week had submitted a new report entitled, "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012" to the US Congress.

In the document, which gleaned information from US embassies and consulates abroad, foreign government officials, non-governmental and international organisations, as well as published reports, Nigeria was found to be steeped in “massive, widespread and pervasive corruption” in “all levels of government and the security forces."

But Jonathan yesterday debunked this at the Presidential Power Reform Transaction Signing Summit held at the State House, Abuja, pointing out, instead, that corporate companies of US origin continued to show interest in doing business in the country having given it a clean bill of health regarding the manner in which the problem of corruption was being handled by the incumbent administration.

Buttressing his point, he said even during the privatisation of the power utilities created from the unbundling of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), some US companies, which partnered various local firms that had clinched the deals, were satisfied with the zero tolerance of the present administration to corruption and decided to be veritable business partners of the country.

US companies involved in the federal government’s power reform and privatisation programme are General Electric (GE) and ExxonMobil.

GE, the president said, was in partnership with Transcorp for Ughelli Power Station; Honeywell Hudson Power and others presented a Joint Development Agreement on the power sector development; while Mobil in association with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), and on behalf of the international oil companies (IOC) had signed a Sellers Representative Agreement (SRA) for an independent power project (IPP).

Speaking extempore on the corruption issue after delivering his speech, the president said when the privatisation exercise started, there were reports in newspapers about how it would be marred by irregularities, but in the end, some of the US companies which participated in it gave the country a clean bill of health.

He said: “Look at the power sector. When we started initially, there were stories in the papers but at the end, even when I was in the US, companies from there that participated said publicly that the process was transparent and issues of corruption did not arise,” adding “at least today, we have also heard directly, that the process was transparent and that there were no issues of manipulation or corruption.”

The president also commended the state governors “for their interest in the power programme, the country’s development partners and the private sector for having confidence in Nigeria to make the huge investment.”

“I am particularly pleased to hear directly from the private sector that the process was transparent and those stories of corruption were not heard of,” he said.

Admonishing Nigerians to watch how government conducted its business, Jonathan affirmed: “We have been bringing down corruption gradually.

“If you look at the fertiliser sector, you will agree with me that if government actors were interested, we would have continued with business as usual of buying all kinds of things, awarding all kinds of contracts in the name of fertiliser. But we are not doing that because we have sanitised that sector.”

He stressed that the country belongs to all Nigerians and must be protected by its people, saying: “We are committed to doing our best for this country and God willing we will succeed.”

Earlier, the president had noted that the power reform transaction ceremony was a pointer to the fact that his administration was committed to transparent and inclusive deals in order to “sustain the current tempo of transformation in the power sector,”

He said it had become imperative that the meeting be done publicly instead of doing it in the confines of the offices of the transacting parties.

Reiterating that there were still daunting challenges in the government’s attempts to transform the power sector, the president said: “We will not waver in the commitment that has seen the fundamentals of our economy advancing, compared to several economies around the world.

“We continue to command prime attention as a preferred long-term investment destination in Africa and our electricity sector, in particular, maintains its promise of reasonable returns on investment and ease of entry for all interested investors.”
He acknowledged that since he kick-started the power reform agenda in August 2010 with the launch of the Power Sector Reform Roadmap, considerable progress had been made.

“The Presidential Action Committee on Power (PACPL) has provided a viable platform for the required focus on the priority policy issues needed to reinforce confidence among investors,” he further added, observing that “we are encouraged by the sustained interest in the sector and the meaningful investments that have been prompted in gas processing, power generation, power distribution and transmission.”

He indicated that government’s role and involvement after the privatisation exercise would focus on providing guidelines and regulatory structures required to guaranty the steady growth of the market.

He promised: “This government cares about you and will not rest until you can sleep well at night without the irritating noise of generators.
“Let me reassure all Nigerians that working in concert with our partners, we will continue to pursue the reform of the power sector with intensity, vigour and determination as there is no shortcut possible.”

In his speech, the Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, reeled out the successes of his ministry in the power reform programme. These, he said, included the reconstitution of the board of Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC); commencement of the implementation of the new Multi-Year Tariff Order (MYTO 2) by the NERC; and the incorporation of the Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading Company Plc and Nigeria Electricity Liability Management Company Ltd (NELMCO).

Others are the execution of a management contract between the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) and Manitoba Hydro of Canada, as well as the payment of the initial 25 per cent of the bid price by the bidders for 10 generation companies and five distribution companies, who received their certificates of payment yesterday and are expected to pay the balance of 75 per cent within six months.

“Currently, installed available generation capacity has risen to 6,000MW while generation capability has increased to 5,228 megawatts, with peak generation at slightly above 4,500 megawatts,” the minister said.

“This massive increase in generation underpins the need for a robust transmission grid. Currently our grid remains the weak link with a wheeling capacity of about 4,800MW.
“With government's objective to achieve 10,000MW in 2014 and 20,000MW in 2016, the urgent need to expand our transmission capability to evacuate the projected incremental capacity becomes imminent.

“A total capacity outlay of $3.4 billion is required up to 2016 to bring our transmission grid to evacuate all the generated power.

“Government is working out the funding on TCN’s long term expansion plan from a mix which will include the Transmission Development Fund, International Development Banks and multilateral agencies,” he explained.

He admitted that despite the successes, it had not been a bed of roses as “the reform has had its setbacks and slippages due to the unprecedented size and scope of the reform programme,” pointing out that “the resolution of labour issues was at advanced stage.”

Also consummated at the ceremony were other power sector transaction agreements with stakeholders such as the World Bank Partial Risk Guarantee (PRG) and support agreement for gas supply to Egbin power plant by Chevron Nigeria Limited, as well as World Bank PRG reimbursement and credit agreement on gas supply to Egbin with Deutsche Bank AG.

A credit enhancement agreement for gas supply to the Calabar independent power project between the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) and Accugas Limited; the execution of an industry standard power purchase agreement between NBET and Azura power; and the receipt of schedule of delegated authority by Manitoba or its management contract for TCN, were equally overseen by Jonathan.
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