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By generator123 • 11th Feb 2019 • 217 views • 43 comments

President Buhari in company of governors and ministers commissioned Ariaria independent Power Project in Aba

President Buhari in company of governors and ministers commissioned Ariaria independent Power Project in Aba

A fortnight ago, President Muhammadu Buhari commissioned a 9.5megawatt independent power plant built by a private consortium under the umbrella of Energising Economies Initiative (EEI) of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) in Aba, Abia State. The plant is to supply electricity to up to 47,000 shops and small businesses operating at the Ariaria International Market.

Ariara, popularly known as the China of Africa, is a major market, not only in the southeastern part of Nigeria, but also in the West African sub-region. Over the years, the market had suffered from infrastructural decay and inadequate power supply that have affected local production of goods.

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Speaking shortly before he commissioned the plant, which also has an extensive distribution network and metering system for each shop, President Buhari told traders in the market that his administration considered their challenges, especially its impact on productivity, and decided to support the private operator, Ariaria Market Energy Solutions Limited (AMES) to build and operate the plant and its distribution network.

He said, “We have demonstrated that if the common good is our objective, it can be achieved, irrespective of party differences and constitutional limitations. By providing a dedicated electricity supply to the traders and small businesses in this area, we are strengthening the made-in-Nigeria policy, for which Abia, and in particular, Aba and Ariaria are already well known.

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“Reliable power supply is critical to the ease of doing business. It ensures sustainability and improvement. I am told that before this intervention, traders in this market only got power for four hours a day and paid exorbitantly for it, which constantly affected the viability of many businesses. This is the sad thing we inherited, which we are replacing with this power supply, which is cleaner and better.

“What is happening in Ariaria today, by way of clean, independent and reliable power to the market, is happening in Kano, Lagos and Ibadan. Jobs are also being created through the initiative.”

“Slowly but very efficiently, we are moving our economy away from rent and avarice and heading resolutely to building an economy that rewards investments, enterprise and hard work.

“I congratulate all the traders in this market for contributing to national productivity. You will experience better days and prosperity as the African market awaits your products.”

Also speaking, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, noted that as a result of the new power supply in the market, about 6,000 petrol and diesel generators may go out of operation.

Similarly, the managing director of the REA, Mrs. Damilola Ogunbiyi, said the project would support rapid deployment of the economy through business clusters like markets, shopping centres and industrial zones. She noted that Ariaria had 11 sections and over 37,000 shops, with trading activities ranging from clothing, production of shoes, printing and fabrication of tools and mechanical parts.

She said that out of the 37,000 shops in the market, the first 4,000 had been connected to the power supply system, with the remaining 33,000 shops expected to be powered within the year.

The off-grid power plant was granted regulatory licence by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).

But before the independent power project was actualised, there was a dispute over who owned the right to distribute electricity in the market. However, the Federal Government, through the REA and the NERC may have introduced a new twist to the fight.

Shortly after the Federal Government concluded the privatisation of distribution networks, created from the unbundling of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) and handed it over the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company, there was a court case challenging the action.

The legal action instituted by Geometrics Aba Power Limited contested the government handover of the two business units to Interstate Electrics despite a reported existing pact between it and the government. In the pact, it was reportedly agreed that Geometrics would build a 188megawatt capacity gas turbine power plant at the Osisioma area of Abia State and distribute its output exclusively to Ariaria and Aba business units for a specified period of 25 years.

The project was scheduled to come in two phases – 141megawatt plant and 47megawatts. The 141 was reportedly completed by Geometrics, with a 27- kilometre gas pipeline connected to the plant from Owaza, near Imo River, and more than 100 kilometres of 33kV and 11kV electricity lines.

Accordingly, the agreement between the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) for the Nigerian authorities and Geometrics, in 2005, specified that the arrangement upon which Geometrics sourced for and obtained funds for the construction of the power plant would remain operational despite government’s planned privatisation programme.

It carved out Ariaria and Aba business units of the Enugu Disco from its entire coverage areas, which included all the five eastern states and handed them over to Geometrics to invest in the distribution infrastructure and supply of electricity to consumers under it, perhaps at a tariff agreed with the NERC.

Based on this, Geometrics visited its power plant in Osisioma and distribution areas and invested in the upgrade and replacement of some facilities in the two business areas. Its chairman and former minister of power, Prof. Barth Nnaji, said Aba had only three distribution sub-stations that belonged to the PHCN when Geometrics began activities to revamp the networks, adding that it could not sustain adequate power distribution within the area.

Nnaji had explained that the firm began to build four new 2X15MVA substations in the area to bring the total number to seven, in addition to a 60MVA substation built at the power station. He also stated that a load audit was conducted by Geometrics to discover that over time, the exclusive networks would be needing 156MW of electricity at peak demand levels.

He also stated that tariff to be charged by the independent power plant would not be different from whatever the country’s regulator approved for other on-grid power plant. He added that the investment economics of the plant had factored in the need to maintain such tariff framework.

Between 2013 and 2016, both Geometrics and Interstate engaged in a court case that sought to determine who owned the right to distribute electricity in the areas. Their legal warfare continued with the NERC failing to find a solution.

Shoe manufacturers and their finished product displayed at the power line section of Ariaria international market. Aba

Traders, artisans react

Traders and artisans at Ariaria market have variously expressed happiness at the power project.

The chairman of the Abia State Markets Amalgamated Traders Association (ASMATA), Chief Emeka Enechebe, applauded the Federal Government and Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State for making the dream of steady power supply to the market a reality. He noted that it would improve manufacturing and trading activities in the market.

Also, the chairman, Ariaria International Market Traders Association, Chief Lucky Akubueze, said they were committed to protecting assets and educating traders on the need to pay for power.

“It may interest you to know that before the implementation of Energizing Economies Initiative, Ariaria market did not receive power from the grid. It depended on multiple hazardous diesel generators as its source of power, which was not only expensive to run for the duration of business hours, but caused the release of emissions, which resulted in respiratory ailments, as well as fire outbreaks that led to the unfortunate loss of lives and property.

“We in Ariaria market are, therefore, delighted and most grateful to the Federal Government and Governor Ikpeazu for making it possible for our hardworking people to receive a cleaner, more reliable and affordable alternative power supply. This intervention will bring growth to our businesses and overall wellbeing to our people and customers,’’ he said.

Also, Ubani Nkaginieme, the managing director of Ariaria Market Energy Solutions Limited, said the Federal Government, in conjunction with the Abia State Government, had consistently created the enabling environment that made it possible for the AMES to bring this project to reality.

“I must specifically thank Mr President for the keen interest he showed in this project,’’ he said.

Mrs Sally Ngozi Joel, a shop owner in the market, also thanked the Federal Government for bringing constant and reliable power to the market.


43 Replies | Last update 11th Feb 2019 | Last comment

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