ELECTRICITY: JONATHAN SEEKS WORLD BANK'S ASSISTANCE
Acting President Goodluck Jonathan has sought the assistance of the World Bank in ending the lingering electricity problem in the country.
Jonathan, at a meeting attended by the World Bank President, Mr. Bob Zoellick; the Managing Director, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; and the Vice-President for Africa, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, in Washington DC, United States on Monday night, told the Brettonwood institution's team that Nigeria's power sector needed 'urgent measures and attention.'
Specifically, he asked the bank, which has committed about $4.2bn into various projects in Nigeria, to help the Federal Government conduct a technical audit of the sector.
A statement by the Nigerian Ambassador to the United States, Professor Adebowale Adefuye, quoted the Acting President as saying that an immediate remedy in the power sector 'lies in the activation of its hydroelectric potentials, for which World Bank's help is being requested.'
The statement which was made available to Empowered Newswire, a US-based Nigerian news agency on Tuesday, said that Jonathan informed the World Bank's senior officials that for the assistance to be of maximum benefit, there would be 'an immediate need for a comprehensive technical audit to identify critical areas of urgency.'
According to him, the 'bank is best placed to send its experts to undertake this audit.'
The Acting President explained that currently, Nigeria's power comes from hydroelectric sources whose turbines required urgent refurbishment and replacement due to their age.
He added that Nigeria was considering generating electricity from coal and nuclear sources.
But Jonathan pointed out that generating power from nuclear-based 'may take between eight and 10 years due to the stringent requirement by the International Atomic Energy Agency.'
He added that tapping energy from the nation's coal deposits could take a longer period.
Adefuye's statement explained that it was for these reasons, that ' Nigeria's immediate remedy lies in the activation of its hydroelectric potentials, for which World Bank's help is being requested.'
Adefuye also said that the bank expressed its desire ' to see Nigeria's generating capacity supported by strong policy regime.'
Responding, the World Bank chiefs stressed the need for Nigeria to 'prioritise its focus, maintain its renewed vigor and accelerate decisions on policy issues in the power sector.'
A source close to the meeting said that the bank officials told Jonathan that there were urgent policy decisions, institutional issues and market pricing issues which the Federal Government needed to address urgently to expedite action in the power sector.
The source said the bank, however, promised to send to Nigeria, its leading experts on power for a meeting with stakeholders in the Nigerian power sector.
He added that the bank also offered to help Nigeria look for investors in the power sector, including the International Finance Corporation, the private sector arm of the World Bank Group.
Other issues discussed at the meeting were the Federal Government's amnesty programme, mass transit, the petroleum and financial sector, telecommunications and asset recovery.
At the end of the meeting, Jonathan invited Zoellick to visit Nigeria.
The Acting President had earlier on Monday had lunch with the US Vice- President, Mr. Joseph Biden, during which Washington promised to help Nigeria with 'peaceful use of nuclear technology.'
According to a White House statement, Biden 'affirmed that any state in good standing on its non-proliferation obligations that is interested in pursuing nuclear energy and needs assistance would find a ready partner in the US.'
Biden hosted Jonathan as well as leaders and officials from the 11 nations attending the Nuclear Security Summit which began on Tuesday at the Washington DC Convention Centre.