US OFFERS $1.5B FACILITY FOR NIGERIA'S POWER EXPANSION
By Yemie ADEOYE
IN an effort to accelerate the its transformation agenda in the power sector, the federal government has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the United States of America which would enable independent power producers in Nigeria to access up to $1.5billion facility to purchase electric power equipments and services from the United States.
The facility is managed by the United States Export Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank), a government agency that provides export-credit insurance and financing, among other services, to help foreign buyers purchase US goods and services.
Minister of Power, Prof. Bart Nnaji, signed the MOU on behalf of the government of Nigeria while Mr. Fred P. Hochberg, Ex-Im Bank Chairman and President, signed for the government of the United States at a brief ceremony in the Ministry's conference room.
Prof. Nnaji described the agreement as historic, as it gives investors in the power sector access to US goods and services which will help boost Nigerian's bid to expand its electricity infrastructure. Mr. Hochberg, on his part, promised that the Ex-Im Bank would do more: '$1.5 billion is just a start… The bank will certainly consider additional financing if needed,' he said.
Asked by newsmen when the facility would be available, he said that the bank has opened for business in Nigeria and is awaiting orders from credible independent power producers.
Availability of power
'We want to deploy this financing as quickly as possible to help meet President Goodluck Jonathan's goals for growing the Nigerian economy by greatly expanding the availability of power in the country,' he said.
Prof. Nnaji commended the speed with which the Bank's president responded to the issue which he raised with Mr. Hochberg only a couple of weeks ago in Washington when the Minister represented President Goodluck Jonathan at an economic summit meeting.
He spoke of government's initiatives to expand investments that will lead to a three-fold increase in the quantum of power within three years, and the incentives that are being put together to encourage private foreign and local investors to achieve the target.
Among these are government policies and programmes to assure a cost-reflective tariff, a bulk power trading company that manages a government guarantee of payment for power producers who supply to distribution companies, and the on-going privatization of public power generation and distribution companies.
He also commended Nigeria's Ambassador to the United States, Prof. Ade Adefuye, who facilitated the visit and accompanied the team for his hard work in the area of pushing forward Nigeria's current economic diplomacy initiative.
Among the dignitaries that witnessed the signing ceremony were the Minister of State, Federal Ministry of Power, Arc. Darius Dickson Ishaku, Permanent Secretary, Mrs. Ibukun Odusote, Ambassador Adefuye and the United States Ambassador to Nigeria,Mr. Terence McCulley. The Ex-Im Bank team included newly appointed First Vice President and Vice Chairman, Wanda Felton, and Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Alice Albright, among other top officials.