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By NBF News
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The Electric Power Transaction and Industry Review Conference which held in Abuja on November 28 and 29, 2011, is considered a critical step in the bold effort to transform Nigeria's power sector. President Jonathan has not left anyone in doubt about his belief in the 2005 Electric Power Sector Reform Act (EPSRA).

His commitment to the full implementation of the Act led him to launch, as soon as he came into office last year, The road map for Power Sector Reform. The road map provides ways and means to make Nigeria achieve 40,000Megawatts within one decade, so that our beloved nation could become one of the world's 20 largest economies by 2020.

The Nigerian people's support for the reform is overwhelming. They have for decades lived with the Federal Government monopoly of electricity supply. They have borne enough of the consequences of the monopoly. They are, therefore, eager to see the Federal Government's interest in the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) drastically diluted. The process of transferring the Government equity in 17 out of the 18 PHCN successor companies to core investors, PHCN workers and relevant state governments will be completed early next year.

We are delighted at the enormous interest which the international community has shown in the reform process. We received as many as 331 Expressions of Interest (EoIs) when the BPE called for EoIs in all 18 successor companies. The National Council of Privatisation (NCP) chaired by His Excellency, the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Architect Mohammed Namadi Sambo, GCON, has pre-qualified 212 firms to bid for the successor companies. It is noteworthy that the bidding companies are from 38 countries around the world, and they include globally renowned ones.

Return on investment in Nigeria is very impressive by any standard in the world. It is common knowledge that leading telecommunications companies which were reluctant to invest in the Nigerian GSM telephone market at inception in 2001 still regret their decision. There is an impressive stock of well developed human capital in Nigeria, and there are several thousands of highly accomplished Nigerian professionals in different parts of the world willing to return home to earn a fraction of their pay overseas. The PHCN, unknown to some people, has a lot of bright and dedicated workers.

The Jonathan administration recognizes the invaluable contributions of the PHCN staff to national development. This is why it paid, immediately it came into existence, 57 billion naira to them for monetized benefits; these benefits were denied them by successive regimes for seven years. It is also in appreciation of their contributions that the Federal Government has set aside for PHCN employees a percentage of shares in the 17 PHCN successor companies slated for privatization. We have, in addition, set aside enough funds for the swift payment of retirement benefits to all the PHCN staff when transfer of the ownership of the PHCN assets takes place.

Despite the considerable economic challenges facing the nation, President Jonathan graciously approved last May a 50% salary raise for PHCN workers. And he has also approved that some 11,000 PHCN employees who have for years been working as casual workers been converted to the regular staff. In other words, the administration has honoured all the agreements with the labour unions in the power sector.

We have, indeed, demonstrated good faith.
The ongoing power sector reform will create greater employment and business opportunities for our people, as we have seen with the liberalization of telecoms. It will enable electricity employees to earn competitive wages and enjoy generous serviced conditions. It will make the state of the art technology available in the sector. It will also boost capacity building and attract considerable Foreign Direct Investment.

The ultimate beneficiary of the reform will be the Nigerian people whose dying factories will be revived, whose service industry will receive a great boost, and who will begin to have constant and quality power supply in their homes. It will soon be a new dawn in Nigeria.

Nnaji, Minister of Power writes from Abuja.