ABUJA: Nigeria has announced two major initiatives aimed at improving its woeful electricity supply, entering a $1.3-billion (960 million euros) power plant deal with China and on Monday handing over state power assets to private investors.
The privatization of most of state electricity firm PHCN has long been in the works in Africa’s most populous nation, where blackouts occur multiple times daily despite the country’s status as the continent’s largest oil producer.
Those taking over assets include Seoul-based Korea Electric Power Corp. as well as local investors.
Separately, the deal with the Chinese government involves construction of a hydroelectric plant expected to add 700 megawatts to the national grid.
A loan from China’s Export-Import Bank will pay for 75 percent of the plant while the Nigerian government will cover 25 percent of the cost, a statement by the finance ministry said.
It is not clear if the new plant will remain in state hands or if it too will be privatized.
Hundreds of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) workers and retirees on Monday staged protests in several parts of the country against the take-over of the company when the government has not paid all of them their severance financial benefits.
Some of them chanting slogans and carrying placards told AIT private television that they would not allow the investors to enter PHCN premises until the monies have been paid.
“We are ready to be sleeping here until they pay us,” one of the protesters, Ganiyu Adegboye, told the television.
They locked up the entrances to PHCN’s two main offices in Lagos, AIT footage showed.
Nigeria has portrayed the privatization of electricity generation and distribution as a reform capable of finally bringing steady power supplies to the country, where businesses are forced to rely on diesel generators to cope.
President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday handed over operating licenses to investors for most of the companies created from the splitting up of the former PHCN.