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NATIONAL NEWS

What Gov Otti Said At The Unveiling Of Geometric Plant In Aba

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The Power To Dream….
THIS IS A TEXT OF SPEECH DELIVERED BY THE GOVERNOR OF ABIA STATE, DR. ALEX C. OTTI, OFR, AT THE OFFICIAL COMMISSIONING OF THE GEOMETRIC POWER PLANT, OSISIOMA INDUSTRIAL LAYOUT, ABA, ON MONDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2024.
Protocol,
1. It is with a great sense of fulfilment that I welcome everyone who has come from far and near to be part of this epoch-making event; the commissioning of the Geometric Integrated Power Project, a 141MW, expandable to 188MW power generation and distribution facility built to supply uninterrupted electricity to businesses and households across 9 local governments in Abia State within the Aba ring-fenced area.
2. I am very honoured to welcome His Excellency, the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Senator Kashim Shettima, GCON, members of the Federal Executive Council, and other very senior government officials to Abia State, God’s Own State, and particularly to Aba, The Enyimba City.
3. The Vice President’s presence here points to the great significance of today’s event. It also speaks to the commitment of the Federal Government to support private sector investors in the search for a robust model for the electricity value chain in the country.
4. Permit me to also welcome other very important dignitaries from the public and private sectors, who have come to witness the dawn of a new era in the business of electricity generation, transmission and distribution in Nigeria.
5. It would be fair to appreciate at this point, Prof. Barth Nnaji, the board, management, and staff of Geometric Power Limited and all the partners whose vision, diligence and resilience saw to the actualisation of the project we have gathered for its commissioning.
6. Commendations are also due to an elite group of public sector officials and multinational partners who gave so much to see that Aba Geometric Power Plant and its array of support facilities and structures are completed — despite several frustrating twists and turns.
7. The commitment of the Federal Government to the actualisation of what started as a pipe dream 20 years ago, the faith of the financial partners, the goodwill of the Aba business community, and very importantly, the patience of the investors, tell a very exciting story of what we can achieve as Nigerians when we mobilise ourselves and resources to take on any task.
8. As a leader in the private sector many years ago, and now as the Governor of the State, I consider the Geometric Integrated Power Project to be very special and dear to my heart because of the immense potential it holds for the economic and social rejuvenation of Aba as a preferred destination for enterprise growth, family life and leisure.
9. Ladies and gentlemen, permit me to share my story with Geometric. In 2010, Prof. Barth Nnaji came to see me at First Bank, Lagos, where I served as an Executive Director. He needed the support of the bank to complete the project, the funding of which had been unfortunately stopped two years before, by the bank that originally started the project. This bank happened to be Diamond Bank. After securing approval for an $85m facility from First Bank of Nigeria, Geometric Power could not draw on the facility as it had become public knowledge that I was resuming as the Group Managing Director of Diamond Bank, shortly. As I resumed in Diamond on March 1, 2011, I put together a team that saw to the restructuring of the challenged facility and resumed funding of the project to completion. By the time I left Diamond towards the end of 2014, the three General Electric turbines and the 27km gas pipeline were in place. A combination of factors including ownership tussle over the Aba ring fence, the sale of the oil block where the feed gas was going to come from to a new investor, and additional funding challenges conspired to delay project delivery for close to 10 years. On assumption of office on May 29, 2023, my team and I quickly folded our sleeves and started working with Geometric to resolve the gas supply problem by directly interfacing with top management of NNPC and today we have gas flowing to the turbines. Just as recorded in Romans 8:28, “All things work together for good to them that love God”. I’m therefore pleased that 14 years down the line, God arranged everything such that the final resolution of all the issues and the firing of the turbines would happen when He handed over the mantle of stewardship to me. May His name be glorified!
10. I consider it appropriate to acknowledge the efforts of former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu, who gave the initial waivers to Geometric, thereby derisking the transaction. I thank specifically, the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe, CFR, who was the Chairman of Diamond Bank at the time, and who played a significant role in the resolution of the ownership tussle of the ring fence tussle. I cannot fail to recognise Prof. Okey Oramah, who got Afreximbank, his bank, to support the project with the required funding to get to the last mile. Many thanks to Engnr Mele Kyari, the GMD of NNPC, who God used to solve the gas problem.
11. This city is very pivotal to the economic trajectory of Nigeria and the West Africa region, and I knew for a fact that if we got the fundamentals right, Aba would not just be a city that makes millionaires of dreamers, it would become, a land of solutions to the many socio-economic problems that assail us – including worrisome level of youth unemployment and pervasive poverty.
12. My faith in Aba as an economic powerhouse meant that when I first saw the proposal for the Geometric Integrated Power Plant, I knew I had to be involved immediately because if just 50% of what had been proposed could be achieved, the industrial output from this great city and its environs would triple and millions of new jobs would be created directly and indirectly in the short to medium term.
13. We have therefore gathered to celebrate the actualisation of a lofty dream, the beginning of a new epoch and the reaffirmation of our limitless abilities as a people. Certainly, the success of this power project will not just validate my unyielding belief in Aba but will send a clear signal to local and international investors that Aba is open for business.
14. Whatever your line of business, manufacturing, agro-processing, metal fabrication, woodworks, ICT, fashion, services, or retail, whatever be it, Aba is waiting to embrace you warmly because, in addition to steady improvements in urban infrastructure, especially roads as we have witnessed since mid-2023, Aba residents and businesses will now enjoy reliable power supply all year round, thanks to Geometric Power.
15. The onus is now on us to pay our electricity bills as and when due. There must be no attempt to sabotage the revenue flow to the company because projects like this require steady cash flow for effective operations — including payment for gas supplies.
16. Community leaders must also work closely with security agents to guard against any form of vandalisation of critical supply or distribution infrastructure either for reasons of criminality or wilful sabotage.
17. On its part, the business division of Geometric Power must consistently guard against any form of customer extortion, under whatever guise. I am glad to learn that the company has recently embarked on mass metering of households and business premises. It is my wish that the initiative is sustained until every customer gets a meter to gauge and manage their electricity consumption.
18. Furthermore, standard practice concerning customer protection as spelt out in the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) Customer Protection Regulations, 2023, must apply across service frontiers — customer disconnection, meter reading, billing, management and resolution of complaints. It must be borne in mind at all times that the customer is king, especially in these economically challenging times.
19. Your position as a monopoly within your operational area would in the medium to long term either become a door opener to other equally strategic markets or a burden that would hurt the company’s capacity to expand to new territories. The choice is yours to make but I am of the view that if you serve Aba right through quality service delivery, wallet-friendly billing and responsiveness to customer complaints, the sky will simply be your starting point.
20. As a government and partner, we shall offer every necessary support to guarantee the success of this project because so much depends on it. My doors will remain open to engage and listen to you. I am also certain that other body of stakeholders including landlords, business and community leaders will never withhold their cooperation if efforts are made to build faith and trust in your business model.
21. My message to Geometric Power and its subsidiaries is that their investments are very safe in Abia State, and will be profitable in the long run because Aba has always rewarded industry and innovation.
22. May I, again, conclude just as I started, on a note of gratitude. Aba is grateful. Abians are excited and optimistic. My promise is that events like this will now become more regular in light of our ongoing discussions with several local and international investors — so we are just getting started. In no distant time, Umuahia and its environs will hear from us as we are working on a solution for them.
23. Your Excellencies, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the honour of your presence in Abia today. I wish you journey mercies as you return to your various destinations and see you at the next commissioning ceremony.
Dr. Alex C. Otti, OFR,
Governor, Abia State
26/02/2024.

NATIONAL NEWS

Gov. Sule Describes ACReSAL As Beacon Of Hope For Nigeria’s Agriculture Sector

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The Agro-Climatic Resilience in Semi-Arid Landscapes (ACReSAL) project has been hailed as a beacon of hope for Nigeria’s agriculture sector and landscape restoration particularly in semi-arid regions like Nasarawa State.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the joint World Bank/FAO/FGN Hybrid Implementation Support Mission for the ACReSAL Project, Nasarawa State Governor, Engr. Sule Abdullahi A. Sule, represented by his deputy, Dr. Emmanuel Akabe, emphasised the significance of ACReSAL in addressing pressing challenges facing the agriculture sector.

“Nasarawa State, like every other state in the semi-arid region, experiences the adverse effects of climate change, which threatens our security and livelihoods,” said Dr. Akabe.

“Through collaborative efforts and innovative approaches like ACReSAL, we have the opportunity to build community resilience and ensure sustainable agricultural practices.”

The ACReSAL project aims to restore 1 million hectares of degraded land in Northern Nigeria, contributing significantly to the Federal Government’s commitment to restore 4 million hectares of degraded land by 2030.

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This endeavour will not only help reduce the vulnerability of millions of extremely poor people in the region but also empower them to play an active role in achieving environmental sustainability.

The beauty of the ACReSAL project lies in its community-driven approach, where local communities are at the forefront of understanding, owning, protecting, and defending the project. This ensures that the project is tailored to meet the specific needs of the communities and is sustainable in the long run.

“ACReSAL embodies the spirit of partnership and cooperation, bringing together government agencies, development partners, people from academia, local communities, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), and all to find solutions to our shared environmental challenges,” he said.

Together, we will leverage the power of technology, research, and community engagement to transform our agricultural landscapes and secure a better future for generations to come. As we embark on this important project implementation journey, let us remain steadfast in our resolve, mindful of the impact of our actions, and responsive to the needs of our farmers and the community.

Let us use this opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the lives of our people and the sustainability of our environment and make ACReSAL a beacon of hope for Nasarawa and Nigeria.

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Dr. Joy Iganya Agene, Senior Environmental Specialist-World Bank Nigeria and Task Team Leader for the ACReSAL Project noted that the ACReSAL Team is in Nasarawa state for a joint World Bank, Federal Government of Nigeria, and Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations Hybrid Implementation Support Mission for the Agro-Climatic Resilience in Semi-Arid Landscapes (ACReSAL) Project.

The mission aims to assess implementation activities in the 19 Northern states and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) that are participating in the project, visit communities, inspect lands that have been marked for restoration, and carry out activities of the Community Revolving Fund (CRF).

She noted that Nasarawa is one of the fast-moving states in ACReSAL and would not be possible without the support of the leadership of Nasarawa state.

She disclosed that Nasarawa state will be one of the first states in the group 2 phase to qualify for phase 2 of the ACReSAL Investment.

According to her, under ACReSAL, for a state to access this investment (fund), the state will have to get some instruments in place, and this is done to check the demonstration commitment and technical capacity of the state to carry out the interventions.

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This funding will cushion the impact of climate change, help build the capacity of vulnerable communities to adapt to climate change and allow water to take its natural course in Nasarawa state.

In his remarks, Mr. Abdulhamid Umar, the National Project Coordinator for the ACReSAL Project, noted that the mission is in Nasarawa state to authenticate project implementation results so far and to see concrete deliverables of the four components of the ACReSAL Project.

Mr. Precious Agbesor, a representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), commended the World Bank and the Federal Government of Nigeria for the partnership.

He noted that component B of the ACReSAL Project (Community Climate Resilience) is the heart of the project, and FAO is supporting ACReSAL under this component to restore 350,000 hectares of degraded land.

Dr. Napoleon Gyobe Elias, the Nasarawa State ACReSAL Project Coordinator, outlined state-specific activities designed to enhance adaptive capacities and promote sustainable growth in the state.

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NATIONAL NEWS

Nigeria To Combat Cross Border Banditry Electronically, Says Minister

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Minister Olubunmi Ojo

The Nigerian Government is deploying automated border management solutions across the country’s vast borders in an effort to combat cross-border banditry and irregular migration.

Dr. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, Minister of Interior, made the announcement on Thursday in Abuja after inspecting the e-border management centre and the Command and Control Centre for airport electronic gates.

The Minister stated that, while the e-Border project was over 60% completed, the e-Gates Command and Control Centre is now 100% complete and ready for President Bola Tinubu to commission. Both centres are located at the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) headquarters in Abuja.

After the inspection, the Minister told journalists: “We have come a long way in terms of border management solutions. At the moment, I believe we have completed 60 percent of the deployment because what we saw the other time concerned the air border solution, which is the Command and Control Centre and the e-Gates that we have. But we are not just talking about air borders or airports; we are also talking about land borders, which, as we all know, are more porous – both land and sea borders.

“What we are currently doing is automating the entire surveillance system in our border space in real time; we can view a large portion of our borders at this time, but I will not reveal any more information. But the simple truth is that we are automating the entire process, and I believe that by October, Phase 1 of the entire border surveillance system will have been completed, and we will be able to see kilometres away from the border before people enter Nigeria.

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“There is also a solution that allows people in border areas to communicate directly in an emergency. They can report problems, and there are solutions to how we do not just ignore their reports or complaints, but also take action.

“We want to make our borders as interactive and safe as possible because, in the long run, Mr. President believes that a secure border is a secure nation. So, securing our borders is critical to securing our nation, and President Bola Tinubu’s administration is working hard to make Nigeria a safe country where people can sleep with their two eyes closed.

“But I can tell you that anyone who believes he can commit illegal acts within our border space should be prepared to face the consequences. We are renewing Nigerians’ hopes in all aspects of their lives. This is only the first phase; Phase 2 will begin shortly. We will do it in such a way that Nigeria’s entire 4,447-kilometer border is secure. A thousand-mile journey begins with one step. We have started, and we will not stop until Nigerians can sleep with their two eyes closed.”

The Minister stated that the Command and Control Centre for the e-Gates had been completed and would be commissioned soon.

He revealed: “We are waiting for Mr. President. We have already notified the president, and I am pleased that the media has seen the location and knows it is completely ready to go,” he said.

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Kemi Nandap, Comptroller General of the Immigration Service, stated that the officers and men are highly motivated and are currently receiving extensive training on e-solutions.

She stated, “We are more than 60% done with border management solutions, and our officers and men are currently being trained.” “We are prepared, and our officers are highly motivated,” she said.

The CGIS explained that the border communities have been educated on how to collaborate with the service, and that the NIS has established a communication channel with the communities in order to obtain relevant information from them.

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NATIONAL NEWS

Nigeria’s Aviation Team Visits Abia, Inspects New Airport Site As Gov Otti Announces Access Bank Partnership

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The visiting federal government aviation team

In a renewed commitment to providing Abia State with a suitable airport, a federal government team from the Ministry of Aviation this week visited the state to inspect a proposed site for the planned new airport.

This comes as Abia State Governor, Dr. Alex Otti, announced that Access Bank, one of Nigeria’s leading financial institutions, has expressed a willingness to collaborate with the State Government on the airport development.

According to a press release from Kazie Uko, Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, the Federal Government team was led by Dr. Emmanuel Meribeole, Permanent Secretary of, the Ministry of Aviation.
The team stated that it was in the state to ensure that the land and location approved for the project complied with regulatory requirements for airport siting.

Dr. Meribeole stated that the Federal Government is eager to complete the airport promptly, which prompted the visit of a team comprised of representatives from all of the country’s aviation agencies in charge of airport approvals and supervision to ensure compliance with required standards.

The team included aviation agencies such as the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET), the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA).

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Meribeole, while acknowledging Governor Otti’s visionary leadership, stated that members of his team are experts in their respective agencies and that the Abia airport project has already been included in the 2024 Federal Appropriation Act, albeit as an airstrip.

He acknowledged that airport projects are capital intensive, but emphasised that the benefits of having an airport cannot be overstated, as they would lead to the state’s accelerated development through job creation, commerce promotion, revenue generation, and other factors.

Governor Otti, who welcomed the Federal aviation team, thanked President Bola Tinubu for approving the construction of an airstrip in Abia.

He stated that while the national budget included funding for an airstrip, the Abia State Government would collaborate with the Federal Government to expand the airstrip into a full-fledged airport, as the primary distinction between an airport and an airstrip is the length and size of the runway.

“First and foremost, I would like to thank the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, for agreeing to build an airstrip in Abia and including it in the approved budget for 2024.

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“Even if the money is insufficient, a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. So, we are grateful to him.

“We also want to thank my friend and brother, the Hon. Minister of Aviation, Barr. Festus Kyamo, SAN, for everything he has done to make this a reality. We are constantly on the phone, discussing and brainstorming ways to accelerate this process.

“I would like to thank you for joining us in our hurry to complete this project. Once we had reached an agreement, we began looking for suitable land, which is the most important aspect of an airport. There were a few places that were previously mapped out, but when we went for a physical inspection, we discovered that some of them did not have enough space or were not properly located for the airport.

“Another important aspect of an airport is location, so we have now narrowed it down to the location that you are currently looking at. We did more than just identify the location; we also identified the landowners because it is a large parcel of land. “We had already begun engaging with them,” Governor Otti stated.

The Governor assured the team that the State Government is ready to see the project through in record time, as the people of Abia are eager to have their airport, as the state is one of only two in Nigeria that does not have one. The other is Osun State.

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“One thing you can take away from here is that the State will be in charge, and if anything is delayed, it is because it is coming from the centre; however, we are in a hurry.”

“I am personally involved in this, and I receive daily briefings. If I do not receive a briefing, I check in with them to see where we stand.

“So, this is to assure you that we are more than prepared and that you will receive everything you require in record time. And we hope that at least one airport will be built within the next year. “Once we have the runway and the terminal building, the rest will come in time,” he said.

The Federal Aviation team’s visit coincided with that of Access Bank, which was led by Mr. Roosevelt Ogbonna, Managing Director/CEO.

Governor Otti expressed Access Bank’s willingness to participate and partner with the Abia State Government on the airport project “to ensure that liquidity does not become a problem.”

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According to Governor Otti, Access Bank has some experience financing airport projects, having helped deliver the Ogun State airport.

“I suggested to the CEO that the team meet with him so that we can bring them on board early enough. Our policy is not to borrow until necessary. If they had also been involved in one and delivered it, we could learn from their mistakes and build on the positive aspects,” the Governor said.

 

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