From Laolu Akande:
* Holds talks with Ban
AT separate fora with officials of the United States (U.S.) and the World Bank, Acting President Goodluck Jonathan made his resolve to reposition Nigeria’s power sector the major issue.
When he met U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden on Monday, Jonathan extracted a promise from the Barack Obama administration to help Nigeria use its nuclear technology to bail out the prostrate power sector.
At talks with World Bank top officials also on Monday, the Acting President reviewed the power sector situation in Nigeria and asked the global bank to assist the Federal Government with technical expertise in achieving stable power supply for domestic and industrial consumption.
The meeting, held at the World Bank headquarters in Washington, agreed that urgent measures were needed by Nigeria to solve its power crisis.
Other issues Jonathan discussed with the World Bank included the Niger Delta amnesty programme, mass transit, the petroleum, financial, telecommunications sectors and asset recovery.
Jonathan told the World Bank President Bob Zoellick that if there was any area Nigeria needed the assistance of the Bretton Woods financial institution, it was on evolving and applying workable strategies to solving the power sector challenges.
The Acting President also participated in a welcome dinner on Monday night with Obama, which he hosted for presidents and leaders attending the Nuclear Security Summit in the U.S.
Jonathan earlier had lunch with Biden, where other selected leaders attending the summit were also present. As at press time yesterday, Jonathan was meeting the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
The Nigerian leader, who is scheduled to return to Nigeria today, asked the World Bank to help Nigeria conduct a technical audit of the power sector.
In a statement, Nigerian Ambassador to U.S., Prof. Adebowale Ibidapo Adefuye, who joined Jonathan at the meeting, said having commended the World Bank for its current engagements in Nigeria put at $4 billion, Jonathan stated that Nigeria’s immediate remedy in the power sector “lies in the activation of its hydro-electric potentials, for which World Bank’s help is being requested.”
Jonathan said “an immediate need for a comprehensive technical audit to identify critical areas of urgency in the power sector is imperative. The World Bank is best placed to send its experts to undertake this audit.”
The Acting President said Nigeria’s power comes from hydro-electric sources, whose turbines, due to old age, require urgent refurbishment and replacement.
Although he said the government is considering other power sources, especially from its rich coal deposits, Jonathan added that might likely take a longer time to actualise.
The government is also considering exploiting nuclear-based sources to generate power, but Jonathan told the World Bank that nuclear exploitation for power “may take between eight and 10 years due to the stringent requirement by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).”
The meeting was attended by two former Nigerian ministers, who are now top officials of the World Bank: Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (World Bank Managing Director) and Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, Vice President for Africa. The World Bank officials, led by Zoellick, stressed the need for Nigeria to prioritise its focus, maintain its renewed vigour and accelerate decisions on policy issues in the power sector.
The bank’s officials explained to the Nigerian delegation that there were urgent policy decisions, institutional issues and market pricing matters, which the Federal Government must address to expedite action in the power sector.
The World Bank promised to send its leading expert on power to Nigeria to assess the situation.
Although a source said the expert had been sent to Nigeria in the past but the government did not take the full advantage. The Acting President’s renewed interest, according to a World Bank official, is proof of urgency. Indeed, a meeting has been proposed by the bank with Nigerian power sector stakeholders, while an offer to help Nigeria look for investors in the industry was also made at the meeting by the World Bank.
Confirming this posture of the World Bank to help Nigeria, Adefuye in the statement noted that the global bank expressed the desire “to see our country’s generating capacity supported by strong policy regime. To tackle the matter in a more technical way, the World Bank proposed a further meeting with Nigeria’s stakeholders in the sector to explore, evaluate and deploy effective strategies. The bank further pledged to look for investors in the sector, including the International Finance Corporation (IFC), which is the private sector arm of the World Bank Group.”
Jonathan also invited the World Bank President to visit Nigeria.
According to a White House statement, the U.S. Vice President at the lunch attended by 11 non-aligned members, including Nigeria, “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 United States.”
Nigeria is known to be pursuing nuclear energy for power generation sources even though its ultimate realisation may be several years away.
Biden hosted leaders and officials from 11 nations in advance of the Nuclear Security Summit, which formally kicked off yesterday, at the Washington DC Convention Centre with Acting President leading the Nigerian delegation.
Although Monday’s lunch meeting was not a one-on-one meeting, Nigeria’s Ambassador to the U.S. said Jonathan pledged Nigeria’s continued support for a nuclear free world and exchanged pleasantries with the U.S. Vice President, who later promised U.S. support for peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
The White House statement added that heads of government and other representatives from nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America, who are members of the non-aligned movement, were those who had lunch with Biden.
The statement noted that the “purpose was to exchange views on nuclear security and proliferation issues and the urgency of addressing global risks of nuclear terrorism.”
At the meeting, which was mainly addressed by the U.S. Vice President, he underlined the interest shared by all nations in ensuring the security of nuclear materials that can be used in nuclear weapons and in shoring up international non-proliferation rules.
Those rules, he said, “are centered in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), an agreement that sets requirements for preventing the spread of nuclear weapons to states and encourages progress towards disarmament and the safe and secure peaceful use of nuclear energy.”
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