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24/7 Light: Why I Located $800m Geometric Power Plant in Aba-Barth Nnaji

The Chairman of Geometric Power Group, Professor Barth Nnaji, has explained that his passion to contribute to industrial development in Igbo land in a manner that would accelerate rapid development of Nigeria was the major influence behind the decision to locate the Geometric Power Plant in Aba.

Nnaji, who was Nigeria’s former Minister of Power, disclosed this at the leadership colloquium on, “Igbo Leadership and Development,” that was convened recently.

He said: “I am passionate about the rapid development of Nigeria, starting with Ala Igbo because of the structural problems it has faced since the end of the Nigerian Civil War in 1970 and also because of its enormous technological and economic potential.

“Geometric Power Limited is making its contribution to help reclaim the old economic days of the Great Zik of Africa, Dr. M.I. Okpara and many others. Once Geometric Power addresses the electricity challenge in nine out of 17 local government areas in Abia State fully, not even the sky will be the limit of the attainments of the people and government of Abia State. Abia can set the stage of development miracle which has been waiting to happen.”

The professor of Manufacturing Engineering, further disclosed that the 188-megawatt Geometric Power Plant in Aba and the Aba Power distribution firm in Osisioma Industrial Layout would have been more profitable venture if they had been located in Ikeja or in the Ilupeju the Industrial Estate in Lagos State or in the Agbara Industrial Layout in Ogun State or in or around the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja.

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Nnaji said: “The return of investment would have been quicker and bigger (in these locations). But the strategic reason for locating both the generation and distribution arms of Geometric Power Group would have been missed. Only the investors and promoters of Geometric Power would have benefitted directly, but the people and governments of Ala-Igbo would be the losers.”

He also said locating the project in any of the aforementioned locations would have saved the Geometric Group the experience of a tortious ten-year tussle over the right ownership of the Aba-Ringed Fence Area, which took a toll on the financiers of the $800 million project, the investors, the host community, suppliers, contractors, the Aba business community and the people and government of Abia State.

Nnaji traced the history of the Aba power plant to when former Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, invited a former President of the World Bank, late Dr. James Wolfohnson, to Aba to see, firsthand, Aba’s tremendous economic and technological potential.

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“After the visit in 2004, I was asked by the duo to consider building a 50 megawatt power plant in Abia for manufacturers, both big ones like the Star Paper Mill and small ones like the hundreds of excellent shoemakers and clothiers at the famous Ariaria Market.

“They approached me obviously because I had led a small team of dedicated Nigerian engineers and entrepreneurs to build a 22megawatt Emergency Plant in Abuja in 2001 for the supply of electricity to State House, the NNPC headquarters, the Abuja Business District and other places.

“I acceded to the request by Dr. Okonjo-Iweala and Dr. Wolfohnson. What the two did not realize is that my enthusiastic acceptance was because the plant would be located in Aba. This city has a special place in the heart and mind of every person interested in our country’s rapid progress: It is the home of indigenous manufacturing, innovation and entrepreneurship.

“There is another reason why I accepted to build the plant in Aba. I had experienced, firsthand, what industrialists in Igbo land were going through.

“As a professor of manufacturing engineering in the United States in the 1990s, I decided to build a plant in Emene, Enugu, to produce vehicle spare parts, including engines, of the highest standard in the world. After all, I had watched my former students from Taiwan and other places in Southeast Asia rush home to produce sophisticated auto parts and engines.

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“So, a large swath of land was purchased for this purpose, but when my South Korean partners visited Enugu, it became obvious that the project would not take off principally because of poor electricity. It was while I was thinking of how to help resolve the electricity problem in Ala Igbo that Dr. Okonjo-Iweala and Dr. Wolfohnson made the request. The rest is history,” Nnaji said.

Yet, the proprietor of the Geometric Group, said: “I must add that it has since 2004 been tears, sweat and blood, to borrow the words of late Mr. Winston Churchill, the former British prime minister.

“I don’t want to tell the story of sweat, blood and tears now; all I can say this moment is the game is worth the candle. Nothing can give as much fulfillment and satisfaction as working wholeheartedly for your people.

‘It took the Nnewi people quite a lot when they decided to develop their hometown themselves. Even without basic infrastructure like roads, electricity and telephone services, the Nnewi people decided to take their destiny in their hands after the Nigerian Civil War,” he added.

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