Sequel to the resignation of former power minister Prof. Barth Nnaji in controversial circumstances, development partners are beginning to express worry over the fate of the power sector reform measures.
To assuage their anxieties, they are seeking assurances from the federal government that the integrity of the reforms will be sustained.
LEADERSHIP learnt that all the development partners stormed the power ministry at the weekend to seek assurance that the progress recorded during Nnaji's tenure would be pursued diligently and with zeal.
The development partners, shocked by Nnaji's sudden exit, were led to the ministry by the UNIDO country representative, Dr. Patrick Kormawa, to express their concern over the implications of the minister's resignation to the power road map.
Present at the meeting were representatives of the Department for International Development (DFID), European Union (EU), World Bank, African Development Bank (AfDB), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), among others.
Expressing the EU's shock at the development, the head of cooperation, Mr. P. Philippe, said, "When Brussels got the news, it was alarmed and expressed doubts about the continuity of the reforms in the sector."
Fon his part, the World Bank representative at the meeting, Erik Feinstiom, said he was at the last power summit in Asaba, Delta State, which was presided over by Nnaji, "and we were not left in any doubt that his (Nnaji's) focus, passion and direction for the sector was taking the country to the promised land".
"The Nigerian people had witnessed improved living standard just for the improved electricity supply. It will be a grave setback if things start slowing down at this point," another development partner noted.
Yet another added that "in every government, there are people who add momentum to an administration. Professor Nnaji is just one of the few whose presence in this administration had added integrity to the regime. Personally, allowing Nnaji to go the way he did is certainly a setback. The whole episode was wrongly handled," she said.
Kormawa, who disclosed that UNIDO was working in concert with other agencies for rural electrification of the country especially in the renewable energy sector, said, "We have no choice than to continue our support even though we were disappointed at the recent event."
The worried partners further sought to know where the privatisation process was presently, and whether the Nigerian government was still committed to the timelines.
Responding, the minister of state for power, Mr. Darius Ishaku, told his guests that Nigerians were as alarmed at the sudden exit of the former minister as they were.
Ishaku, according to a statement by the ministry, however, told the delegation: "We are part of the immense contributions Prof Bart Nnaji had made and the structures he put in place. He took us along all the way. I want to reassure you that this government would continue to build on and nurture all the institutions he had put in place.
"Privatisation is ongoing with all the timelines. Continue to give us all your usual maximum support as we have no choice but to continue from where he (Nnaji) left off."
On the ongoing discussion with the labour unions, Ishaku said, "We have moved beyond National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), Ministry of Power and Ministry of Labour level right now. The matter is being handled at the highest level with TUC, NLC and the secretary to the government of the federation striving to resolve the remaining one or two issues. Advise us, give us assistance, nothing will change."
Nigeria partners Iran on power supply
The federal government and the Islamic Republic of Iran have agreed to partner in matters of electricity supply, agriculture, science and education.
This was the outcome of a bilateral meeting between Vice President Namadi Sambo and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the venue of the 16th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Tehran.
Accepting the fraternal greetings of President Goodluck Jonathan, the Iranian leader thanked Nigeria for honouring the invitation to attend the summit.
Sambo said that to realise the decisions taken at the summit, the level of development in the country called for partnership so that both countries could actualise their developmental objectives.
He said that though there were Iranian companies in the country, Nigeria needed more cooperation with Iran to enable her attain its developmental goals especially in the power sector.
The vice president expressed the concern of the federal government over the eviction notice given to the Nigerian Embassy in Tehran, and noted that despite the fact that Nigeria acquired the property in 1994, three people had come forward in 2006 to lay claim to the same property.
Sambo highlighted the country's efforts towards building both thermal and hydro power projects as well as other projects in agriculture.
In his remark, President Ahmadinejad expressed his appreciation for what Nigeria was doing in the sub-region and promised to look into the issue of the Embassy building. He said that he looked forward to having stronger relationship between the two countries.
In another development, Vice President Sambo, in bilateral discussions with Mali, stated that "Nigeria's national integrity is not negotiable and the activity of terrorists in the country is not acceptable".
Sambo made the remark in a discussion with the delegation from Mali led by its foreign affairs minister in the Government of National Unity, Tieman Coulibally.
The viice president restated Nigeria's resolve to support Mali overcome its internal challenges, attain democracy and usher in a new government.
He commended Mali for accepting to establish a Government of National Unity, and noted that "being a brotherly country and a member of ECOWAS, Mali deserved all the support it can get to overcome the security challenges and usher in democracy".
Earlier, Mr Coulibally extended the fraternal greetings of President. Dioncounda Traore to President Jonathan and the people of Nigeria and expressed regret that his president could not meet with him in Nigeria before the Tehran Summit.
He lamented the unexpected turbulence and unrest unleashed by terrorists in the north of Mali and requested that Nigeria, being a leading country in West Africa, should "support Mali to overcome its internal challenges".
He also commended President Jonathan for his personal commitment to ECOWAS, and Nigeria for hosting Malian citizens.