- FG, W’Bank Officials to Meet in Washington to Conclude Power Recovery Plan
Nigeria and the World Bank Group would meet this week in Washington D.C. to discuss and possibly conclude operational terms in the power sector recovery plan, which both parties have worked on and agreed to use to respond adequately to the current challenges threatening Nigeria’s electricity sector.
Reporters learnt on Sunday in Abuja that the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, will lead a team comprising key officials in his ministry and the Office of the Vice President to the meeting which is expected to hold on the sidelines of the annual World Bank/International Monetary Fund (IMF) spring meetings.
Reliable sources that are privy to this, confirmed that the meeting was purposely arranged to hold at the time of the spring meetings which will hold between April 21 and 23.
The sources explained that Nigeria and the World Bank would take time out to discuss key factors in the implementation of the power sector recovery plan.
Just last week, Fashola confirmed that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) had approved the plan for use, paving the way for Nigeria and the Bank to conclude discussions on the plan.
However, total funding under the plan has not been disclosed by either the federal government or the Bank.
Last December, the government and the Bank were working on a recovery plan that would among other objectives seek to improve the technical and commercial performance of the country’s privatised power sector, as well as restore its business viability.
The recommendations in the plan were reportedly based on a joint diagnostic exercise conducted on the sector by the government and the Bank.
Even though the government recently approved a N701 billion payment guarantee to the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc (NBET) to support its financial commitments to power generation companies (Gencos) in the country, Nigeria’s electricity market still contends with illiquidity, which analysts said could lead to total market failure if not addressed.
Based on this, the recovery plan was originated to turnaround the sector by helping to improve its governance practices, reduce technical and commercial electricity losses, and guarantee efficient sector investments.
When the plan was being worked on, the government and the Bank reportedly agreed that there were causes and dimensions to the challenges of the sector, and that the sector needed urgent attention to restore its financial tolerance to attract significant private sector investments.
It was further learnt that the World Bank would from this galvanise private and public sector investments through its various groups to support the power sector.
Also, both parties agreed on the need to prioritise actions that will strengthen the sector’s governance including the appointment of Commissioners for the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) which has already been done, restore investors’ confidence, attract public and private investment in generation, transmission, and distribution for enhanced service quality, and protect sector revenues with improved metering and collection.
The sources revealed that the planned Washington meeting would have other arms of the World Bank including the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) in attendance.
They explained that a couple of new generation projects like the solar power projects, for which the government has signed Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) in July 2016, need the backing of the World Bank’s Partial Risk Guarantee (PRG) to move to closure, but have been held back and are waiting for the recovery plan to be launched.
Meanwhile, a report presented by NERC to power sector operators at their last monthly meeting in Oshogbo, Osun State, indicated that the 11 Discos performed woefully with meeting their metering plan in 2016.
NERC stated that while the Discos committed to add 1,754,800 meters in 2016, they only rolled out 215,424 meters, representing 12 per cent of the target.
The report showed that while Ibadan Disco provided the most number of meters – 67,473, representing 27 per cent of its metering commitment for 2016, Enugu Disco was the worst performer with just 2,356 meters, representing one per cent of its commitment for last year.
NERC also explained that there was a sharp decline in revenue remittances to the market by the Discos in 2016, with remittances to NBET falling from 51 per cent in 2015 to 26 per cent in 2016.
It said this was still causing major liquidity problems for the market.
2023 Voter’s Registration Will Be Online, Biometric To Be Captured Physically- INEC
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday unfolded plans to allow online filing during the continuous voter registration for the 2023 general election.
The National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee of INEC, Mr. Festus Okoye, however, said only the biometric would be captured physically by INEC officials.
But the commission suffered another setback yesterday as arsonists torched its office in Ohafia Local Government Area of Abia State.
Okoye, during a stakeholders’ meeting on expanding voter access to polling units in Kano yesterday, said: “On June 28, the voter registration exercise for those above 18 years and those who have not registered before will commence with two new innovations. Those versatile with computer can register online and only visit a registration centre to capture their biometrics.”
Okoye stated that the online registration would be introduced to reduce crowd at registration centres in line with COVID-19 protocols.
The commission called on citizens, especially those willing to contest elections, whose voter cards have been defaced, whose names were wrongly spelt or addresses and locations wrongly captured to present themselves for authentication or correction.
INEC also called for valid data of all those with disabilities or physical challenges to be captured during the continuous registration for proper projections ahead of the 2023 general election.
INEC also warned political parties and politicians who have started campaigning to desist from doing so.
Okoye said: “There is a ban on political campaigns which has not been lifted yet. And I find it necessary to draw your attention for you to understand the legal implication of violating this ban.
“I have listened to comments on radio stations, which are capable of heating the polity. Media organisations should avoid providing platforms for such comments. The media should try to curtail such tensions.
“Political parties, politicians and their supporters should understand there is a legal framework for campaigns and it has not commenced yet.”
No Plans To Relocate AFRICOM HQ To Nigeria Or Any Part Of Africa- U.S. Replies Buhari
The United States has said there is no plan to relocate its Africa Command from its current base in Germany to Nigeria or any other part of Africa despite the worsening state of insecurity in the region.
The US gave the response barely two weeks after President Muhammadu Buhari appealed to the US government to consider relocating AFRICOM to Africa to assist Nigeria and other adjoining countries to combat worsening terrorism, banditry and other security crises.
The President made the plea in a virtual meeting with the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, on April 27.
Germany-based Africa Command (AFRICOM) is the US military headquarters that oversees its operations in Africa.
Buhari’s request followed a series of recent military casualties in Nigeria’s decade-long fight against Boko Haram terrorists, fresh expansion of the insurgents’ bases to Niger and Nasarawa States, and heavy waves of abductions and killings by bandits in the North.
Buhari said, “The security challenges in Nigeria remain of great concern to us and impacted more negatively, by existing complex negative pressures in the Sahel, Central and West Africa, as well as the Lake Chad Region.
“Compounded as the situation remains, Nigeria and her security forces remain resolutely committed to containing them and addressing their root causes.
“The support of important and strategic partners like the United States cannot be overstated as the consequences of insecurity will affect all nations, hence the imperative for concerted cooperation and collaboration of all nations to overcome these challenges.
“In this connection, and considering the growing security challenges in West and Central Africa, Gulf of Guinea, Lake Chad region and the Sahel, weighing heavily on Africa, it underscores the need for the United States to consider relocating AFRICOM headquarters from Stuttgart, Germany to Africa and near the Theatre of Operation.”
However, the US government on Thursday ruled out any plan to relocate AFRICOM from its current base in Germany to Nigeria or any part of Africa.
According to the United States Department of Defence’ Pentagon, previous studies have shown that the cost of relocating AFRICOM from Germany to Africa is very huge.
In an emailed response to The PUNCH, the Pentagon said although it would continue to value Nigeria and other countries in Africa as important partners, the American government would not consider relocating AFRICOM to any part of the African continent at the moment.
This newspaper had asked if the US would consider Nigeria’s request to relocate AFRICOM to the continent.
“It would be inappropriate to speculate on any future actions. However, at this time, moving this headquarters (AFRICOM HQ) to Africa is not part of any plans, but USAFRICOM’s commitment to their mission, our African and other partners, remains as strong today as when we launched this command more than a decade ago,” US Pentagon spokesperson, Ms. Cindi King, said.
King also ruled out any plan to consider Buhari’s request in an ongoing global US defence review.
She said, “Although there is an ongoing Global Posture Review, the relocation of Combatant Command headquarters is outside the scope of its assessment. In the case of AFRICOM, previous studies have concluded that the cost associated with the relocation of this headquarters is significant and likely to incur the expense of other engagement opportunities and activities that more directly benefit our valued African partners.
“We greatly value the partnership with Nigeria and appreciate President Buhari’s recognition of the United States’ positive contribution to African peace and security, as well as other regional partners that have made similar past pronouncements. The United States remains committed to continuing our close partnership with African countries and organisations to promote security and stability.”
It’s ‘near impossible’ for America to accept Buhari’s invitation –Campbell, ex-US ambassador
Meanwhile, a former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, has listed reasons why it is “unlikely or near impossible” for the US government to relocate AFRICOM from Stuttgart in Germany to Nigeria or any part of the continent.
He said aside from the fact that the cost of doing so is very huge, the Nigerian military had proved to be a difficult partner for the US over the years.
China Urges U.N. States Not to Attend Xinjiang Event Next Week
China has urged United Nations member states not to attend an event planned next week by Germany, the United States and Britain on the repression of Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang, according to a note seen by Reuters on Friday.
“It is a politically-motivated event,” China’s U.N. mission wrote in the note, dated Thursday. “We request your mission NOT to participate in this anti-China event.”
China charged that the organizers of the event, which also include several other European states along with Australia and Canada, use “human rights issues as a political tool to interfere in China’s internal affairs like Xinjiang, to create division and turbulence and disrupt China’s development.”
“They are obsessed with provoking confrontation with China,” the note said, adding that “the provocative event can only lead to more confrontation.”
The Chinese mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The ambassadors of the United States, Germany and Britain are due to address the virtual U.N. event on Wednesday, along with Human Rights Watch Executive Director Ken Roth and Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard.
The aim of the event is to “discuss how the U.N. system, member states and civil society can support and advocate for the human rights of members of ethnic Turkic communities in Xinjiang,” according to an invitation.
Western states and rights groups have accused authorities in Xinjiang of detaining and torturing Uyghurs in camps, which the United States has described as genocide. In January, Washington banned the import of cotton and tomato products from Xinjiang over allegations of forced labor.
Beijing denies the accusations and describes the camps as vocational training centers to combat religious extremism.
“Beijing has been trying for years to bully governments into silence but that strategy has failed miserably, as more and states step forward to voice horror and revulsion at China’s crimes against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims,” Human Rights Watch U.N. director Louis Charbonneau said on Friday.
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