April 21, 2010 – Governor Ikedi Ohakim of Nigeria’s Imo State at the weekend in Washington D.C., signed Memorandum of Understandings (MOU) with three American companies.
The companies are Barnett Holding Company, Foxcor Incorporates and Patten Boggs Inc.
The MOU are for the installation of nuclear modular reactors for generating electricity, provision of mass housing and conversion of palm trees into plywood respectively. This development is part of the new lease of life offered by the just concluded visit of Acting President Goodluck Jonathan to the United States.
Ohakim, who was among the Acting President’s delegation, said the agreement on modular reactors would go a long way in solving the perennial power problem facing his state.
Mr. John Barnett of Barnett Holding Company signed on behalf of his company, Mr. John Fox, for Foxcor Incorporates; while Roy Lessy and Robert Horn, signed on behalf of Patten Boggs Inc.
Speaking on the occasion, Ohakim said his government had taken a bold step at solving the perennial energy problem facing Imo state.
"You know our people are very industrious and they are technologically minded, but lack of energy and power has almost brought the economy of our country to her knees," Ohakim said."The good thing about this technology of nuclear modular reactor is that it is a short time measure that you don’t require fuel until after seven years of its use and it can be deployed primarily to energy spots.
"They will be deployed to Owerri township, the new city development in Ogwu town where we are citing most of our industrial ventures and other industrial and civic centres, which would require between five and 20 megawatts respectively," he further said.
The Director-General of the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NNRA), Prof. Babatunde Elegba, who witnessed the event, commended the step taken by Ohakim.
"Most of our industrial estates are going down because of lack of power. Using diesel is not sustainable and you cannot compete with anybody. You will recall that Michelin moved out of Port Harcourt two years ago to Ghana due to power problem. Last year, Dunlop also moved to Ghana. Now they manufacture tyres in Ghana and bring them to Nigeria because the difference in cost of production is about 20 per cent due to adequate power supply in Ghana," he said.
Elegba said NNRA had done a lot of studies over the past two years on the nuclear modular reactor technology and found it satisfactory and environmental friendly.
He said what was needed to be done was to ensure that the nuclear materials were not diverted for military purposes and that the installations were secured in terms of physical protection and safety of the personnel.
"It is an on-the-spot technology; it does not require transmission lines and America has done wonderfully well in this area of technology development," Elegba said.
On the housing agreement, Ohakim said the project would discard the antiquated technology of building blocks that take several years to complete and would make accommodation cheaply available to people.
"We are talking about cutting age technology of prefabricated housing scheme that will have better property than we are doing today.
"When completed, we will structure the payment for the buying of the houses for the civil servants, for the poor people, for the technicians and artisans to live well," he said.
Ohakim said the conversion of wild palm trees into plywood and wooden materials would not only add value to the abundant palm trees in the state, but would also offer employment opportunity to about 50,000 youths.
Speaking on the financial implications of the three projects, the governor said they would require little or no funding as the assets of the State would be used as equity.
On the recent visit of Acting President Jonathan to the U.S., Ohakim said "it is the best thing that has happened to Nigeria in recent times".
"One thing people must know is that the Acting President came for the Nuclear Security Summit, but with the way America accepted him and received him, it looked like a well planned State visit," he said.
Ohakim said the visit had changed the perception of Nigeria as unfriendly investment environment.
"Our Acting President also took the bull by the horn. He never missed the opportunities offered him.
"He said it the way it is; he elaborated on the issue of elections and reforms, he talked about technology and other issues"
"Americans rolled out their red carpet and they now understand Nigeria, view Nigeria from their own point of view and not what other people say about us but what we talk about ourselves," he said.