Abuja, Nigeria — ESI-AFRICA.COM — 27 February 2012 – The Federal Government of Nigeria has once again pushed back the time frame for selling off state-owned power assets, according to an announcement by the Bureau of Private Enterprises (BPE).

allAfrica.com quotes the London-based “The Moment” as reporting that this is another setback for reforms which investors had hoped would unlock the potential of Nigeria. Despite holding the world’s seventh biggest gas reserves, the country only provides its 160 million people with enough electricity to power a medium-sized European city.

Those who can afford it rely on expensive diesel generators; those who can’t light candles and lanterns.

President Goodluck Jonathan unveiled power privatisation plans 18 months ago as a major flagship policy and pledged state power generation and distribution assets would be sold off last year.

“If he could fix Nigeria’s notoriously creaky power sector where several of his predecessors have failed it would revive his presidency, which is struggling to shake off corruption and a growing Islamist insurgency in the North,” says “The Moment.”

He would also leave one of the most impressive legacies of any Nigerian leader. But several government deadlines on privatisation have been missed and the Bureau of Public Enterprises has set out a new timetable.

“According to the revised bid timeline issued to investors by the privatisation agency, the announcement of the preferred bidders for the 17 successor companies will be made on/or before 23 October 2012,” a BPE statement said.

It added that part of the reason for the delay was the need to address concerns raised by power industry officials at a conference with the Nigerian government in November.

Power infrastructure can be roughly split into three sections “’ generation, transmission and distribution.
Nigeria plans to award a management contract for transmitting electricity from power plants to substations and to privatise the bulk of six power generation plants and 11 distribution firms, which supply end users.

Manitoba Hydro of Canada and state-owned Power Grid of India are the two companies shortlisted for the transmission management contract.

Nigeria was hoping to produce 6,000 megawatts of power by the end of this year, up from the current 4,000. This would still only scratch the surface of the minimum 40,000 megawatts needed for a nation of around 160 million people.

Decades of Nigerian administrations have cashed-in on crude exports, rather than investing in plants to refine fuel or develop gas for domestic consumption, which means the poorest half of the population live without power.

Nigeria estimates it would need US$10 billion a year of investment over the next decade to meet its energy needs.