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Cablegate: Nigeria's Power Sector Privatization

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (U) Summary: The head of Nigeria's National
Electric Power Authority (NEPA) told Embassy staff
January 22 that the GON has begun unbundling the state-
owned electric power monopoly to privatize the company,
even before a power sector reform bill is passed into
law. A dearth of managers experienced in the new
processes that the parastatal company is implementing
is slowing progress. Foreign investment and capacity
building is needed. End summary.

2. (SBU) On Thursday January 22, EconCounselor and
EconSpecialist met with Joseph Makoju, Managing
Director of the Nigerian National Electric Power
Authority (NEPA), who confirmed that the unbundling of
NEPA in advance of its privatization started on January
1, 2004. The first step was to make its ten
distribution centers nationwide semi-autonomous. The
heads of the distribution centers are now referred to
as Chief Operating Officers (COOs) and are responsible
for day-to-day operation of the centers, while NEPA
headquarters sets revenue targets and supervises the
COOs. They report directly to NEPA's Managing
Director. NEPA's executive directors for distribution
and transmission monitor the performance of the
autonomous units. Revenue targets have been set for
the distribution centers, and NEPA hopes to raise the
service fee collection rate from 60 to 80 percent
within the year.

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3. (SBU) Makoju hopes that improved performance of the
distribution centers in the next six to twelve months
will help ensure NEPA's self-sufficiency to meet its
liabilities and embark on new projects, such as
replacement of old and faulty transmission lines. He
opined that although the Federal Government provides
NEPA with capital for some transmission projects, that
funding stream will dry up given the government's
"irrevocable" plan to privatize NEPA.

4. (SBU) According to Makoju, NEPA plans to grant
autonomy to the transmission centers in the second
quarter of 2004, while the six generating plants will
be floated as private companies. He did not specify
when the generation plants would be granted autonomy.
He confirmed that NEPA headquarters is undergoing
restructuring. The headquarters is being reduced.
After autonomy is granted the various units, much of
the staff will be deployed to the field.

--------------------------------------------- -------
Independent Power Projects: the Burden of the Dollar
--------------------------------------------- -------

5. (SBU) Makoju admitted that more investments are
needed to improve the transmission lines, and that
independent power projects (IPPs) would go a long way
toward improving power generation. He confirmed that
NEPA has received IPP proposals, but it is exercising
caution in entering into agreements. Since the
contracts would be dollar denominated, it would be
"suicidal," he said, to enter into such agreements
given current collection rates, low power rates or
tariffs, and the continuing depreciation of the naira
against the dollar.

6. (SBU) Makoju said AES Corporation's IPP in Lagos
supplies about 10 percent of the power to NEPA's
national grid, for which AES receives about 20 percent
of the total revenue accruing to NEPA. He said the
agreement is a huge burden on NEPA's finances, now in
very bad shape. Since NEPA pays AES in dollars, the
naira's depreciation has made this agreement a losing
proposition for NEPA. Makoju disclosed that NEPA is
negotiating with AES to restructure the agreement.

7. (SBU) Makoju opined that if the tariff were raised
to economic levels and reviewed yearly to incorporate
the reality on the ground, private companies would
invest in Nigeria's power sector. He asserted there is
huge investment potential.

NEPA Wants Help In Capacity Building

8. (SBU) Makoju said NEPA needs assistance in capacity
building. The unbundling exercise is leading to use of
new and complex processes, such as transfer pricing, in
which NEPA staff have little experience. Makoju
appealed for continued assistance from USAID/NEXANT to
complete the process. He hopes the USG and U.S.
companies will show more interest in it, particularly
as unbundling and privatization evolves.

9. (SBU) Comment. Although NEPA's privatization is a
huge task, it is a prerequisite to jumpstarting
Nigeria's ailing economy, bedeviled as it is by the
problem of poor infrastructure. If the power sector can
be made more efficient, it will improve industry
capacity utilization, which has long been conditioned
by inadequate electric power. Since business firms in
Nigeria depend on generators to provide power and use
power from NEPA as a back up when available, this
raises production costs and thus renders Nigerian
products non-competitive in international markets.

10. (SBU) A proposed Power Sector Reform Bill must be
passed into law to give legal backing to NEPA's
unbundling and privatization. Such a law would offer
comfort to potential investors in the sector. In the
absence of more action this year, the Obasanjo
administration's efforts to reorganize NEPA may simply
add to the number of failed privatizations in Nigeria
in recent years. End comment.


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