Work on the $1 billion Azura-Edo Independent Power Project (IPP) kicked off on Friday as President Goodluck Jonathan turned the sod for the commencement of construction work on the project.
The State Government had earlier accused those it described as thugs loyal to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of nearly disrupting the President’s visit.
It said the group, led by one Shaba, a notorious thug in the state physically assaulted some senior officials of the Edo State Government including Secretary to the State Government, Prof Julius Ihonvbere; Chief of Staff to the Governor, Patrick Obahiagbon, and Edo State Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Hon Anselm Ojezua.
“Carrying placards with various inscriptions including placards of some PDP aspirants, the thugs disrupted activities at the Airport for several minutes as a combined team of soldiers and Policemen had a hectic time controlling them.
“However, PDP men who were also at the airport to receive the President including its Chairman in the state, Mr Dan Orbih, suspended Deputy Speaker of the State Assembly, Mr Festus Ebea, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, among others were left untouched and did nothing to bring the PDP thugs to order, a statement by Oshiomhole’s media aide, Peter Okhiria, said.
Soldiers were mobilised from the Air Force Base nearby and they quickly took charge dispersing the crowd from the airport before the President’s plane touched down at 10:42am.
The President was received at the airport by Governor Adams Oshiomhole and they both flew in the President’s helicopter to the venue of the Foundation-laying ceremony.
Jonathan who assured that the Federal Government will work with the private sector to grow the economy hailed the project which was conceptualised in 2010 and jointly incubated by the Edo State Government under Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and Amaya Capital, the key promoters of Azura Power West Africa Ltd as a first in many ways.
According to the President, “We are happy to associate with Azura in this private investment. This project is a first in so many ways. It is the first fully financed private power plant, it is also the first power project to see the World Bank financial guarantee and multilateral investment guarantee agencies.”
He added: “This 450 megawatts of new generation capacity will attract almost $1 billion mainly in foreign investment into the power sector. This is made up of $700 million in the construction of the power plant and $300 million associated with the gas infrastructure.”
President Jonathan who noted the importance of power to the growth of an economy said “Without power, the economy cannot grow the way we intend it to grow. The power roadmap has set up the key fundamental issues that needed to be addressed to remove the obstacles of the private sector investment thereby enabling sectorial growth.”
He noted that “the fastest way to increase power generation is by completing the integrated national power plant which has been suspended for a number of years. Subsequently we have addressed every one of these issues by reconstituting and empowering an independent electricity regulatory commission as a bulk trader and capitalizing it to the tune of $800 million and concluding the privatization of the PHCN successor companies in a globally adjudged transparent process and settling all labour liabilities.”
In his remarks, the Edo Governor, Oshiomhole said “the decision by the Azura Group and the support that they have enjoyed by both the International and Local Financial institutions is the most potent vote of confidence on the reforms that has been initiated in the power sector
“It has shown that you believe that these reforms are meant to stay. It also shows that bringing an investment of $800 million regardless of what is happening in other parts, that this country is still the safest in the continent for both foreign and local investors.
Earlier in an address of welcome, the Minister for Power and Steel, Professor Chinedu Nebo said the Azura Power Plant is a 450 megawatts power plant which is expected to be completed in 2017.
Also speaking, the Managing Director of Azura, Dr. David Ladipo said the Azura Project is being developed by a consortium of local and international investors led by Amaya Capital Ltd and American Capital Energy and Infrastructure.
He disclosed that the Azura-Edo Project is the first of a new wave of projects currently being developed in Nigeria.
The Azura-Edo IPP is projected to provide over 10,000 direct and indirect jobs for the people of the state from the construction to the post-construction period of the project.