• Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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BusinessDay

Meet Barth Nnaji, mastermind of Nigeria’s only integrated power project

Meet Barth Nnaji, mastermind of Nigeria’s only integrated power project in Aba

Power supply is expected to witness a significant boost in over half of Abia State as the Geometric Power Group is set to start firing the first of its four power-generating turbines after inauguration this week.

Geometric Power is licensed to produce 188 Megawatts (MW) and is currently Nigeria’s only integrated power project, as it has its own embedded power plant, which enables it to generate and distribute its power, separating it from other electricity companies that either generate or distribute electric power, as none can generate and distribute power as it would.

BusinessDay findings showed the electricity generation company in the Geometric Power Group (GP) is Geometric Power Aba Ltd, (GPAL), while the distribution company is Aba Power Limited Electrical (APLE), which services nine (9) of the seventeen (17) local government areas (LGAs) in Abia State.

These nine Local Government Areas, Aba South, Aba North, Osisioma Ngwa, Obingwa, Ugwunagbo, Ukwa East, Ukwa West, Isiala-Ngwa South and Isiala-Ngwa North collectively make up the Aba Ring-fenced Area where GPAL in charge of producing and distributing electricity.

The mastermind behind the project, Bartholomew Nnaji, also known as Barth Nnaji, is a professor of mechanical engineering and the founder and chairman of the indigenous power company, Geometric Power Limited (GPL).

Nnaji holds a doctorate in Industrial and Systems Engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in the United States. He is a professor of Computer Integrated Manufacturing and Robotics in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. He also received his dual MSc and PhD degrees in physics from St. John’s University in New York, US.

Nnaji returned to Nigeria in 1993 to serve as the federal minister of Science and Technology. After this, he founded GPL, Nigeria’s first indigenous-owned power development company in 2000.

Geometric Power Limited under Nnaji brought in the first high-efficiency combined emergency power station in 2001 for Abuja. The 22 MW Emergency Power Station successfully supplied uninterrupted power to a dedicated distribution network within Abuja and its environs.

Nnaji’s experience in executing the Abuja 22MW emergency power project led Geometric Power to develop the “Integrated Power Solutions Model” which essentially entailed the development of power generation and distribution companies that serve the needs of industrial, commercial and residential areas in an economic cluster.

To illustrate the Integrated Power Solutions model, Prof Barth Nnaji conceptualized the Aba Integrated Power Project, to supply reliable power to industries, commercial businesses, residences and other power off-takers in the Aba ring-fenced area through construction, operation and delivery of electricity from the 140 MW gas-fired power plant.

Nnaji traced the history of the Aba power plant to when Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s former minister of finance invited the late James Wolfohnson, a former President of the World Bank to Aba to see, firsthand, Aba’s tremendous economic and technological potential.

“After the visit in 2004, I was asked by the duo to consider building a 50-megawatt power plant in Abia for manufacturers, both big ones like the Star Paper Mill and small ones like the hundreds of excellent shoemakers and clothiers at the famous Ariaria Market.

“They approached me obviously because I had led a small team of dedicated Nigerian engineers and entrepreneurs to build a 22megawatt Emergency Plant in Abuja in 2001 for the supply of electricity to State House, the NNPC headquarters, the Abuja Business District and other places.

“I acceded to the request by Dr. Okonjo-Iweala and Dr. Wolfohnson. What the two did not realise is that my enthusiastic acceptance was because the plant would be located in Aba. This city has a special place in the heart and mind of every person interested in our country’s rapid progress: It is the home of indigenous manufacturing, innovation and entrepreneurship.

“There is another reason why I accepted to build the plant in Aba. I had experienced, firsthand, what industrialists in Igbo land were going through.

“As a professor of manufacturing engineering in the United States in the 1990s, I decided to build a plant in Emene, Enugu, to produce vehicle spare parts, including engines, of the highest standard in the world. After all, I had watched my former students from Taiwan and other places in Southeast Asia rush home to produce sophisticated auto parts and engines.

“So, a large swath of land was purchased for this purpose, but when my South Korean partners visited Enugu, it became obvious that the project would not take off principally because of poor electricity. It was while I was thinking of how to help resolve the electricity problem in Ala Igbo that Dr. Okonjo-Iweala and Dr. Wolfohnson made the request. The rest is history,” Nnaji said.

Yet, the proprietor of the Geometric Group, said: “I must add that it has since 2004 been tears, sweat and blood, to borrow the words of late Mr. Winston Churchill, the former British prime minister.

“I don’t want to tell the story of sweat, blood and tears now; all I can say this moment is the game is worth the candle. Nothing can give as much fulfillment and satisfaction as working wholeheartedly for your people,” he said.