By JON GAMBRELL, Associated Press
LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — General Electric Corp. said Monday it signed an agreement with Nigeria's government to potentially build and operate power plants in the electricity-starved nation amid a push to privatize the failing state-run power company.
GE said the five-year deal is part of the oil-rich nation's ambitious plans to sell off its Power Holding Company of Nigeria PLC. Citizens widely joke the company name stands for "Please Have Candles Nearby" in a nation where businesses and the wealthy rely on gasoline and diesel generators.
But confusion already surrounds the deal. Local press quoted Power Minister Bart Nnaji as saying the GE agreement would be a $10 billion deal. GE denied that, saying they would only be one company potentially taking part in the effort.
GE would help build and operate the power plants, taking a 10 to 15 percent interest in the business, the company said in a statement given to The Associated Press on Monday.
"This will go a long way towards boosting energy supply for Nigeria," the statement quoted Jay Wileman, president and CEO for GE Energy in Africa, as saying.
Revamping the state-run power company will take billions of dollars and many years in Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation with more than 160 million people. President Goodluck Jonathan made fixing power problems as a major goal of his administration.
However, the effort to find companies and set up the privatization process has been repeatedly delayed. That has led some to worry the effort could end up as a failure like a push to privatize the former state-run telephone company. After delays and bidding breakdowns, the government announced it would simply liquidate the firm's assets.