Page last updated at 08:23 GMT, Friday, 30 May 2008 09:23 UK

Nigeria power shortage to persist

Nigerian power cables
Nigerians do not get reliable electricity supply

Nigeria will not be able to generate enough electricity for its population until at least 2015, President Umaru Yar'Adua has said.

Speaking live on television, the president answered critics who said he had been slow to address the problem.

Nigeria is the eighth largest exporter of oil but cannot generate enough electricity to meet the needs of its 140 million-strong population.

Before his election, President Yar'Adua promised to take swift action on power.

But three finished gas-fuelled power stations are unable to generate electricity because Nigeria has sold all its gas for export, the president said.

These deals with international oil companies would have to be renegotiated over seven years, he added.

"It is only now that the nation realises the critical importance of gas to the national economy," the president said.

'Failed privatisation'

The president said the nation's privatisation of the power industry had failed.

During the televised press conference with a select group of journalists he declared his intention to spend some of Nigeria's savings from oil earnings on repairing the nation's power stations and transmission grid.

Under the previous administration of Olusegun Obasanjo, the government-run power company was split up so parts of it could be sold.

Nigeria's electricity facts
Currently generates 3500MW
Would need 100,000MW to become an industrialised economy, according to the ex-president
Six power stations begun under the last administration have not been completed
$16bn (8bn) has so far been spent on the power sector since 1999

Power stations are rotting away unfinished, and imported generator turbines are still in ports unable to be moved years after they were delivered, a parliamentary investigation found in March.

There was no way investors could be attracted to the industry as it was he said.

"Today, still, most of the companies are still publicly owned," President Yar'Adua said.

"Emergency legislation" will be needed to allow the government to spend some of the billions of dollars in oil revenue it has saved in the central bank on power, he said.

For every barrel of oil sold $59 goes to the national budget.

The rest is held in an account which has now swelled to $12 billion.

By law this has to be shared among the state governments.

Health worries

The president coughed constantly through the press conference.

One of the reasons his critics have said he has been slow to act is his deteriorating health.

Last month he was flown to Germany for emergency medical treatment.

"They prepared the operating theatre, all the surgeons were ready," he said.

"But they ran tests on me and said an operation wasn't necessary."

An allergic reaction to a malaria drug was responsible for his illness, he said.

In 2000 he suffered from an unnamed kidney condition, from which he says he has recovered.

He was also flown to Germany for medical treatment in the middle of his election campaign.

"I am just a human being, I could die tomorrow, but I could also live until 90," he told the conference.

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