The privatisation agency said on Monday, in a continuation of one of President Goodluck Jonathan’s most important policies.
Private buyers took ownership of the bulk of the state electricity company in September, ending a slow and costly 2.5 billion US dollars selloff, which nonetheless could be the best chance yet to unblock a major bottleneck to development.
If successful it could seal Jonathan’s legacy, although significant improvements are unlikely before elections next year.
Now Nigeria is selling 10 gas-fired power plants nestled in the Niger Delta, which holds a large portion of the world’s ninth-largest natural gas reserves.
“The joint meeting chaired by Vice President Mohammed Namadi Sambo, directed that the bids be opened on Friday, March 7,” the Bureau of Public Enterprises said in a statement, in line with plans to sell the plants by mid-2014.
Chronic power shortages are the biggest constraint on business growth in Africa’s second-largest economy and one of the primary complaints of 170 million people who are provided with only a few hours a day of electricity, if any.
Jonathan pledged more than three years ago to privatise the bulk of the state-owned electricity sector as he looks to boost power output tenfold by 2020. Experts say this is unrealistic although improvements could be felt in around two years.
The 10 plants will have combined electricity generation output of around 5,000 megawatts, which amounts to more than Nigeria currently produces, although some of the plants are not yet finished and others require renovation.
These power plants make up the National Integrated Power Project (NIPP), a plan set up in 2004 by then-President Olusegun Obasanjo as a “fast-track” solution.
Nigeria has so far spent 15 billion US dollars to 20 billion US dollars on the mismanaged NIPP, industry experts say. It is unlikely the sale of the plants will come close to recouping these funds, which could prompt wrangling among disgruntled politicians.
A lack of investment in the transmission network, which remains in public hands, poor gas supply and labour disputes threaten to delay progress in boosting power output further.