Reuters reports that President Goodluck Jonathan handed ownership of the bulk of the Power Holding Company, the state electricity company to private buyers on Monday, completing one of the final stages of the privatisation process.
“I congratulate our new owners who have taken over the engines and cables that are expected to drive not just the electricity industry but also the socio-economic well-being of the nation,” Jonathan said, after handing the private buyers certificates of ownership.
“To the Nigerian people, who have demonstrated such great patience and confidence, putting up often with darkness… I say better days are coming,” Jonathan added.
Fixing electricity could reduce business costs by up to 40%, add 3% to GDP and cut the mass unemployment that fuels unrest seen in oil theft in the south and the Islamist insurgency in the north, economists say.
The PHCN was split into six generation and 11 distribution firms, all sold separately, for about $2.5 billion.
Private buyers for five generation companies and 10 distribution firms collected their share certificates and operating licenses from Jonathan during the ceremony.
The buyers will take physical ownership of the infrastructure next month, government officials said.
Two remaining companies are expected to be sold within six months.
Nigeria is also planning to sell off 10 newly built state power plants, all gas-fired, by next year.
If competent buyers get the NIPP plants it could be a boost for foreign energy operators with latent gas reserves like Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron.
A lack of investment in the transmission network, which remains in public hands, poor gas supply and labour disputes still threaten to delay progress in boosting power output.
The Federal government has agreed to pay off more than PHCN 14,000 workers with a total of 384 billion naira ($2.4 billion).
Jonathan said on Monday that $750 million had been raised to help improve transmission, some funds coming from a Eurobond.
As well as selling off existing assets, more are planned. Nigeria signed a deal last week for Chinese state companies to build a $1.3 billion power plant.