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‘Why private sector yet to take over Nigeria’s solar firm’

By Idowu Isamotu, Abuja

As economic experts are craving for the intervention of private investors in critical sectors of Nigeria, particularly in power sector, the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructures (NASENI) has explained the seeming reluctance of the private to take over its Solar Cell Factory.

Prof. Mohammed Sani Haruna, the Executive Vice Chairman of the agency said the factory, located in Karshi, Federal Capital Territory, that despite government willingness to cede control of the multi-billion naira project, it appears the private sector is looking at the viability of the project, its balance sheet and. performance before launching a takeover bid.

Haruna, who made this explanation while speaking to journalists on Tuesday in Abuja, while receiving an award of excellence from members of the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) of the agency, also said NASENI has been conducting world class research and producing equipment.

“We had wanted the private sectors to take over this power plant from day one. We didn’t earlier want to convert it to a limited liability company. We searched for private sectors to take it over after we have launched it successfully and produced the first batch of solar panels from there. But what we realised is that the private sectors want to see the annual performance report.

“They want to study the balance sheet, the final account, the performance of the factory over the period of time, for them to ascertain the profitability and its viability. That is why the government has given approval that it should be run as limited liability company, so that, private sectors willing to take that can see the scorecards.

“As the minister had earlier declared that the government is willing to share it with the private sector that is willing, I’m sure that as soon as any private sector comes, the government will make arrangements to finalise that. We wouldn’t mind even if it is today.

“However, even if the private sector is taking that over, we will continue to do research for more innovative products that either another group or private sector is willing, we will allow them to come and take it to the market because we are steadfast in doing our research and innovations, they are doing marketing,” The NASENI boss said.

Speaking further, Haruna expressed optimism that the private investors would in no distant time fall over the project, adding that labour disputes could be blamed on lack of communication between workers and management.

According to him, members of the labour union are human beings who understand the fact that there are lean resources in circulation and appreciate continuous dialogue

It would be recalled that NASENI had earlier said its plan to begin the local manufacturing of transformers has reached advanced stages, having dispatched 60 engineers and technicians to China to understudy and acquire requisite skills for the manufacturing solar consumables.

He said, “We are aware of the gap but the research and equipment we are producing are world class. Our solar power plant in Karshi is a demonstration that it is possible to do it Nigerian. The plant is 7.5megawatt but with support and funding we can expand it to 50megawatt or more and duplicate it elsewhere.

“What we have been calling for a very long time is to ensure that we produce all the raw materials, especially the solar sense locally and the raw materials are available. It is only the equipment to make it that is requiring funding. The entire world is going solar and in Nigeria, there is no part of the country that solar cannot be installed and it works all year round and it will contribute tremendously to the inadequate power supply that we are experiencing in this country.”

He added that the peaceful co-existence that exists in the agency demonstrates that staff are happy to conduct research and sacrifice with the little resources available.

Haruna said, “There is a continuous dialogue as at today. They have other demands but they appreciate the lean resources available and reason with management.

“We believe that wherever there is adequate communication and transparency, the union leaders are human beings and they will understand.”

He said NASENI was collaborating with workers to show the peaceful coexistence existing in the agency.

He said, “The significance is to demonstrate the peaceful co-existence that exists and to demonstrate that the staff of the system are happy to do research. It demonstrates their willingness to continue to sacrifice working with the little resources available. It also shows us that despite the fact that we punish, we still reward where possible.

“It is not that the union has got all that it needs but what is happening is that we are open, we make things clear to them. There is an open system democracy in the system, we present to them what is available, explain to them what is possible and encourage everyone to sacrifice what cannot be possible for the benefit of the country.”

The Minister of State for Science and Technology, Mr. Mohammed Abdullahi, who was present at the ceremony, urged Haruna not to relent but to continue to do the good works that led to his recognition.

Earlier, while speaking on the planned strike by Nigerian Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress, Comrade Peter Adeyemi, General Secretary of NASU said the NASENI boss has been open to dialogue with the worker, adding however, that the union has developed strike capacity in all institutions, agencies.

“We have developed strike capacity at institutional, sectors and national levels. If strike action is foisted upon us through the recalcitrant attitude of any employer or government, we will not shy away from embarking on strike, if that is the language they will understand in order to address our grievances,” he said.

He noted that though, this fire-brigade approach to industrial relations has not guaranteed industrial peace in the sector, adding that the security of job of NASU members remains a great challenge to the leadership of the union.

“While negotiating for wage increase and better conditions of service for members, the union has at the back of its mind, the security of jobs of all its workers,” he said.

The immediate past President of NASU in charge of research and project trade group council, Engr. Tijani Wakili explained that NASENI under the leadership of Prof. Haruna has actually grown in leaps and bounds.

“It is only a blind man that will not notice the fundamental and phenomenal growth that transcends the length and breadth of the agency,’ he added.

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