Abuja - Nigeria would accept offers from 42 prequalified bidders for 10 state-owned power plants on Friday, the privatisation agency said yesterday, 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 (R26.8bn) sell-off, which 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.

“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-year.

Chronic power shortages are the biggest constraint on business growth in the 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 produces, although some of the plants are not yet finished and others require renovation.

Nigeria has so far spent $15bn to $20bn on the mismanaged National Integrated Power Project, industry experts say. It is unlikely the sale of the plants will come close to recouping these funds. – Reuters