- Title: NIGERIA: President Umaru Yar' Adua defends slow pace of reform
- Date: 31st May 2008
- Summary: (W3) ABUJA, NIGERIA (FILE) (REUTERS) PRESIDENT UMARU YAR'ADUA WAVING TO CROWDS AFTER HIS INAUGURATION
- Embargoed: 15th June 2008 13:00
- Location: Nigeria
- Country: Nigeria
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA149XZPC402YQACG8KA32E6UC4
- Story Text: Nigerian president Umaru Yar'Adua had defended the slow pace of reform after one year in office and promised Nigerians exciting times ahead.
One year after he took over power, Nigeria's President Umaru Yar'Adua faced up to criticism that he had achieved little by repeating promises to resolve a crippling power crisis and decaying infrastructure.
In a live interview broadcast on state television, Yar'Adua rejected charges that the pace of reform had ground to a halt since he took power a year ago, saying he had spent the last 12 months setting Africa's most populous nation in order.
Many Nigerians, for whom the absence of electricity is the number one complaint, might have found his words hard to swallow had they been able to watch the interview.
But the power crisis has become so severe that much of the country has been without mains electricity for weeks, plunging neighbourhoods without private generators into darkness every night and heightening frustration among its 140 million people.
The softly-spoken leader took office promising to declare a national emergency on power but has yet to do so, saying he is waiting for two committees he set up to report back first.
"The emergency period will last until we are able to generate about 10,000 megawatts of electricity," he said, adding that was likely to take until 2011.
Nigeria, the world's eighth biggest oil producer, currently has a generation capacity of about 3,000 MW.
South Africa, with a third of the population, has more than 10 times that capacity. Decades of mismanagement under corrupt military dictators left a legacy of poverty, crime and collapsed infrastructure in the chaotic West African country.
Yar'Adua told Nigerian not to listen to rumours about his health. He said he was fit enough to rule though he was not a super human and could fall sick or die like everyone else.
Yar'Adua's election marked the first switch from one civilian president to another since 1960, and although the polls were widely condemned as flawed, he was seen as a breath of fresh air after his domineering predecessor Olusegun Obasanjo.
After taking office, Yar'Adua moved swiftly to engage rebels in the Niger Delta, who have led a violent campaign against oil companies since 2006.
But the peace process has made little visible progress since then and one rebel faction, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has continued to blow up oil installations.
Five decades of oil extraction in the Niger Delta have polluted the land and water and enriched corrupt politicians, while the residents live in severe poverty.
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