Nigeria appoints academic as power minister to end shortages
* Nigeria in process of privatising electricity sector
* Severe power shortages blight Africa's top energy producer
ABUJA Feb 6 (Reuters) - Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has appointed a new power minister who will have the formidable task of bringing in reforms aimed at ending chronic electricity shortages and catapulting the economy into double-digit growth.
Chinedu Osita Nebo, an academic who was vice chancellor of one of the country's largest universities, will fill the role which has been vacant since Barth Nnaji resigned last August, a statement from the presidency said on Wednesday.
Africa's most populous nation, with more than 160 million people, is the continent's biggest energy producer, but businesses and individuals who can afford them are forced to rely on diesel generators for much of the day.
Jonathan hopes the reforms, which include building several power plants, will not only bolster Africa's second-largest economy but also win him the hearts of tens of millions of Nigerians who have never known reliable electricity, sealing his legacy.
Ending chronic electricity shortages was an election pledge he made two years ago. He promised to increase power supply to 20,000 megawatts, from around 4,000 now, by 2015 - when the next national election is due.
Nigeria, which currently has economic growth of about 6.5 percent, is in the process of selling off state power assets as 17 private companies for about $2.5 billion, but the process is months behind schedule and has been blighted by political wrangling.
Former power minister Nnaji resigned after it was found he had an interest in a company bidding for a power plant.
The presidency statement on Wednesday also announced that Kabiru Tanimu Turaki would became minister for special duties to the president. (Reporting by Felix Onuah; Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by Pravin Char)