LAGOS – THE Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) recently disclosed that it has commenced the probe of the $16 billion power project initiated under the administration of former president, Olusegun Obasanjo.
In the build-up to the 2019 general elections, President Muhammadu Buhari, during one of his electioneering campaigns, reiterated his resolve to probe the $16billion spent on the failed power project by the past administration, insisting that his government would do everything possible to recover the money and uncover those behind the scam.
In his words, Buhari said, “The previous government mentioned on their own that they spent $16billion on power, but you are better witnesses than myself; where is the power? Where is the money? We will follow them; eventually, God willing, we will catch them and get our money back.”
However, a source in the EFCC revealed that the anti-graft agency has launched a massive investigation into the alleged $16 billion power scam between 2006 and 2011, just as concerted efforts are being made to recover the humongous funds allegedly diverted into private pockets by different firms involved in the power project.
Even though the exact cost of the project is yet to be ascertained, the EFCC source stated that, “the whole power project is $16 billion and anchored on generation, transmission and distribution.”
The source added that the “project is being handled by the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC). It is instructive to note that the NDPHC belongs to the three tiers of government, namely the Federal Government, state and local governments.
“Investigators also discovered that most of the firms that secured contracts under the power project collected huge sums in naira and dollars but did not perform up to 30 per cent before abandoning the project.”
While adding that the commission had set up a team of crack detectives to interrogate the people involved in the scam, the source pointed out that “incidentally, most of the payments took place during the regimes of former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, the late President Umaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan.
“The first amount released from the Excess Crude Account was about $8.3 billion. One of the major contractors, Rockson Engineering Ltd, is being allegedly taken over by the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria.
“From documents available to the commission, Rockson got four contracts and it received over $2 billion in the following tranches: $180 million; $220 million; $240 million and $480 million.
“Rockson also received questionable $11 million and another N150 million. These payments are now under investigation.
“These huge funds were released to Rockson for power generation alone.
“Investigation further revealed that despite the release of the above to Rockson, the firm was only able to execute 30 per cent of the construction.
“The firm also claimed that it imported certain materials since 2013 and lying in Onne Port without clearing,” the EFCC source said.
On Sunday, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) welcomed the reported probe by the EFCC, describing as an opportunity for the anti-graft agency to show that former heads of state and other high-ranking public officials are not immune from investigation and prosecution for allegations of grand corruption in Nigeria.
SERAP in a statement issued by its deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, explained that the planned probe is something it (SERAP), had consistently called for, adding that, “Nigerians have for far too long been denied justice and the opportunity to get to the bottom of why they continue to pay the price for corruption in the electricity sector–staying in darkness, but still made to pay crazy electricity bills.
“This probe is something, which SERAP has consistently called for. The probe is timely, especially coming at a time of citizens’ frustrations at persistent allegations of corruption and the impacts on their human rights. Investigating allegations of grand corruption and prosecuting former heads of state and other high-ranking officials where such allegations show relevant and sufficient admissible evidence would address the grave travesty that has for many years occurred in the power sector.”
The organisation also charged the EFCC to urgently invite anyone suspected to be involved for questioning, just as it urged the agency to also expand the probe to cover the alleged squandering of a total of N11 trillion in the power sector between 1999 and 2015, and the unresolved case of the reported missing $12.4 billion oil windfall, allegedly spent between 1988 and 1993 by the government of former military dictator, General Ibrahim Babangida.
The statement read in part: “The EFCC has the full support of Nigerians in its efforts to hold high-ranking public officials to account for grand corruption, and if consistently, fairly and diligently pursued, this probe would contribute to ending impunity for corruption, and to mobilizing and encouraging youth civic engagement in the anti-graft fight in the country. SERAP stands ready to work with the EFCC in pursuing all allegations of grand corruption.”
“SERAP notes that former presidents have routinely faced corruption charges in countries like Iceland, Kyrgyzstan, Brazil, Montenegro, South Korea, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Slovakia, Peru, and Mauritius, and the probe by the EFCC would mean this list would grow even further to include Nigeria.”
“Impunity for grand corruption will continue as long as high-ranking public officials go largely unpunished for their alleged crimes. It is by pursuing these allegations and taking the evidence before the court that the truth will be revealed and justice best served. Addressing impunity in the power sector should be total. This would help to further public perception of fairness and thoroughness.”
“Lack of regular electricity supply in the country had occasioned many other problems, including lack of access to potable water. The failure by successive governments to tell Nigerians the truth about allegations of corruption in the power sector amounts to a failure to ensure that electricity services are progressively made available, on the basis of equality and non-discrimination.”
“In November 2016, SERAP petitioned the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, urging him to probe the alleged spending of the $16 billion. In April 2017, SERAP sent President Muhammadu Buhari an open letter, advising him to take allegations of corruption in the power sector to the international criminal courts to ensure that justice is served.”
“SERAP has also called on Mr. Buhari to refer the alleged $16 billion spending on electricity between 1999 and 2007 to the EFCC. Mr. Buhari subsequently raised questions over the issues, saying that ‘one of the former Heads of State was bragging that he spent more than 15 billion American dollars, not naira, on power. Where is the power? Where is the power?
“In August 2017, SERAP published a report, ‘From Darkness to Darkness: How Nigerians are Paying the Price for Corruption in the Electricity Sector’, which revealed how over N11 trillion meant to provide regular electricity supply was allegedly squandered under the governments of former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Musa Yar‘Adua and Goodluck Jonathan.”
“The report reads: ‘The Obasanjo’s administration spent $10 billion on NIPP with no results in terms of increase in power generation. $13.278,937,409.94 was expended on the power sector in eight years while unfunded commitments amounted to $12 billion.’
“The Federal Government then budgeted a whopping N16 billion for the various reforms under Liyel Imoke (2003 to 2007), which went down the drains as it failed to generate the needed amount of electricity or meet the set goals. Imoke was alleged to have personally collected the sum of $7.8 million for the execution of the contract for the construction of the Jos-Yola Transmission Line, which was never executed. There were documented/reported allegations of corruption against Imoke that fizzled-out shortly thereafter,” SERAP added.
It has, however, been revealed that the EFCC will look into alleged lapses by some top officials of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), as an official of the agency added that, “Lack of due diligence pervaded the transaction while certain officials of the CBN are under probe over certain regulatory flaws.
Though the EFCC has vowed to do everything at ensuring that the funds are recovered and those connected to the scam are brought to book but observer are watching and waiting to see if the anti-graft agency will make good its threat.
Source: INDEPENDENT POLITICS FEED