27 March 2008

Nigeria: EFCC Probes Obasanjo

Lagos — THE Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), yesterday, said it had commenced investigation into the eight-year administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

This followed calls by some Nigerians and groups for a probe of the administration.

Meanwhile, former ministers - Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Mrs Obiageli Ezekwesili - are to appear before the House of Representatives Committee on Power and Steel today to say all they know about the expenditure on the power sector by the Obasanjo administration.

Announcing the commencemnet of the probe of the Obasanjo administration,the Head, General Investigations of the anti-graft agency, Mr. Sanda Umaru, said: "We are fighting the same cause. The truth of the matter is that we are on that issue (probing Obasanjo administration) at the moment. We want everyone to know that we are on it and definitely we will get to where we are going.

Addressing members of the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) during a protest at EFCC office, Ikoyi, Mr Umaru said: "The difference between the EFCC and CACOL is that CACOL wants investigation into the matter to be conducted urgently, while EFCC, by the nature of its job, needs to be thorough, which makes it appeared to be slow on OBJ's probe.

"You might not like the pace with which we are going in investigating Obasanjo. Ours is to ensure that we do things thoroughly. In so doing, we must not only display prudence, but we must be able to display professionalism so as to ensure that everything we do is in line with the scheme of things.

"You people are in a hurry, but we are telling you that we are on it and we will get to where we are going," he said.

He assured Nigerians that soon, results of their investigation into the activities of the former administration, including its key players, would be made public.

His words: "You might want it now, but we assure you that you will get results."

Commending the efforts and method adopted by CACOL in its agitation for the probe of the former president, Umaru said the fight was for the masses and the good of the nation

Earlier, the leader of CACOL, Mr. Debo Adeniran, who led the protesters, had told the EFCC that the on-going probe by the House of Representatives of the power sector would be futile if Obasanjo, who has been mentioned by many of those who testified before the House panel, failed to appear.

He said his group would not be satisfied if the House Committee on Power and Steel failed to compel the former president to testify before it in the on-going probe into how his regime spent about $16 billion without anything to show for it.

His words: "Such preferential treatment will not only rubbish whatever good intention that might have informed the effort of Ndudi Elumelu-led panel, it will also paint the House as another pack of opportunistic rent seekers."

The group also asked EFCC to extend its searchlight to the administration of former military head of state, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar.

Okonjo-Iweala, Ezekwesili face probe panel today

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala first served as Finance Minister and later Foreign Affairs Minister while Mrs Ezekwesili headed the Due Process Office before she was made Minister of Solid Minerals, and then Education.

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala is now Regional Managing Director of the World Bank while Mrs Ezekwesili is Regional Vice President of the same organisation.

Their solicitors - Stream Sowers and Kohn - in a March 24, 2008 letter to the panel conveyed their readiness to testify before the panel at 1 p.m. today.

This followed approval for their appearance before the panel by their employers, the World Bank.

Chairman of the Reps Committee on Power, Mr. Ndudi Elumelu, had last week, received separate letters from their lawyers, saying they needed the official approval of the World Bank to appear before the panel.

Colenco, REA also to testify

Also to testify today before the panel are National Integrated Power Project (NIPP) contractors, Colenco, and the Rural Electrification Agency (REA).

Members of the Committee who spoke to Vanguard yesterday pledged to see to it that "all contractors or participants in the looting of the country through the power sector are punished."

A member of the Committee who pleaded anonymity said pressure was being mounted on the Committee to summon former President Olusehun Obasanjo and the former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, to testify.

Elumelu told journalists after the Committee rounded-off the first half of its probe last Thursday that former President Obasanjo as the chief executive and his deputy might be required to explain their role in the failure of the sector. He insisted that the probe might go on, even if it "means doing it in camera."

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