5 August 2008

Nigeria: Power Probe - Reps Committee Indicts Obasanjo, Imoke

The House of Representatives Committee on Power and Steel has indicted former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Ondo State Governor Olusegun Agagu, his ousted Cross River State counterpart Liyel Imoke and 14 other persons for mismanaging $16 billion power funds between 1999 and 2007.

Agagu and Imoke were ministers of power at different times during Obasanjo's eight-year tenure.

Also indicted were 15 companies that handled the controversial National Integrated Power Projects (NIPP) as well as the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) and Energy Commission of Nigeria (ECN). The committee in its report on the power sector probe, which is yet to be submitted to the House, said the former president and other persons found culpable in the investigation should be called to "account for the reck

lessness in power sector" and should also be investigated further by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC).

Findings and recommendations of the report, posted on Sunday by internet news medium Sahara Reporters, listed other persons who should be held to account for the power funds to include former Minister of State for Energy Alhaji Ahmed Abdulhamid (now Nigeria's ambassador to Turkey), former presidential adviser on energy Joseph Makoju, Engr. G.O.P Osakue, Engr. C.N.O Nwachukwu and Mr. J.A. Olotu.

Attempts to find out from House power probe committee chairman Ndudi Elumelu whether he authorised the release of the report failed yesterday as our reporter could not reach him by telephone despite repeated efforts.

But a member of the committee told Daily Trust on telephone last night that the report is authentic. After our reporter read parts of the report as posted by Sahara Reporters, the committee member said, "If what you read to me is what they have published, then it is the report. There are so many indictments in the report, and the committee has recommended that both the ICPC and EFCC should further investigate the matter and prosecute those indicted."

The member added: "I could have given you the report but we have resolved in our meeting not to speak to the press on the matter until it has been laid on the table. I am surprise how this report leaked out." The report would be laid before the House in the second week of September when the lower chamber would resume from a recess.

The House committee was set up several months ago to investigate alleged spending of $16 billion on the power sector between 1999 and 2007 without commensurate result. The committee had held public hearings and toured power project sites across the country.

But the panel had recently been mired in controversy over alleged collection and sharing of bribes amounting to N100 million, an allegation Elumelu denied.

The report said of the indicted persons that they should further be probed "by the appropriate agencies for their roles in subversion of government policy on due process which gave rise to project over-scoping, project cost inflation, Awarding one contract two times and general lack of performance in the power sector in spite of huge expenditures made.

"The barefaced looting of the national treasury through the NIPP and PHCN and other projects greatly diminished national capacity to provide electric power leading to wholesale decline in productive business activities and erosion of competitiveness of Nigeria products in the world market."

On Alhaji Ahmed Abdulhamid, the committee said the former Minister of State for Energy was liable for "his patently and wilful manipulation of due process, flagrant abuse of due process, gross abuse of financial procedures in the award of contracts and payments, especially during the last weeks of the Obasanjo administration, exemplified by initiation of requests to the president and procurement of presidential approvals for huge and questionable payments in respect of Papalanto Phase II, Omotosho Phase II, Geregu Phase II, Alaoji Phases II, Mambilla Packages 1, Zungeru Hydro, Omoku Expansion, Gbarain-Ubie Expansion and Egbema Expansion (9 additional GE Frame 9 turbines to Rockson International) without due process compliance for contract award and certification for payment."

The committee recommends that Ahmed "should be investigated by EFCC and ICPC and if found culpable, banned from holding public office for the next 10 years and if he is already holding any, he should be recalled and the appointment cancelled."

On Agagu, it said, "During his tenure in 2002, the committee found that numerous contracts were awarded, including huge contracts to some unregistered companies." The committee said the indicted companies should also be further investigated by EFCC and ICPC to recover "huge sums fraudulently received on power project contracts."

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