29 August 2012

Nigeria: Why Jonathan Fired Power Minister, Barth Nnaji

Photo: Leadership
Nigeria's Former Energy Minister,Barth Nnaji

President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, ordered power minister Prof Barth Nnaji, to resign following an alleged involvement of two companies linked to him in the ongoing privatisation exercise in the power sector.

LEADERSHIP gathered that the president might have been embarrassed by media reports that the National Council on Privatisation (NCP) had to cancel the technical bid evaluation process conducted for Afam Generation Company Limited and Enugu Distribution Company Limited because of the minister's perceived personal interest and suspicion of lack of integrity.

The president's decision to sacrifice Nnaji might not be unconnected with the fact that he considered the ministry too sensitive to the transformation agenda and could not tolerate any rumour of unethical behavior.

A statement by the special adviser to the president on media and publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, noted that Nnaji tendered his resignation letter, which Jonathan accepted with thanks.

The statement made available to LEADERSHIP last night reads in part, "President Goodluck Jonathan has accepted the resignation with immediate effect of the Minister of Power, Prof. Barth Nnaji. President Jonathan thanks Prof. Nnaji for his services to the nation under the present administration and wishes him well in his future endeavours."

Reacting to the development, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) welcomed the sack of the minister and maintained that the congress stood by its earlier allegation that the minister embezzled over N942 million while in office.

The deputy president of NLC, Comrade Joe Ajaero, said "We had called for his resignation earlier over unethical practice and his refusal to pay us our entitlement."

Comrade Ajaero who is also the general secretary of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), however said that with the resignation of the minister, Jonathan could put in place independent investigators to probe the allegation of using PHCN money to pay the media and the Army.

"We had also called for Professor Nnaji's resignation over his employment of 20 people in Enugu Zone of PHCN who are his kith and kin as staff two years after the closing date of casual employment, close of PHCN biometrics exercise as well as his refusal to pay regularised casual staff their salaries since February 2012."

Lack of funds stalled power projects - Obasanjo

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has said that his government could not solve the energy problem of the country because it lacked enough resources to do so eve after spending a whopping $16 billion on the sector with nothing to show for it.

"We had no money to even balance the budget," the former president stated while speaking at the August edition of the Nigerian Leadership Initiative Forum held in Lagos yesterday. He said "now if I had money I would have started working on power."

Obasanjo who nevertheless declared "I achieved all I wanted to achieve" also accused his successor of spending over $45 billion and N25 billion which he said his administration left in the external reserves and the excess crude account respectively.

The former president who was speaking on "Leadership Foundation and Underpinning" remarked: "When we were leaving, we left over $45 billion in external reserves and over N25 billion in the Excess Crude Account in case of rainy days, but immediately we left, they said the rain has come and spent it."

He said his administration had worked hard to rid the country of debt and get some savings for rainy days. According to him, when he came into power the country had about $3 billion in its reserve and was spending over $3 billion to service its over $35 billion debt.

Commenting on some of the inadequacies of political leaders in Africa, Obasanjo said acceptance of dishonesty as the only means of sustaining leadership position, excessive display of leadership arrogance, disrespect for the law, disrespect for superior values and ideas as well as inability to stay with and manager success were prominent.

"It appears that there is something in the African gene which makes him to forget how he has toiled to reach lofty heights. Once there, he dances and wines with all his fortunes only to crash into the bottomless pit of public disrespect," the former present declared.

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