$16bn Power Project: Make your findings public, anti-graft network tells Buhari

Posted by News Express | 25 May 2018 | 1,984 times

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•Photo collage of President Buhari and former president Obasanjo

A group, Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC) has told President Muhammed Buhari to make public his findings for the benefit of Nigerians, if he is serious about fighting corruption and he has access to contrary information than former President Olusegun Obasanjo, on the controversial $16 billion dollars Obasanjo claimed to have spent on power generation in the country.

The group said this is a good time to come forward with such data and not a time to play to the galley because the matter gravely affects the credibility of his government, and the lives of Nigeria as a whole.

CSNAC also challenged the President to take this litmus test and set the records straight once and for all about this controversial issue, adding “enough of the shadow boxing, time to act is now.”

A statement Wednesday signed by the Chairman, Olanrewaju Suraju said “According to President Buhari, while addressing the Buhari Support Organization (BSO) on Tuesday, May 22, 2018, in a comment that appeared directed at former president Obasanjo, had said: You know the rail was killed and one of the former Heads of State between that time was bragging that he spent more than US$16 billion American dollars not Naira on power. Where is the power? Where is the power?”

“This statement has unleashed an unbelievable frenzy in both in the online and offline media spaces. While the former president’s predictable acerbic retort has generated a lot of media heat and excitement, the questions asked by President Buhari must be treated with seriousness and answers must be provided. The former president, in his response, directed that individuals with any inquiries concerning his involvement in the issue at hand should read Chapters 41, 42, 43 and 47 of his book, ‘My Watch’ for his insights and perspectives on the power sector and indeed what transpired when the allegation of US$16 billion on power projects was previously made; note, his insights and perspectives; and not that of any legally convened body that has been empowered by the law to act on this matter.

“Simply put; the good General is telling us to take his word as law on this issue and stop querying him. A good sentiment no doubt, as the good Chief wants the general populace to expand their reading capabilities; but not a good enough response for  the citizens who demand straight forward answers to questions that have impact on their daily lives. No democracy is built on taking answers at face value: questions must be asked and appropriate answers given,” the statement said.

Also “On the May 12, 2008, the then President Obasanjo when summoned by the House of Representatives Committee probing the National Integrated Power Projects (NIPP) headed by Ndudi Elumelu, insisted his government had followed due process in its power projects agenda by complying with Section 148 of the 1999 Constitution. However, when asked about the specific amount of money spent on the project, the former President said;

“Finally, let me come to the quantum of money spent on power from 1999 to 2007. Various figures have been bandied around ranging from US$4 billion to US$16 billion. They may all be right or they may all be wrong depending on what anybody takes as expenditure most of which is constant no matter what amount of power is generated, transmitted or distributed, your figure can be as high as you want to make it.

“That figure will include personal emolument of staff, pensions, gratuities, transportation, maintenance, rural electrification, etc. If you take staff emolument, etc, out and limit expenditure to only running or operating costs and capital expenditure for generation, transmission and distribution, you will get a new set of figures.

“If you add power-related training and expenditure in other ministries and departments such as education, NNPC and industry you will get yet another set of figures. If you limit yourself to capital expenditure and running costs you will get a set of figures that can truly be said to be really expenditure on power.

“I have been told that the figure in this regard from 1999 to 2007 is in the region of $6.5 billion including outstanding letters of credit. But whatever figure you choose to take, to say that there is little or nothing to show for it is the greatest understatement of the year which will tend to portray inadequate knowledge or ignorance,” the statement added.

CSNAC further noted: “For someone who prides himself on his razor sharp memory and conciseness of his time in governance, we can’t help but wonder why there is a particular memory lapse on this issue. From a careful study of the NIPP Ndudi Elumelu Committee report, a few summaries can be made:

“From the assessment done during the committee’s tour of the project sites, it is safe to conclude that no meaningful progress was made in the execution of power contracts. “ It is curious and quite strange that officials rush to pay contractors in full even before engineering design for the projects have been completed and approved. “NIPP contracts were not only overpriced in comparison with PHCN contracts, they are also wide off the mark when viewed against comparable power stations in several parts of the world.

“In 2008, the House of Representatives described the $16 billion spent on power projects between 1999 and 2007 as “a colossal waste.”

“In Chief Obasanjo’s spokesperson issued rejoinder: ‘For the records, Chief Obasanjo has addressed the issues of the power sector and the allegations against him on many occasions and platforms, including in his widely publicised book, My Watch in which he exhaustively stated the facts and reproduced various reports by both the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which conducted a clinical investigation into the allegations against Chief Obasanjo, and the Ad-Hoc Committee on the Review of the Recommendations in the Report of the Committee on Power on the Investigation into how the Huge Sums Of Money was Spent on Power Generation, Transmission And Distribution between June 1999 and May 2007 without Commensurate Result.’

“We would like to point out that the phrase, ‘commensurate result’ does not mean that there are no questions for the former president to answer; it simply means the results were inconclusive at that time.

“With the salvo thrown into the public space by President Buhari concerning this issue, it seems the right questions about the project need to be asked again by an appropriate body that is bent on finding the truth and exposing any illegalities, if found.

“Yesterday, President Buhari relied on the figure of the House of Representatives when he accused a former President of having wasted $16 billion on the power sector. In his reply, Chief Obasanjo claimed that the House and the EFCC have cleared him. We challenge him to publish the reports that cleared him of the serious allegation.”

Source: News Express

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