$16bn power project: Nigerians deserve to know the truth – CSNAC

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The Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC) has reacted to the accusations and counter accusations on the controversial $16 billion dollars allegedly spent by for President Olusegun Obasanjo on power generation for the country.

A statement by the Chairman of CSNAC, Olanrewaju Suraju recalled that President Buhari had told the Buhari Support Organization (BSO) on Tuesday that although one of the former presidents who spent $16 billion on power, there was still no electricity in the country.

Apparently referring to former president Obasanjo, the President 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. Nodemocracy is built on taking answers at face value: questions must be asked and appropriate answers given,” CSNAC stated.

It recalled that when on the May 12, 2008, Obasanjo was summoned by the House of Representatives Committee probing the National Integrated Power Projects (NIPP) headed by Ndudi Elumelu, the former president insisted that 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 banded 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,” Obasanjo had told the House.

According to CSNAC, “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 publicized 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.”

According to CSNAC, “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.

“If President Buhari is really serious about his fighting corruption stance, and he really has access to contrary information than possessed by the former president, now would be a good time to come forward with these findings. Now is not a time to play to the galley about matters that gravely affect the credibility of his government, and the lives of Nigeria as a whole,” it posited.

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

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