How $ 16 bn was looted from Nigeria’s power sector fund

Mar 12, 2008 01:00 AM

Chairman, House of Representatives' Committee on Power and Steel, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, gave a graphic account of how N 250 mm was spent to build a bungalow to facilitate hurried ground breaking of the moribund Mambila Power project in May last year during the twilight of the Olusegun Obasanjo administration. This is even as the federal lawmaker allegedly had death threats to his life by anonymous callers asking him to halt the investigation or lose his life.
Similarly, Benue State governor Hon Gabriel Suswam said as a member of the House of Representatives, he opposed the third term for Obasanjo because of the huge amount committed to the power sector without commensurate result.

Elumelu who spoke at the hearing about the $ 16 bn allegedly spent on the power sector reform between 1999 and 2007, said that a German firm also collected mobilization fee of N 369 mm for jobs not executed. The contract was awarded to the firm even after it was blacklisted by the World Bank.
Elumelu who warned that his committee would not spare any sacred cow in a bid to recover the allegedly looted funds directed the German firm, Lamelier to prepare to refund the money to federal government coffers.

Lamenting that the multi-billion naira Mambilla power plant has remained a white elephant project in spite of the huge sum of money already committed by the government, Elumelu stated that in a desperate bid to ensure its commissioning before the tenure of the last administration expired, a bungalow was hurriedly built at Gergu, about 25 km from the Mambilla project site to host the event. He said former President Olusegun Obasanjo and other top government functionaries were flown to the area in a helicopter, apparently to shield the shoddy job at the site from him.
Although the federal lawmaker did not give identity of those who built the bungalow, he said the building cost about N 250 mm.

Alleging that even at the huge cost the building was still sub-standard, Elumelu said that when members of his committeeundertook a working visit to Gergu, the building was already dilapidating.
"Gergu where they did the ground breaking ceremony is 25 km to Mambilla. They just built a bungalow. They said they spent N 250 mm for the bungalow which is already dilapidating. Why did they not do it in Mambilla. The former president was flown there in an helicopter because there are no access roads to the place. Lamelier has done nothing despite the sum of N 369 mm it has collected and I believe they should be thinking of refunding the money to the federal government. Fellow Nigerians we are serious, very serious. We are not after anybody, we just want to ensure that all the monies paid for jobs not done should be refunded", he stated.

In his own presentation, Governor Suswam who had served as both Chairman House Committees on Power and Steel as well as Appropriation before his election as governor, said in a bid to convince Nigerians that something had been done in the power sector when the last federal administration embarked on indiscriminate commissioning of uncompleted projects. He said Mambilla was such a project meant to deceive Nigerians that the administration was committed to boosting public power supply.
Disclosing that the expenditure on the power sector reform runs into trillions of naira, Suswam promised to submit a comprehensive list of the budgeted amount to the panel.

Stating that the bulk of the money spent on the power sector reform under the Obasanjo administration came from the excess crude account, Suswam said Governors are requesting for a refund of their own share of the money from the federal government since the projects were no longer feasible.
Insisting that adequate funds were made available for the entire projects, Suswam urged the panel to hold contractors who have been fully paid responsible for jobs not executed. He said where the contractors claimed they have not been paid, the governor enjoined the panel to invite the helmsmen under the Obasanjo administration and force them to cough up the money as adequate provisions had been made.

In his own submission Taraba State governor Dambaba Suntir said they were surprised to discover that after the ground breaking of the Mambilla Power Plant in April last year, the job was abandoned. He said preliminary investigation by his administration revealed that there was a feud between the contractor who was awarded the contract originally and the new contractor who was supposed to take over the job.
Minister of State for Energy, Mrs Fatima Ibrahim said the minister has constituted a task force to recover monies from contractors who defaulted in executing the jobs awarded to them. She admitted that a total of N 435,115,676,963.03 or an equivalent of $ 3.7 bn was released to the ministry from the budget between 1999 and 2007, while government also secured $ 46 bn loans for some of the projects executed in the sector.

Source / Daily Champion
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