EFCC To Conduct Forensic Probe Of Obasanjo’s ‘$16bn Power Projects’ | Sahara Reporters
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) will conduct a “comprehensive and forensic” probe” of the $16 billion allegedly spent on power projects when Olusegun Obasanjo was President.
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Former finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has revealed the blackmail and arm twisting that characterised budget passing by the National Assembly during the Goodluck Jonathan Administration.
She cited an instance in 2015 when the National Assembly leadership forced the executive arm to part with N17 billion for the federal lawmakers to pass that year’s budget.
That, she said, was at a time crude price had gone down drastically.
The N17 billion alleged bribe, according to Okonjo-Iweala in her book Fighting Corruption is Dangerous:The Story Behind the Headlines, was besides the NASS N150 billion annual ‘standard’ budget.
She described federal legislators as a tough political group to deal with.
Her words: “The legislature was concerned largely about three things—the size of its own budget; the nature and the size of the capital budget, particularly investment projects; and the number and geographical location of the projects.
“Senators and Representatives felt that their role as appropriators of the budget was not just to vet and approve budget parameters and oversee budget implementation, but also to shape the size and content of the budgets, including details of specific projects.”
She said members of the NASS Finance and Appropriation even felt ”they had the right–indeed the duty–to get into the details of the budget formulation and preparation process all along the budget value chain.”
The ex-minister said the NASS leadership, working through the various committees, “sought to add more to individual projects or create completely new, unappropriated major projects, thereby distorting the budget.”
But she explained that “not all National Assembly members supported these unfortunate manipulations of the budget.”
She added: “National Assembly members had negotiated large increases in the National Assembly budgets and would brook no discussions or challenges on the issue.
“Their operational budget had ballooned to N150 billion or 16 per cent of the budget and almost 3.5 times the 2006 budget (in naira).”
Okonjo-Iweala said when it was proposed that the lawmakers should give up some of their benefits in view of dwindling revenue in 2015, they bluntly refused to do so.
“By the time we presented the budget on December 16, 2014, oil prices had fallen further to $58 per barrel.
“We were prepared and we knew we had to trigger the additional expenditure and revenue measures in 2015 to make the budget work.
“This would be tough, given that we had entered an election year,” she said.
”Indeed, legislators initially refused to accept any cuts to their regular N150 billion budget, despite dwindling revenues.
“But eventually, they agreed to a 13 per cent cut against a backdrop of ministers accepting a voluntary 50 per cent cut to their basic salaries.
“In a tough session with the National Assembly’s ad hoc committee on the budget (made up of chairs of the Finance Committee and Appropriation Committee of both chambers and other leaders of the National Assembly), an additional N20 billion was re-introduced as election expenses for National Assembly members.
“We insisted the amount be dropped because it nullified the 13 per cent cut made to their statutory budget, but managed to reduce the N20 billion figure by only N3 billion to N17 billion.
“This became the price to pay to have the 2015 budget passed.”
Okonjo-Iweala was Jonathan’s finance minister from August 17, 2011 to May 29, 2015.
She had served in the same capacity in the Obasanjo government.
The Federal Government proposed to spend N4.454 trillion that year.
Following representations made by some civil society groups, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has set machinery in motion to probe the controversy surrounding the $16 billion allegedly spent on power projects during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
The anti-graft agency may invite two ex-ministers, former top
officials of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), present and past officials of the Niger Delta Power Holding Company and all the people recommended for investigation by a committee of the House of Representatives.
A team in EFCC was already collating facts and figures at press time yesterday.
But a top source, who spoke in confidence, said the move was not targeted at ex-President Obasanjo.
According to findings by our correspondent, the EFCC might conduct a forensic and comprehensive investigation into the alleged $16 billion power projects.
The scope of the investigation includes the total cost of the projects, how much was withdrawn from the Excess Crude Account (ECA), the total number of contracts awarded, the extent of compliance with due process and the status of the execution of all the projects.
A top source, who spoke in confidence yesterday, said: “We are looking into all the allegations and issues surrounding the power projects.
“We will conduct a comprehensive and forensic probe to ascertain the true status of all the projects.
“This investigation will actually ascertain how much has been spent so far.
“We have many figures being bandied about as follows: $16 billion, $13.278 billion, $10.3 billion, $8.4 billion and $8.55 billion.
“This is not an investigation aimed at ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo or anybody. We have to step in to set the records straight.
“Already, a team is collating facts and figures on these projects as part of the preliminary level/ bend of the investigation.”
Responding to a question, the source added: “We will retrieve the report of the House of Representatives Committee which investigated the power projects.
“The House actually recommended 18 top former public officers, including two ex-ministers, for investigation by anti-graft agencies, especially EFCC and ICPC.
“Many salient issues were raised for investigation by the House
Committee, which was headed by Hon. Ndudi Elumelu.”
The issues raised by the Elumelu Committee were as follows:
- All NIPP payments were made without following due process
- No meaningful progress was made in the execution of power contracts
- Officials rushed 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 were also wide off the mark
- Widespread evidence of systematic over-scoping of projects in order to inflate costs both in PHCN and NIPP
- NIPP Distribution EPC contracts were awarded at costs averaging about 10 times the norm when compared to PHCN contracts.
The Ndudi Elumelu Committee was put in place by the House on January 31, 2008 to look into how much was spent on power projects.
In its report, the committee said that about $13.278 billion was spent on power projects between 1999 and 2007.
The committee recommended termination of 13 contracts and review of 10 projects.
About 15 contracting and consulting companies were asked to be investigated by the appropriate agencies.
I am seriously devastated.
I learnt about Kunle’s passage only yesterday through a friend in the US, via Kunle’s FB Wall, and I am really at a loss as to why such a complete, and the finest of a gentle should have had to go this way.
The other weekend, we were talking on phone, indicating his intention to come over to Isan Ekiti during the Governorship Primaries just in case there was anyway he could contribute, but there was no need I suggested. Then we agreed I ‘ll see him on getting to Lagos in two day’s time, and now the very sad news of irrepairable loss. I just do not know what to make of this sad situation. How such a fine gentleman would just be snatched away just like that is beyond imagination!
He was such a beautiful soul.
May the Lord God Amighty grant Kunle eternal rest. May his gentle soul rest in perfect peace. I pray for strength for his immediate family as well as the parents.
Kunle, a forever helpful, kind, soft spoken, intelligent breed of God creation, Rest in Perfect Peace. You will be sorely missed.