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$16bn Power Projects: EFCC Begins Probe

…Files $2m Money Laundering Charges Against Atiku’s Lawyer

In a fresh move to unmask the actors in the controversial $16billion power projects of the federal government, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has begun the investigation of the administrations of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, his immediate successor, the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, and former President Goodluck Jonathan.

The three leaders and some of their officials are being probed over the role they played in the disbursement of the $16billion on the power sector between 2006 and 2011 to various contractors.

The probe of the “investment” in the electricity sector, which some Nigerians described as a scam, came on the heels of President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent declaration that he would recover the money from all persons and organisations involved in the alleged scandal.

The humongous funds alleged to have been diverted into private pockets by the participating companies and other top officials of the government was during the power sector reform initiative by the trio of Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, and Jonathan.

A very credible source in the EFCC told LEADERSHIP Weekend that so far the commission had uncovered certain disturbing issues indicating that although the said sum of $16 billion covered investment in the whole power sector which cut across generation, transmission and distribution, the projects were actually handled by the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC).

Interestingly, the NDPHC belongs to the three tiers of government – federal, states and local governments.

The source said: “Our investigators also discovered that most of the firms which secured contracts under the power projects collected huge funds in naira and dollars but did not perform up to 30 per cent before abandoning them.

“Incidentally, most of the payments occurred between 2006 and 2011 during the regimes of former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, the late  Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan,” he said.

On how some of the transactions were carried out, the source said: “The first amount released under Excess Crude Account (ECA), under the power project was about $8.3billion.

“One of the major contractors was Rockson Engineering Ltd; the company has been taken over by the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) for failure to meet other financial obligations.”

Meanwhile, LEADERSHIP Weekend learnt that the company secured four contracts during the period under review and received over $2billion in tranches of 180million,  $220million, $240million, and $480million.

The company was also alleged to have received the sums of $11million and another N150million under questionable circumstances. These payments are still under investigation, the source stated.

According to him, “investigation further revealed that despite the release of the above funds to Rockson, the firm was only put in place 30 per cent of the construction of the projects involved.

“The firm also claimed that it imported certain materials since 2013 which are lying in Onne Port without clearing,” the source added.

Due Process Violated In Transactions

The top official of the commission, also alleged that the contracts were awarded without undergoing due diligence as prescribed by the federal government.

“Lack of due diligence pervades the transactions while certain officials of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) are under probe for certain regulatory flaws.

“Instead of opening Letters of Credit (LOCs) in the name of the manufacturers of the equipment for the power projects, operatives discovered that the LOCs were opened in the name of Rockson.

“Investigation also revealed that instead of the LOCs being put in Form M (tangibles and specifics), they were opened in Form A (intangibles such as school fees, medical bills etc),” he said.

The source promised that the EFCC would do everything within its power to recover the funds and prosecute the indicted officials.

S/West Peoples Alliance Demands Obasanjo’s Prosecution

Meanwhile, a group, the South West Peoples Alliance, has welcomed the decision of the House of Representatives to probe the huge funds expended on the power sector from 1999 till date.

It charged the lawmakers to go beyond routine probe by ensuring the prosecution of Obasanjo and his cohorts, who allegedly invested the $16 billion on the sector without any positive improvement on electricity supply across the country.

Addressing a press conference in Lagos yesterday on the purported corruption in the power sector, the chairman of the group, Oseni Owolabi Ajimomuya, and the secretary, Ismael Lanre Oguntoyinbo, commended the Young Nigerian Professionals (YPN) for reminding the House on the need to probe the actors in the power sector’s fraud.

In his speech titled: “Don’t just probe Obasanjo on power sector malfeasance, prosecute him,” which was made available to LEADERSHIP Weekend in Abuja, Ajimomuya urged the Lower Legislative Chamber to specifically interrogate key individuals in the whole power mismanagement saga.

He said: “It’s our belief that there are known actors that were responsible for overseeing the sleaze that took place in the power sector spending since 1999. The most prominent, as every Nigerian possibly knows, is former President Olusegun Obasanjo – who is reported to have spent a whopping sum of about $16 billion on power, with nothing worthy or credible to show for it.

“We would like to commend the House of Representatives for its decision to again re-investigate the power sector spending. It is our belief that what the House is set to do justice for the people of Nigeria who have had to bear the burden and pain associated with the poor power situation in the country. Until this investigation and other related efforts that ensure transparency and openness are undertaken, Nigeria cannot really move forward or record any significant progress,” Ajimomuya stated.

The group said that the unearthing of the sleaze in the power sector is key if Nigeria wants to start on a new footing that ensures proper accountability.

Ajimomuya added that while “we are confident that the investigation by the House of Representatives would unmask the fraud that was committed by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and his cronies in the power sector; we demand that the House should, upon the completion of its investigation, endeavour to submit the name of the former president and his conspirators to the country’s anti-corruption agencies – the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), for full prosecution.

“The ultimate goal is not to undertake a futile ‘name and shame exercise’, rather we want to see a situation where all those involved would face punishment for their crimes against the country,” he said.

The group charged Obasanjo to live up to his avowed commitment to transparency by coming forward to explain his role in the alleged mismanagement of power funds.

In another development, the EFCC has filed a three-count-charge of conspiracy and money laundering against Uyiekpen Giwa-Osagie, one of the lawyers of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.

The anti-graft agency in the case it filed before the Federal High Court, Lagos accused Giwa-Osagie of laundering $2million ahead of this year’s general elections in which Atiku, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, contested against President Buhari.

The EFCC claimed in the charge that the lawyer alongside Erhunse Giwa-Osagie, said to be his brother, handled the $2million without going through a financial institution.

The commission also alleged that the sum exceeded the amount authorised by law to be transacted in cash.

According to the EFCC, the accused violated Sections 18(a) and 1(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011, punishable under Section 16(2)(b).

The charges read: “That you Uyiekpen Giwa-Osagie and Erhunse Giwa-Osagie, sometimes in February 2019 in Nigeria within the jurisdiction of this court, conspired to commit an offence to wit: making cash payment of the sum of $2million without going through financial institution, which sum exceeded the amount authorised by law and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(a), and 1(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended and punishable under Section 16(2)(b) of the same Act.

“That you Uyiekpen Giwa-Osagie, on or before the 12th February, 2019 in Nigeria, within the jurisdiction of this court, procured Erhunse Giwa-Osagie to make cash payment of the sum of $2million without going through financial institution, which sum exceeded the amount authorised by law and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(c) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended and punishable under Section 16(2)(b) of the same Act.

“That you Erhunse Giwa-Osagie, sometimes in February 2019 in Nigeria, within the jurisdiction of this court, made the payment of the sum of $2million without going through a financial institution, which sum exceeded the amount authorised by law and thereby committed an offence contrary to Sections 1(a) and 16(1)(d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and punishable under Ssection 16 of the Same Act.”

They will be arraigned next week before Justice Chuka Obiozor, a vacation judge in Lagos.