Trouble For OBJ As FG Revisits Probe Of $16bn Power Spending
There are indications that former President Olusegun Obasanjo may be in for serious trouble, as the federal government plans to begin a fresh probe of how $16billion earmarked for power projects during his administration was spent. This is coming just as President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday challenged Obasanjo to show Nigerians the electricity he claimed to have spent a whopping $16 billion to provide. A top presidency source told LEADERSHIP that the probe will no longer be business as usual like the last investigation attempted by the House of Representatives during the administration of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, which was frustrated by Obasanjo. According to him, the federal government is poised to probe the former president who has been mistaking President Buhari’s silence for weakness. The source who did not want his name in print said, “This is a clear indication that the president is taking the fight to the former president. His silence to Obasanjo’s constant criticism had been seen as a weakness and this is the first time the president will be replying Obasanjo. “Recall that during the administration of the late Yar’Adua, Obasanjo scattered the House of Reps committee. If President Buhari decides to probe this power project, it will be different now and will not be business as usual”. Obasanjo who was Nigeria’s President between 1999 and 2007 has been the most ardent critic of the Buhari administration, calling it inept and an abysmal failure. The former President is also currently engaged in a nationwide mobilisation of political forces to stop Buhari’s re-election for a second term in office, come 2019. The 16 billion dollars power expenditure by the Obasanjo administration was a subject of investigation by the National Assembly for which he was summoned but refused to appear before the House. Meanwhile, President Buhari who spoke when he received members of the Buhari Support Organisation led by the Comptroller General of Nigerian Customs and Excise, Colonel Hamid Ali, at the Aso Rock presidential villa, Abuja, regretted that the nation has nothing to show for the $16 billion spent on power. Addressing the group, President Buhari stated pointblank that those who mismanaged the nation’s economy through fraudulent electricity projects and misuse of revenue earnings from oil had no love for the country. Accordingly, he urged Nigerians to remain vigilant and ensure that only ‘‘people of conscience are in-charge of governance at all levels’’, as the nation prepares for the general elections in 2019. He said, ‘‘I challenge anybody to check from Europe, America and Asia; between 1999-2014, Nigeria was producing 2.1 million barrels of crude oil per day at an average cost of 100 USD per barrel and it went up to 143 USD. When we came it collapsed to 37 – 38 USD and later was oscillating between 40 and 50 USD. ‘‘I went to the CBN Governor, with my cap in my hand, and asked if we had savings. He told me we had only debts, no savings. Some of the roads were not repaired since the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) days. ‘‘I don’t care the opinion you have about Abacha but I agreed to work with him and we constructed roads from Abuja to Port Harcourt, Benin to Onitsha and so on. We also touched education and health institutions. One of the former Heads of State was bragging that he spent more than 15 billion USD on power in Nigeria. Where is the power?’’ On the mismanagement of the economy by previous administrations, President Buhari noted that the perpetrators lacked imagination and plans for the development of the nation. ‘‘Sometimes, I wonder about those who can afford to send their children abroad for studies and yet continue to sabotage the economy, I wonder what kind of Nigeria they want their children to return to and work. There is a lot of lack of imagination. If you are working for the country, then you shouldn’t be misappropriating and misapplying public funds the way people did,’’ he said. The president noted that under his watch, the 2016 and 2017 budgets recorded the highest appropriation and releases in capital projects, with over N2.8 trillion disbursements in two years. The President urged Nigerians to reject those bent on dividing the country along religious and ethnic lines, warning that they do not mean well for the country. ‘‘I have said severally that we do not have any other country than Nigeria and we will remain here and salvage it together. ‘‘We have nothing to regret. Absolutely nothing. God has given Nigeria everything. We are rich in human and material resources. Let us keep on praying to God to put people of conscience in-charge at all levels,’’ he said. On the activities of the support group, President Buhari apologised for not rallying them before announcing his intention to seek re-election in 2019 during a meeting of the National Executive Committee of the All Progressives Congress on April 9, 2018. He thanked members of the group for their resolute support to him as a presidential candidate in 2015 and all through his term in office, adding that their voluntary sacrifices are an indication of their trust and belief in the great future of the country. In his remarks, Ali said the group and majority of Nigerians are passionate about a second term for President Buhari because of his integrity, honesty, love and patriotism. I’m Ready For Probe – Obasanjo But in a swift reaction, Obasanjo yesterday dared the Buhari administration to setup an enquiry into the $16 billion power projects under his tenure as civilian president, saying he is ready for probe. In a statement signed by his media aide, Kehinde Akinyemi, the former president noted that the president’s remarks smacked of ignorance and without information, adding that the administration was re-echoing the unsubstantiated allegation against him by one of his predecessor. He said the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission as well as the Aminu Tambuwal-led ad-hoc committee cleared him of any corrupt act over the power project fund. The statement made available to LEADERSHIP reads: “It has come to the attention of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo that a statement credited to President Muhammadu Buhari, apparently without correct information and based on ignorance, suggested that $16 billion was wasted on power projects by “a former President”. We believe that the President was re-echoing the unsubstantiated allegation against Chief Obasanjo by his own predecessor but one. “While it is doubtful that a President with proper understanding of the issue would utter such, it should be pointed out that records from the National Assembly had exculpated President Obasanjo of any wrong-doing concerning the power sector and has proved the allegations as false. “Chief Obasanjo challenges, and in fact encourages, anybody to set up another enquiry if in doubt and unsatisfied with the EFCC report and that of the Hon. Aminu Tambuwal-led ad-hoc committee.” Obasanjo added that the issue of the power sector and the allegations against him had been addressed on many occasions and platforms, including his widely publicised book, My Watch. He said 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 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.