Authorise probe of Obasanjo’s $16 billion power spending, SERAP tells CJN

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo [Photo credit:]

Transparency group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, has sent a letter to the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, requesting him to urgently “to appoint an independent counsel to investigate allegations of corruption in the spending of $16 billion on electricity by the government of former President Olusegun Obasanjo between 1999 and 2007.”

SERAP said the request was brought “pursuant to Section 52 of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000, and the letter and spirit of the Act, and the object and purpose of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).”

The letter dated November 24, and signed by SERAP senior staff counsel Timothy Adewale, says that, “a Parliamentary Hearing by the House of Representatives in Abuja over the spending of $16 billion between 1999 and 2007 on the power project revealed through testimonies of witnesses appearing before the Committee that the $16 billion budgeted for the power project may have been stolen by some state officials and others, and cannot be accounted for.”

According to the organisation, “Section 52 of the Corrupt Practices Act requires the Chief Justice of Nigeria to authorise an independent counsel to investigate any allegation of corruption against high level public officials—at the federal or state level–and to report his findings to the National Assembly or appropriate house of assembly.”

The letter reads in part: “We believe that the above highlighted findings by the Parliamentary Hearing have sufficiently demonstrated good cause invariably justifying your intervention in the matter. We therefore urge you to interpret this provision robustly and flexibly in the light of the unique role of the judiciary in the efforts to prevent and combat corruption and its destructive effects on the society.”

“We believe your urgent intervention will contribute to improving the integrity of government and public confidence and trust in their government. It would also serve as a vehicle to further the public’s perception of fairness and thoroughness, and to avert even the most subtle of influences that may appear in an investigation of highly-placed executive officials.”

“We also urge you to be guided not by technicalities of ICPC Act but by the overall public interest involved in the enjoyment of the right to regular and uninterrupted electricity supply by millions of Nigerians, and the spirit and letter of the constitution. In particular, Chapter 2 of the 1999 Constitution dealing with Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy, high-level public officials have a clear obligation to “eradicate all corrupt practices and abuse of power.”

“SERAP also notes that lack of access to uninterrupted energy/electricity services has forced many citizens to use and collect frequently contaminated surface water for drinking and household uses; and denied the citizens the ability and services for boiling, purifying, disinfecting, and storing water, as well as for irrigation to increase the productivity of lands, thereby decreasing the availability of food supplies and undermining employment opportunities.”

“Furthermore, the constitution also prohibits the exploitation of Nigeria’s human and natural resources for any reasons other than for the good of the community.” This position is well supported by the provisions of the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party. In exercising your statutory and constitutional responsibilities, we urge you to work very closely with both the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC).”

“SERAP notes that the failure by successive governments to tell Nigerians the truth about allegations of corruption in the spending of $16 billion on electricity supply amounts to a failure to ensure that energy services/electricity services are progressively made available, on the basis of equality and non-discrimination, to the whole population, including those most disadvantaged, such as the fringe dwellers and the rural poor.”

“SERAP also notes that allegations of corruption in the energy sector have resulted in the epileptic and interrupted supply of electricity and corresponding deprivation and denial of the citizens’ access to quality healthcare, adequate food, shelter, clothing, water, sanitation, medical care, schooling, and access to information.”

“The Parliamentary Hearing which took place in Abuja between Tuesday, March 11 and Wednesday, 12 March, 2008 also revealed that: Mr. Bernerd Mensen, the Chief Executive Officer of Lameyer, a German firm was paid N370 million (out of the total contract sum of N600m) just to do a feasibility study on a power station, but he confessed that he had never visited the site of the Mambilla Hydro-Electric Power Project in Taraba State.”

“The information from the hearing also revealed that N200m of the N370m collected was spent to build a bungalow at Gembu, apparently to create the impression that work was in progress, but the project was later abandoned. One of the witnesses who gave evidence at the hearing said that the ground-breaking was done at Gembu, about 25kilometers from the Mambilla; and that they never got to the Mambilla at all. The witness also disclosed that the sample of oil Lameyer collected for test was dumped at somebody’s compound, and that Lameyer did nothing to implement the project.”

“The Mambilla power plant was envisaged to generate 2,600 megawatts of electricity. According to the hearing, the contracts awarded for the Kainji, Egbin, Afam and Ugehli power stations were never executed but the PHCN, in its report to the hearing on how it spent its budgetary allocations between 1999 and 2007, quoted the contracts as part of the work done. The hearing also revealed that there were about nine of such contracts, totalling $142m.”


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  • Julius Joel

    The Senate probed this issue before with a senator called Elumelu as chairman of the probe panel. You should remember what Elumelu did with rural electricity money and how he went away without probe. SERAP should also ask how much Mr Jonathan spent on electricity. The so-called human rights organization would have known that Obasanjo’s alledged 16 billion dollars is a drop in the bucket of billions if not trillions of dollars spent by Mr Jonathan

    • emmanuel

      You must be a demon. The next moment, you use another moniker to say how Funke Osibidu should be hanged for hr statement, not minding that Obasanjo stole all the monies meant to improve on electricity?
      You sure stumbled on free internet without any knowledege of societal issues. Ndudi Elumelu was the House of Reps member and we knew how Obasanjo sent people to warn his son to stay off NIPP issue or she would mourn him.
      Then came the scam issue and the matter died a natural death

    • VERITAS_ the rock of ages_

      The report says the money cant be accounted for? so prove that Jonathan spent more money on power generation than OBJ did and lets see the proof. The topic here is Obj and SERAP are proving his case. Then you calling someone whom SERAP hasnt accused of power project money theft,

    • thusspokez

      Seriously what is your problem? Are you a beneficiary of the money looted by the first-class looter OBJ? This primitive thinking process promotes that ideas that If you probe (say) a Yoruba, you must also probe one each from each Nigerian ethnic group. This mentality is the reason why fighting corruption is so difficult.

    • Charles

      your contribution stinks to the high heaven so 16 billion dollar is too small in comparison and so should not be probe.

  • God dey

    Excellent news! OBJ will never get away with this one. His case is like pot calling kettle black. What a joke of a wasted generation

  • smart G

    Jonathan spoke at Oxford ,SERAP calls for his arrest.
    Obj spoke the bitter truth SERAP calls for his probe.
    SERAP has become an attack dog

    • God dey

      But isn’t the same SERAP that is criticising Buhari govt almost every time? I think they are probably looking for the hook for these things. I follow them regularly and know that they are balanced in their approach

    • thusspokez

      What this would indicate that there are some very smart marketing people in SERAP.

      • God dey

        I absolutely agree. SERAP must have some very smart ‘marketers’!

  • Nkem

    First, if SERAP wants to be taken seriously, they should tell us where they got the figure of $16 billion from, and not just be quoting figures that have only existed on the pages of newspapers. Secondly, they said they were already “findings” from investigation by the Federal House of Representatives, so why do they want another jamboree of investigations? It is like investigations have become an industry in Nigeria. Why can’t SERAP take these “findings” to the EFCC if they do not trust the ICPC, when they even quoted profusely from the House “findings”? Third, SERAP quoted $16 billion (a massive N2.5 trillion naira), but could only quote from the findings, evidence of stealing/misappropriation for N370 million, about 0.014% of the amount.

    • God dey

      I beg to disagree. First, from what I read from SERAP submission, there was a public hearing but this seems non-conclusive as we have no report of what exactly happened. Second, OBJ has never queried the figure of $16bn, so we Nigerians we assume it’s true until OBJ comes forward to controvert the figure. Third, the investigation by the CJN will be the ‘best ever’ as the CJN is not a politician and will not be afraid to call a spade a spade, at least judging by his recent pronouncements. #NigeriansDeserveRegularElectricitySupply

    • Ibraheem Aruna,

      We are not all in government and cannot be. That the role of the press is informing, educating the rest of us cannot and ought not be contested. This is a known fact when Bola Ige was there and you know who took over, when he left to contest and paid dearly. That’s another story. The monies were appropriated if you saw evidence of the work done, correct SERAP. What country spends such monies and sweeps it under the carpet.? Even the Sultan of Brunei would ask questions. Don’t you Think ? Even as I think that such a request ought to go to the EFCC with a copy to MR President and both leaders of the Nigeria national Assembly.

  • thusspokez

    Transparency group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, has sent a letter to the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, requesting him to urgently “to appoint an independent counsel to investigate allegations of corruption in the spending of $16 billion on electricity by the government of former President Olusegun Obasanjo between 1999 and 2007.”

    I welcome any call to probe the pioneer of corruption, and first-class looter who seems to think that Nigerians have a very short memory and have forgotten his own massive looting or that the status of prosecution for corruption in Nigeria expired in his case.

    (Pardon my thinking loud here)This call is coming now but why? Might it well be as a result of OBJ being in the news and SERAP using the occasion to put out their message for maximum effect and earn them points too? Or might it be someone from the Buhari administration calling their friend(s) in SERAP to ask for a favour, i.e.., to remind OBJ of the danger if he continues to criticise the Buhari government. And this would be perfectly legitimate.

    • Nkem

      Maybe it is Femi Adesina.

    • Rommel

      Any probe of that $16 billion purported power contract would involve Mrs Okonjo Iweala who was then minister of finance,would she and the wailers not scream witch hunt when it starts?

      • thusspokez

        Yes, probe even his chef, chauffeurs, etc. What is your point?

        • Rommel

          My point is that she refused to cooperate during that probe that revealed so much which is why we still bandied about this figure of $16 billion,she is in the best position to tell us how much money was paid and to whom,without her,no progress would be made as OBJ was not the one signing cheques,it was Mrs Iweala and her people do not want her before any probe panel.

          • thusspokez

            …she is in the best position to tell us how much money was paid and to whom,without her…

            Yeah, once upon a time, there was this ‘wicket woman’ who was put in-charge of overseeing all the financial transactions of an African country. And when the three wise men (namely, Auditor, Investigator and Prober) asked where are the records of the country’s transaction during the tenure of the wicket woman, lo and behold, they couldn’t find any record of the thousands of transaction because the wicket woman had eaten them all. So they went back home to tell their men and women about transaction-records-eating woman in a far away town called Abuja And the people were filled with sorrow.

  • marc umeh

    Many thanks to this organisation called SERAP. Before them , I cannot remember any other org dedicated to fighting corruption. This is a rare feat in a country where many see corruption as mere witch- hunt against one of theirs.
    So whether they succeed or not , they are doing a great service for the country.