Scandal, Power and Dollars, By Jibrin Ibrahim
One thing that has been scientifically proven about corruption is that when the system is able to punish those involved in corrupt practices, the quantum decreases steadily. When there is immunity for engaging in corrupt practices, however the quantum and scale of corrupt acts grow astronomically.
Politicians love telling white lies because they know people do not remember what they say with time. In my column of June 10, 2013, I drew attention to the firm promise of the then Vice President Namadi Sambo that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government would be producing 20,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity for Nigerians by December 2014. The then minister of Power, Pastor Nebo followed up with additional information that there would be a first phase starting in December 2013 when 10,000 megawatts would be produced daily and that would be scaled up to 20,000 in December 2014.
Going further back, on February 19, 2008, the late President Umaru Yar’Adua had launched the Presidential Committee on the Accelerated Expansion of Power. He promised Nigeria that 18 months from that date, Nigeria would be producing at least 6,000 MW of power by August 2009. The background was that one of the strongest campaign promises General Olusegun Obasanjo made on behalf of Yar’Adua was that the National Integrated Power Project (NIPP) gas plants he had sank $10 billion dollars into would the producing 6,000 MW by December 2007. Later, President Yar’Adua explained that President Obasanjo built the factories but forgot to give contracts for the gas to fire the plants, which caused the delay but he had given the contracts to sort out the problem. Going still further back, the late Bola Ige made a solemn promise to Nigerians in June 1999 that by 2001, there will be so much electricity produced in Nigeria that those with private generators will be sorry for themselves as they will not need these anymore and they would have no second hand value as no one else would need them. Almost two decades later, we are all still dependent on our generators for power.
Our political class make promises that they have neither the capacity nor the intention to deliver onbecause we have no culture of accountability in the country. The real change we need in Nigeria is in enthroning the culture of accountability. The first step in this direction is to remember the promises politicians make and punish them for their failures by not re-electing them. But the most important element of accountability is that of law enforcement – no one with responsibility for stealing billions of dollars meant for producing power that would have helped resuscitate our industry and improve the lives and livelihoods of millions has ever been prosecuted for their crimes against the people and punished. We must change this culture.
It is unfortunate that President Buhari’s comments last Tuesday about the misuse of the $16 billion on power projects by a predecessor during his tenure as the president without corresponding power supply to Nigerians is being read as a political move because of Obasanjo’s campaign against his re-election.
It is for this reason that I strongly support the call by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) that President Muhammadu Buhari should urgently refer the allegations of mismanagement of $16 billion power projects between 1999 and 2007 to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) for further investigation and prosecution. As the organisation argued, in addition, the investigation and prosecution should include: “the alleged squandering of over N11 trillion meant to provide regular electricity supply covering the governments of former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan.”
It is unfortunate that President Buhari’s comments last Tuesday about the misuse of the $16 billion on power projects by a predecessor during his tenure as the president without corresponding power supply to Nigerians is being read as a political move because of Obasanjo’s campaign against his re-election. Of course President Buhari should have activated the investigation of this huge scandal long before now but I believe it’s better late than never. It is not just a matter of grand corruption; it’s the greatest sabotage against the Nigerian economy and people. In addition, corruption continues because current practioners continue to act with opportunity because nothing happened to those who had done it previously.
SERAP had, in 2016, sent a petition to the then acting chief justice of Nigeria, Justice Water Onnoghen on the basis of its report, From Darkness to Darkness: How Nigerians are Paying the Price for Corruption in the Electricity Sector, demanding for action. They drew attention to accusations against the Dr. Ransom Owan-led board of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) of allegedly settling officials with millions of naira as severance packages and for embarrassing them with an alleged three billion naira (N3,000,000,000.00) fraud. They also called for the reopening and effective prosecution of corruption allegations, including the purported looting of the benefits of families of the deceased employees of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) leveled against a former permanent secretary in the Ministry of Power, Godknows Igali. Others cited included Liyel Imoke, who superintended the earlier programmes; Professor Chinedu Nebo, who handed over the asset of the PHCN to private investors on November 1, 2013 and was alleged to have corruptly funded the privatised power sector with over N200 billion, despite its privatisation. It is therefore not just an Obasanjo issue.
Nigeria became the only country in the civilised world where corrupt persons could get court injunctions stopping the prosecutorial agencies and the courts from investigating and prosecuting their corrupt acts. We must address the culture of impunity that has afflicted our nation.
Nigeria has been suffering from a real crisis related to the scale of the theft of public resources that is beyond all logic and can only be equated to madness. For decades, some public officials have been stealing billions of naira and subsequently some of them graduated into stealing billions of dollars. In the process, they have completely lost sight of rationality – i.e, how much you can reasonably spend in your lifetime and your children can in theirs. Two million dollars, for example, is over one billion naira and there is no way a family can reasonable spend one billion naira in their lifetime. I say reasonably because, of course, someone can spend one billion naira renting planes and buying houses that are too big for a family to live in.
One thing that has been scientifically proven about corruption is that when the system is able to punish those involved in corrupt practices, the quantum decreases steadily. When there is immunity for engaging in corrupt practices, however the quantum and scale of corrupt acts grow astronomically. Nigeria became the only country in the civilised world where corrupt persons could get court injunctions stopping the prosecutorial agencies and the courts from investigating and prosecuting their corrupt acts. We must address the culture of impunity that has afflicted our nation.