REp. Ndudi Elumelu, a member of the House of Representatives is one of the aspirants seeking the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP for the forthcoming gubernatorial election in Delta State. An insurance executive turned lawmaker, Elumelu came to national limelight as the chairman of the House ad-hoc committee that investigated the investments made by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration in the power sector. He was the chief hunter who later became the hunted as the echoes of that investigation ebbed as he was named in an alleged scam in the rural electrification project. He, however, stoutly defended himself and was discharged and acquitted.
Mr. Elumelu who is serving his second term in the House of Representatives recently met with Vanguard’s senior editors during which he responded to issues that have shadowed his political life and again robustly defended himself of the allegation of turning against his friends, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan and Chief James Ibori. Excerpts:
By Gbenga Oke
On the power probe in the House of Representatives
THe first thing I faced was when the then President, Yar’Adua summoned me and requested he has an assignment for me and that was the issue pertaining to the power sector. Yar’Adua said he felt because of my family background I will not be influenced by anybody. He said he needed me to look at the sector very critically.
During the hearing, a lot of revelations came up and we had to go on assessment tour after the hearing and we made our report known and of course there were insinuations, there were counter accusations, but we were not bothered because we had to do what needed to be done in that circumstance because the country had no electricity.
We did that and of course when you fight corruption, corruption will fight you back. At the end of the exercise, some cabal and some people who felt that I stepped on their toes came after me and there were allegations in which they took me to the court.
Whereabouts of contractors
Let me clear this, first I never wrote any statement, I was in the United Kingdom and I was invited by the EFCC because I was already working with them based on our report being the person who chaired the panel. So when I got the EFCC’s invite, I thought it was a follow up on giving them information as to the whereabouts of those contractors who were not performing.
As a matter of fact, when we started the probe all the contractors rushed to the site to ensure they fast-tracked the project. So when I got to the EFCC, I was asked to wait for the chairman because he was not in. I waited till about 7pm and the next thing I was told was to wait and we were taken underground and there we stayed for two days and thereafter, I was told I will be taken to court. And I asked what was my offence and some one told me I stepped on toes and that was why I was invited to the EFCC.
It was when we got to Gudu Court that they read out charges that 10 of us conspired and stole $5 billion and they also went to my brother to tell him I lodged the money in Zenith Bank, that was to get my brother to be against me. Eventually, verifications were done and the late President Yar’Adua was also told we actually took the money, for him he felt disappointed but he never had the opportunity of investigating.
Eventually we got bail and I began to investigate and I was able to get volumes of what happened in REA even though that was not under my purview. I had to find out whether there was a fraud in the agency and my answer was no. Contracts were duly awarded to contractors and monies were paid to them. So I had to fight back and I sued them because I needed them to show me where my name came up in the course of alleging what was claimed we did.
I was taken to two courts, Gudu and Federal High Court, Abuja and in those two courts, I challenged them and defeated them and afterwards, I sued the Federal Government for N10 billion but some leaders prevailed on me to withdraw the case.
It is alleged that your probe stalled the power projects and was more of a political weapon to hound former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
I wonder how they would have asked me to witch-hunt. Go and check my report and see what I wrote on President Obasanjo, check whether there was anything to say we were witch-hunting Obasanjo. People ill advised Obasanjo not to appear before us, that was the only thing. I can tell you that we did well for Nigerians by providing an avenue for us to be given un-interrupted electricity. During Obasanjo’s time, he set up many power stations like Geregu, Omoku phase 1 and 2, Alaoji phase 1 and 2, Gbarain station in Bayelsa, Calabar, Ihobo in Benin, Ughelli, Sapele, these were the new sub stations under the NIPP projects and the essence of it was to increase the generation to a particular percentage.
Let me tell you, I have the record of the Auditor General of the federation who audited the system and his own is worse than mine. Was that a disservice? I can publish all these things, it is because I have children that are yet to grow up which is why I am minding what I do.
They burnt down my house during the probe in Abuja because they offered me money and I refused. I had to take my family out of the country, they were virtually living abroad during my probe and as I speak to you, my mother is abroad. Is not taking bribe a disservice?
Today, are you not using generator in a land of plenty, was that a disservice? Chinese people used briefcase to come to Nigeria, they collected our money and ran away.
Look at Omotosho, Papalanto, go there and check the power station, was that a disservice by us that we made you to see what has happened. I have too much information and that is why I don’t talk because there is a stage you will get, when you see rot, what you will do is keep quiet so that it does not kill you.
I know of a man from Lagos State who was my colleague, when we went to Shiroro and he saw injustice and disservice to the nation, the man started peeing in his trousers out of pain and agony that can this can’t be true? That in Nigeria where he is managing what he gets, somebody is bringing briefcase and collaborating with Nigerians, steal money and contract is not done.
In fact, when I was doing that probe, I used my personal money to do it, Dimeji Bankole who was speaker then is still alive. When we finished, I wrote a bill and up till today, it has not been paid. Was that a disservice? Who was I witch-hunting? I don’t want to go into so many things because
I had to cover many things. That probe was meant to straighten things and how can it be disservice when almost all my recommendations is what they are using today. The President understood and the present permanent secretary in power told me my brother, it is now I am seeing what you saw in the power sector.
You are one of the Delta guber aspirants that met with Chief E.K Clark and came out with a communiqué chiding Governor Uduaghan and his predecessor, Chief James Ibori. Given your past relationship with the two men why did you do that?
Yes aspirants met at Chief Clark’s house and they put up some write ups. We must avoid being personal when there are collective decisions. We went there because we felt that the state was going into a situation that all of us may not be able to control and we needed good counselling and we went to Chief Clark who is a nationalist in all ramifications.
Then he advised that being a father for all, that if there are things we feel we do not like, we should pass it. Some said it is difficult reaching out to my governor, I don’t have such scenario because there is no week my Governor and I don’t communicate but I cannot single myself out. What we needed was guidance and that is what we met Chief Clark for and we said let us be careful so that we don’t overheat the place.
Charting a common goal
I think people should appreciate the fact that all aspirants are coming together to chart a common goal, it was never done before. I do call virtually all of them and fortunately we are three aspirants from my local government and we have this slogan that it must Aniocha North that will produce.
I think people should appreciate that for the first time, all the aspirants are coming together, I call virtually all of them, I communicate with virtually all of them and we have this slogan that it must be Aniocha North and I think that should be commended. It is like when men are chasing one women together, it is impossible to communicate with each other. But today, it is possible because the grace of God is there and we are looking beyond personal interest to think of collective interest and the interest of the people and that is why we have all come together.
On the issue Ibori being my friend, I have never served in James Ibori’s government, Okowa served, Omo Agege served, David Edevbe served, Ofuani and Ochei, all these people served under Ibori. So it is not a personal thing, I have never collected one Naira contract, anybody can go and verify from the government in Delta state.
You claimed not to have done contract with government or been bribed by contractors, so how have you been funding your high flying campaign?
Let me quickly tell you that it is my family that is responsible for this my venture and a lot of my friends are also involved.
They have been doing it and they are still doing it. Secondly, that I did not take money or contracts from successive governments, yes because prior to when I went to the House, I was an insurance expert.
So I don’t need to soil my hands, I have an insurance company and my wife is the one managing it on my behalf now. On daily basis, the company runs itself without my being there, so I don’t need to go to anybody because God has been so good to my family. When my mates were thinking of how to survive, my family got me a house and I had not even dreamt of becoming a politician before having my first house in London.