By Dele Sobowale
The Senate by announcing its plan to probe the Federal Governments since 1999 till 2015 has not only demonstrated its independence from the Executive branch, as should be the case, under the principle of separation of powers, it is embarking on a patriotic mission. The reason is simple.
More funds have been embezzled from allocations to power projects than on anything else except petroleum deals. At the very least, close to $20 billion remains unaccounted for, while power generation had remained almost static since 2007. But, before presenting the evidence, let me digress a little.
Each time a call to probe Obasanjo had been made, a nuisance message comes in asking why someone who left office eight years ago should not be left alone. It is the sort of defence of dishonest public officials which had encouraged looting. But, the sender cannot figure out, for himself, the correlation between our relative backwardness in power generation and the activities of looters. So, permit me to provide three examples from other countries.
Mr Spiro Agnew, was in his fifth year as the Vice-President of the United States, under President Nixon, when he received summons from Maryland State where he was Governor before he was tapped to run with Nixon. Inquisitive investigative journalists had uncovered evidence of tax evasion more than six years before. Agnew was forced to resign as VP, prosecuted and sentenced. No American, in his right senses in America protested against the probe. France, last year, prosecuted and sentenced former President Chirac for a crime committed thirteen years ago when he was a Presidential candidate. Nobody in France who does not need a psychiatrist found anything wrong with the matter. Israel beat that record when a former President was prosecuted and sentenced for a crime committed twenty-four years earlier. No Israeli questioned the punishment.
Our high tolerance for corruption committed by public officials is one of the reasons USA, France and Israel are developed and will continue to distance us. For them there is no statute of limitation preventing anyone from being probed – even hundred years after. OBJ’s friends will never learn that. I expect to receive their messages.
But, for those who still have their marbles intact, permit me to provide the evidence supporting probing Obasanjo’s government. Obasanjo had at least two accomplices however. He was Engineer Lyel Imoke, who went on to govern Cross River State, and his Minister of Finance, , who went on to become a Senator. Their exploits are recalled below.
The Obasanjo/Imoke/Nenadi power project started with clear violation of the constitution, proceeded with impunity, consumed between $13 and 16 billion. Yet, it failed to achieve its stated goal of lifting power generation in Nigeria to 10,000MW. One of the most important question for Nigerians today is what happened to N2.8 to N3.5 trillion, or more, of public funds spent on power under Obasanjo. Those against the probe must have a skeleton in their cupboards.