IN February 2019 just before the general elections, President Muhammadu Buhari, candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, responded to caustic criticisms of his first term by former President Olusegun Obasanjo by vowing to probe how Obasanjo’s government allegedly spent $16bn on the power sector.
Addressing an APC rally in Yenagoa on his campaign tour of Bayelsa State, Buhari had declared: “The previous government had mentioned on their own that they spent $16bn on power but you are better witnesses than myself. Where is the power?
“Where is the money? We will follow them, eventually God willing, we will catch them and get back our money”.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, had in January this year also claimed that contractors were paid monies to provide power in the country which they never executed.
To achieve the same objective expressed by the President, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Programme, SERAP, having failed to get the Federal Ministry of Power to accede to its Freedom of Information, FOI, request to disclose details of how monies invested in the power sector was spent, approached the Federal High Court in Lagos to force the Ministry to comply.
SERAP obtained a judgement windfall when Justice Chuka Obiozor of the Federal High Court, Lagos, ordered the Federal Government to publish the names and other details of the contractors who allegedly disappeared with monies paid without duly executing the jobs.
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Justice Obiozor also ordered the Federal Government to publish on a dedicated website and widely circulate the “specific names and details about the contractors and companies paid by each government, the total amounts paid by each government and the objects for the payments; the level of implementation of electricity projects; as well as specific locations of projects executed across the country by each government”, according to SERAP in a statement.
The Federal Government was also ordered to disclose if there is any ongoing investigation and prosecution of erring contractors paid by government since 1999.
While we commend SERAP for its patriotic advocacy for full disclosure on these much-bandied allegations, we also give thumbs up to Justice Obiozor for granting SERAP’s request and issuing consequential orders.
This is in tune with the anti-graft agenda of the President Buhari administration which is highly applauded by Nigerians.
We, therefore, see current indications that the Buhari government is set to probe the power sector expenditures as a step in the right direction.
However, this probe, which is the second of its type (following the Hon Ndudi Elumelu-led investigations instituted by the House of Representatives in 2009) must be carried out professionally, devoid of media trials and political witch hunt.
Those responsible for keeping Nigerians in darkness and retarding our economy should be exposed and punished.