By Dirisu Yakubu – Abuja
A non-governmental organization, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has called for the re-opening of corruption cases involving former Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Power, Ambassador Godknows Igali and ex-chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, Ransome Owan, to recover stolen funds meant for the development of the power sector.
The group made the plea on Wednesday in Abuja, during a policy dialogue on promoting transparency and accountability in the electricity, judiciary and education sectors in Nigeria.
According to the group, “the cases to revisit include the case of the Ransome Owan-led Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, and the investigation of Mr. Godknows Igali on the alleged diversion of funds of deceased Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN workers.
“The Attorney General of the Federation should take measures to obtain, widely publish and act on the report of the Elumelu (Ndudi) House Probe Committee which had accused 21 persons and 36 companies of subversion of government policy on due process which gave rise to extension of contract beyond its original size, inflation costs, duplication of contract awards, other kinds of corruption and general lack of performance.”
Guest speaker, Professor Yemi Akinseye George, SAN while calling for stiffer penalties for perpetrators of corrupt practices, tasked Nigerians to show more than a passive interest in the way their country is being governed.
In a 15-point programme for promoting transparency and accountability, the senior advocate urged the federal to among others; lead the charge in taming corruption in the electricity sector.
He said, “The federal government should ensure that anti-corruption strategies in the Nigerian electricity sector focus on prosecution of suspected perpetrators of corruption and transparency and competition in the procurement process through public participation and independent regulatory institutions.”
To sanitize the education sector, Professor George called on government and stakeholders to ensure that outright proclamation of corruption and corrupt practices as outlawed vices in the Nigerian universities is done, saying, “There should be in place a system of promptly punishing convicted wrongdoers” as well as ensuring “strict compliance with rules and regulations irrespective of personalities involved.”
Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami in his goodwill remarks, expressed government’s determination to bring about maximum service delivery in the power sector. Represented by Abiodun Aikhomo, the minister promised to continuously support SERAP’s anti-corruption initiatives at all times.
“In the energy sector, the federal government has initiated some reforms to ensure transparency and accountability. This is why the PHCN was unbundled into several successor companies to break the monopoly.
NERC is equally playing a major role in sanitizing the system. The federal government has also launched an electronic platform that shows all expenditures of government so that the citizens are aware of how their money is being spent,” Mr. Aikomo stated.
On his part, Minister of Power, Saleh Mamman represented by a deputy director, Federal Ministry of Power, Aaron Artimas, urged power sector agencies to come together in the interest of the Nigerian people, even as he blamed what he called their struggle for superiority for the poor service delivery Nigerians have been facing for years.
“Distribution of power is still below 4,000mw. Trillions of naira have been allocated and every imaginable support has been given by the President, in addition to foreign support in order to get the problem addressed. We must all take responsibility but we keep blaming the government.
There is a lot of struggle among the agencies in the power sector-Distribution companies, DisCos against the Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN; TCN against Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading, NBET and what have you. All this boils down to one thing: responsibility,” Artimas noted.
The event was attended by stakeholders in the electricity, education and power sectors of the economy.