April 21, 2024

Senate alleges $5.792bn Mambila power project fraudulent, as EFCC continues investigation

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Oredola Adeola

The Nigerian Senate has described the actualisation of $5.792 billion Mambila Hydro-Electric Power Project as a mirage, as the Ministry of Power has hinted that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC) has opened investigations into the conduct of the government officials in the deal.

Sen. Gabriel Suswan, Chairman, Senate Committee on Power, made this known at the 2023 budget defence of government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) under the Ministry of Power in Abuja, on Tuesday.

The Chairman Senate Committee on Power said that the project was a mirage as far as National Assembly is concerned, arguing that money has been budgeted for many years and there was nothing on ground.

He said the initial scope of the project was slightly about 3,000 megawatts.

He said, “We were told that it was going to be re-scoped, even the re-scoping of the project has not been done.

“So in essence, it means that there is no project that is on ground like Mambilla. It is all about talks and lips service, that is why we are concern about the money that is provided for consultancy and the money used for the training of staff that supposed to be utilised if Mambilla was in place.

”Why provide monies all this years when nothing actually is on ground?” Suswan asked.

He further stated that the Senate Committee on Power has directed the Minister of Power to request the permanent secretary and other desk officers to appear before it to explain how the yearly budgetary allocations for Mambila has been utilised.

“Since 2017, monies has been provided for Mambila but nothing done on the project in spite of the pressure we have been mounting on federal government.

”It is clear that the Mambilla power project will not be able to start before the end of this administration,” he said.

The Minister of Power, Mr Abubakar Aliyu said the ministry met with stakeholders and all issues of concern have been resolved, adding that the litigation on the project was the only problem hampering its commencement.

“Regarding Mambilla, we have met with stakeholders and we are resolving the situation.

“It has something to do with litigation, there is nothing going on as regarding moving to site.

”The EFCC has stepped into the matter and we have given them information about it, we have given them history of the power project, our lawyers have interfaced with the anti-graft agency, unless we are able to pull out of litigation, we can’t do anything.

“I don’t think the investor will bring his money where there is encumbrance,” he said.

EnergyDay gathered that Sunrise, promoted by Leno Adesanya, had on October 10, 2017 taken the Nigerian Government to International Court of Arbitration, Paris, France, over the “breach of contract” in relation to a 2003 agreement to construct the 3,050MW power plant in Mambilla, Taraba state, on a “build, operate and transfer” basis.

Olu Agunloye, the minister of power in 2003, under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, awarded the contract without the approval of the Federal Executive Council(FEC), that reportedly asked him to step down the request for approval and explore other sources of funding for the project.

Sunrise however headed to ICC when the Federal Government under Late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, announced bid process for the civil works of the project.

The project has been facing series of litigations since then, until recent attempt by President Buhari to settle the arbitration in 2020, offering $200 million compensation, but this could not sail through due to funding issue on the part of the government.

How HEDA petitioned EFCC

The Human and Environmental Development Agenda Resource Centre (HEDA), a non-governmental and non-partisan human rights organization, had in 2019 petition the EFCC to investigate an alleged diversion of $600million funds.

The EFCC had after receiving the petition, commenced investigations into the conduct of the officials of the Ministry of Power, when the Ministry was under Babatunde Fashola, for their involvement in the alleged diversion of loan $600million released by the China Exim Bank to the Federal government to fund the power plant in 2017.

According to the petition signed by Mr. Olanrewaju Suraju, HEDA’s Chairman, the human right organisation referred the anti-graft agency to a letter written by Mr. Leno Adesanya, promoter of Sunrise, accusing the former Lagos State Governor, who was then the Minister for Power, Works and Housing concerning the loan.

HEDA had in the petition said, “Mr Adesanya’s letter stated the Minister refused to put the Mambilla Project on the bilateral discussion agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari China in April, 2016, when he visited China.

” Mr. Leno in the letter claimed that he appealed to Governors Nasiru El Rufai and Alhaji Mohammed Badaru Abubakar and the Minister for Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbe who went with President Buhari to China to make the Mambilla Project a priority.”

“Mr. Leno Adesanya also alleged that on the 30th of June, 2015, President Buhari personally instructed him to report any act of corruption that may want to delay the accomplishment of the Mambilla project.

“He also alleged that he wrote a letter on the 16th August, 2017 to the President questioning the treacherous attempt of the Fashola to get the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to approve a multi-billion Solar Power project without the necessary feasibility studies, EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) report, budget approval by the National Assembly which in turn resulted in no Due Process Certificate.”

HEDA also stated that the promoter of Sunrise in the letter also alleged that the former Lagos State Governor misled the Chief of Staff to the President, Late Abba Kyari in a memo dated 22ndof May, 2017 to remove Sunrise Power and Transmission Company Limited from the project.

“It was stated in the report that the 3050MW power project, when and if accomplished should power thousands of industries in the northern area of our country and generate at least 5 million direct and indirect jobs, hence boosting the economy of the nation on the whole.

“The position occupied by the Honourable Minister of Power, works and housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola being a public office is one that calls for utmost integrity, accountability and responsibility.

“Hence, based on the above conveyed report, we believe this allegation of diversion is grave and should be treated with all sense of importance and in turn, we hereby demand for an immediate and urgent investigation of the said diversion of $600 Million from funds planned for the 3050MW Mambilla Hydropower Project by Fashola to a multibillion-dollar Solar project that did not gone through the due process to be implemented.”

HEDA stressed that, “We as an organization relentless on seeing transparency and accountability actualized, owing to this backdrop, we hereby appeal that you use your good office to ensure that this matter is properly, effectively and painstakingly investigated with a view to ensuring that due process is followed in the actualization of the said project.

HEDA had in that petition referred the EFCC to names of officials mentioned in the letter to support some of the assertions made by Mr. Adesanya against the then Minister of Power.

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