Is it possible that three former Presidents, Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan, collectively and jointly squandered N11 trillion on the nation’s electricity project as alleged by a Civil Society Organisation (CSO), the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP)? The money was meant to provide regular electricity supply to Nigeria and Nigerians in a manner that will boost the production processes essential in sustainable nation building.
The report by the CSO claimed that the money represented public funds, private equity and social investment (or divestments) in the power sector. It also stated that the figure is estimated to reach a N20 trillion mark in the next decade given the rate of government investment and funding in the power sector amidst dwindling fortune and recurrent revenue shortfalls.
The organisation hit the nail on the head when it stated the obvious which is that the power sector reforms in Nigeria under the Electric Power Sector Reform Act of 2005 is decidedly a sham that is yet to yield the anticipated results, to wit, lift the veil of darkness off the nation’s power supply system. And from all indications, in our opinion, no such positive development is in sight in the foreseeable future taking into consideration the pace at which policies in the sector are being implemented.
The report blamed the unfortunate situation on corruption and impunity of perpetrators, regulatory lapses and policy inconsistencies. Those are very much in the public domain even if not much is being done to ameliorate their negative impact on the nation’s socio-economic life.
The report went into specifics and pointed out that the Obasanjo’s administration spent $10 billion on the Nigerian National Integrated Power Project (NIPP) which was conceived in 2004 by the then President to address the issues of insufficient electric power generation and excessive gas flaring from oil exploration in the Niger Delta region. Not done, it revealed that $13.278, 937,409.94 was expended on the power sector in eight years while unfunded commitments amounted to $12 billion.
Between 2003 -2007, another N16 billion went down the drain for sundry reforms in the sector. Yet there was no light. It was also alleged that under one of those administrations, the much celebrated privatized power sector was funded with over N200 billion despite that policy.
Curiously, in our view, the anti-graft campaign is yet to flash its light on this unimaginable level of sleaze in the public sector. If the personalities involved are the stumbling block on the road to recovering these monies, we should go to Israel and learn how a former Prime Minister was disgraced out of office and jailed for collecting bribe, an amount that pales in size and significance to the one under survey in Nigeria. Elsewhere also, this disclosure is enough to send some people to the gallows. Or for that matter, the content of this report which has not been contradicted by the individuals concerned, would have been enough for Nigerians to march out in the streets and demand an explanation.
The private electricity companies, even with this humongous amount that was ostensibly expended on electricity projects that brought no benefit to the people, have continued to inflict pains and misery on electricity consumers thereby increasing their woes through regular bombardment with outrageous bills as if to suggest that they deserved to be punished for tolerating that level of impunity from their so called leaders.
President Yar’Adua is dead (may his soul rest in peace) but we still have Obasanjo and Jonathan around to tell the country what they know about the money and especially why Nigerians must continue to bear the shame of absence of electricity on a constant basis. The SERAP report recommended that the National Assembly should step into the matter and unravel the details of that expenditure. Under normal circumstances, that would have been the ideal step to take.
But in Nigeria, normalcy in all facets of the nation’s life, especially when such amount of money is involved, is a scarce commodity. If anything, the suggested investigation will only anger the people the more and remind them of their stupidity in trusting their leaders the way they do. We have not forgotten the Honourable Elumelu episode. With all the interests it generated at the time, it ended in a whimper.
The disappointing aspect of this malfeasance, sadly, is that the perpetrators loom large in the public space as if to dare the rest of us to do our worst. They are the most vocal on issues relating to corruption and how it has hamstrung efforts to translate the claim of the country as the giant of Africa into a workable and achievable thesis.