Scandal looms in Nigerian power sector

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In a development that will surely be latched onto by the opposition, a parliamentary probe of how the immediate past Nigerian administration frittered away US$10 billion on the country’s power sector in eight years has revealed that the administration awarded a 370-million-naira power contract to a blacklisted German firm (117 naira=1US$).

The German firm, Lameyer, was said to have got the contract to carry out a feasibility study of the 2,600-MW Mambilla Hydro Electric Power Project in northern Nigeria, despite having been reportedly blacklisted by the World Bank for ”sorting government officials in some African countries”.

Though the firm collected the money from the Ministry of Energy, following the award of the contract in April 2005, it is yet to implement the contract, which was scheduled for completion in 15 months from the time it was awarded.

It was also discovered that the company built a bungalow worth 200 million naira near the site of power project, to make it look as if it had started work.

Mr. Ndudi Elumelu, Chairman of the House of Representatives’ panel investigating the contract, said the company should refund the money it collected.

Lameyer boss Bernerd Bensen confirmed to the panel that his firm got the money, but said it was unable to implement its contract because it was awaiting the report of the ”geo-technical investigation” on the project.

The House decided to probe the expenditure on the nation’s power sector during the Obasanjo years after President Umaru Yar’Adua disclosed that the past administration spent US$10 billion on the sector without a commensurate improvement in the sector.

House Speaker Dimeji Bankole later said the figure could be as high as US$16 billion.

Due process and the fight against corruption were the major planks of Obasanjo’s economic and social reforms, hence the revelation of alleged shady deals under his administration is sure to attract curious glances from the polity.

Critics of the immediate past President have consistently called on the nation’s anti-corruption agencies to probe him, amid reports that his once-moribund farm in Ota, near the commercial city of Lagos, is now a huge money spinner following his years in office. Panapress.

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