Leaders As Economic Terrorists – Essay by Ikechukwu Amaechi

No Comments » March 19th, 2008 posted by // Categories: Energy Development Project



 

 

http://www.independentngonline.com/

Tue, 18 Mar 2008 00:00:00

 

Leaders As Economic Terrorists

ikechukwu amaechi, candourniche@independentngonline.com



Sometime in 2006, Liyel Imoke, then Minister of Power and Steel, met with some journalists at the Airport Hotel Ikeja. He was in the eye of a storm after declaring, rather haughtily, that it would take Nigerians another 50 years to enjoy what citizens of other countries, even in Africa, had since taken for granted – regular power supply.

 

It was an ‘honest’ declaration by a man who was in a position to know but when scandalised Nigerians vented their spleen on the Minister of Power who was promising them darkness, he beat a quick retreat.

 

The Airport Hotel parley was a damage control gimmick by Imoke. He came with maps and charts. He made the best use of digital technology to illustrate the extraordinary work President Olusegun Obasanjo, the founder of modern Nigeria, was doing to banish darkness from the Nigeria. Like the magician he was and still is, he conjured ‘facts and figures’ to buttress his point that Nigerians had never had it so good.
He sounded quite convincing. Nigeria, very soon, would turn the bend in power supply, as the National Integrated Power Projects (NIPP) had

already become roaring success.

 

The glib talker he is, Imoke claimed that over 80 of the work on the Papalanto, Mambila and Omotosho power projects had been completed. By the last quarter of 2006, there would be no more darkness in the Obasanjo Kingdom called Nigeria, he assured. It took that long to put things right in the power sector because Obasanjo did not, initially, appreciate the level of rot in the system.

 

So convincing was he that my friend and colleague, Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye, a trenchant critic of the perfidy in the power sector, who was invited to the media briefing, decided, on his own volition, to sheath his sword and give the government the benefit of the doubt.

 

But of course, he was disappointed. The epileptic power supply neither improved by the last quarter of 2006 nor by the Obasanjo was forced to quit power on May 29, 2007.

 

So, what happened? Why did Obasanjo’s government fail to revamp the power sector despite Imoke’s assurance? The answer is simple. At the time Imoke was making his glib explanations, raising false hopes, he knew nothing was actually happening. Yes, contracts worth billions of Naira were being awarded but to people who had no business in the energy industry. It was money for the boys and slush funds to wage the impending do-or-die electoral battle. Simply put, Liyel Imoke was lying to Nigerians.

 

At the time the minister was claiming that work had almost been completed at the Mambila Power Station, there was nothing on site. And he knew because he was in the thick of the action. Before he became Minister of Power and Steel, he was the chairman of NEPA Technical Committee. As has been revealed at the ongoing House of Representatives probe into the disbursement of funds to the power sector under Obasanjo, over 300 contracts in respect of the NIPP were processed, approved and executed between Imoke and Obasanjo. The Presidential Steering Committee, which Imoke was a member was only a smokescreen. The billion dollars contracts were awarded without going through the tenders boards.

 

Testifying before the Ndudi Elumelu-led probe panel last week, Dr Aliyu Abdullahi, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Energy (Power) section, said, “Over 340 contracts by the Nigerian Integrated Power Projects were approved, while over 300 payments were made… The Permanent Secretary is usually the accounting officer, but the accounting officer then was the Minister of Power, Senator Liyel Imoke. The Minister approved everything without the knowledge of any Director or Permanent Secretary.”

 

The Managing Director of NIPP, Mr. James Olotu, corroborated Abdullahi’s damning evidence. “All NIPP projects were handled by the Minister and then the Presidency. The Permanent Secretaries were never involved. The Minister defended everything; we had no knowledge of any Director or Permanent Secretary that was involved from my records.”

 

As if these were not damning enough, the panel was told that a company, Energo Nigeria Limited, chaired by General Abdulsalami Abubakar, former military head of state, a man who is yet to account for the billions of dollars that were siphoned from our foreign reserves in the less than one year that he superintended over the affairs of the country, got N19.4 billion worth of contracts in local currency and £72,686,136 in foreign content for the construction of KVA substations and nine-kilometre transmission lines.

 

Of the amount, N13.2 billion (over 60 percent of the contract sum) had reportedly been paid to the company co-owned by Alhaji Hamza Abdullahi, former NEPA Managing Director. However, Thomas Lambeth, an Austrian and chief executive officer of the company told the probe panel that work done so far was less than 10 percent. To add insult to injury, the Energo boss had never visited the site; he does not even know where the site is. Elumelu threw another bombshell – the company was not registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). As I write, work had stopped on the project.

 

I have waited since Thursday to hear Abdulsalami’s rebuttal of these allegations. I had expected him to deny in very strong terms an attempt by his enemies to drag his good into the mud. But nothing, not even a whimper, had come from him. I still hope that it is not true that a former head of state connived with foreigners to defraud the country.

 

But if it turns out to be true, it raises very fundamental questions. What manner of leaders do we have in this country? And why this penchant for very primitive accumulation of wealth? What, for instance, has Abdulsalami done with all the wealth he accumulated (as was revealed during the Oputa Panel) when he was leader of the military junta in the very last months the locusts ravaged our commonwealth? Unemployment remains the scourge of the Northern population. Did it occur to Abdulsalami that with N13 billion or even less, the moribund textile industry in the North could be revamped and youths employed?

 

Then enters Pivot Engineering, a company, allegedly with a paid-up capital of only N2,000, securing a contract worth N12.091 billion, out of which N9.7 billion had been paid. Yet work done till date is reportedly not up to five percent. To make matters worse, the company’s Managing Director, David Braide, claimed that the agreement the company signed was for $26 million while Olotu claimed that the NIPP awarded the contract for $29 million. So, who built in the $3 million into the agreement and what has become of the differential?

 

Because this is Nigeria, nobody should be surprised if it is revealed tomorrow that these colossal sums of money were diverted into the importation of generators from Asian countries rather than building power stations. That is how callous these economic terrorists that masquerade as leaders are.

 

These are only tips of the axiomatic iceberg. The irony of the Nigerian tragedy is that Imoke has since been rewarded with the governorship of Cross River State. He failed as Power and Steel Minister and while Nigerians are still reeling from the pangs of his spectacular failure, he has moved on, saddled with higher responsibilities by the master(s) he served so well to the detriment of the collective good.

 

The sad thing is that at the end of the day, after all the hues and cries, nothing will come out of this probe, just as nothing came out of the previous probes. The Nigerian elites are united in their devious scheme to perpetually impoverish the masses. The economic depredators who masquerade as leaders will shamelessly keep their loot, while sanctimoniously exhorting the victims of their economic terrorism to be good Nigerians.

 

But it smacks of moral depravity for a man to connive with foreigners to defraud his own country. It is even more so when the culprits are men and women who have had, by omission or commission, the rare privilege of being in leadership positions.  

 

It is ungodly for these men to turn round and abuse such privilege by pillaging the national till.

 

In countries where the moral fibre of the people is still strong, men who commit financial crimes, as being alleged at the Elumelu Panel, should be tied to the stake and executed or at the very least spend the rest of their lives in prison.

 

The fact that these saboteurs are rather being rewarded with leadership positions and showcased to the outside world as our leaders is the reason the international community has nothing but contempt for us.

 

It also explains why this country will not make any progress unless something gives.   
 

 

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