President Muhammadu Buhari says a former president has questions to answer over the $16 billion power project.
Buhari said this on Tuesday when he hosted the Buhari Support Organisation (BSO) led by Hameed Ali, Comptroller-general of the Nigeria Customs Service.
Although he did not mention the name of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, Buhari asked “where was the power after a former president claimed to have spent $16 billion on the project?”
“You know the rail was killed and one of the former heads of state was bragging that he spent more than 15 billion American dollars on power. Where is the power? Where is the power?” he asked.
In 2008, the house of representatives had described $16 billion spent on power by Obasanjo’s government as colossal waste, blaming it on “poor budget planning” and a lack of proper oversight by relevant bodies.
Two years ago, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) urged Walter Onnoghen, chief justice of Nigeria, to appoint an independent counsel to investigate allegations of corruption in the spending of $16 billion on electricity by Obasanjo’s government.
Buhari told his guest that his government had invested heavily in infrastructure.
He also appealed to Nigerians to live in one accord, narrating his experiences before he won the 2015 election.
“Now, we have to pay debts. This year and last year’s budget had the highest in capital projects: more than 1.3 trillion naira. Let anybody come and confront me publicly in the national assembly,” he said.
“What have they been doing? Some of them have been there for 10 years, what have they been doing? I said it about eight years ago that we have no other country than Nigeria. We should remain here and salvage it together no matter what you have outside. Now we get some of the people with houses here and may be in Abuja or somewhere in America and Europe, they swear, some of them to God, that it doesn’t belong to them.
“But their accounts, through the banks, through their companies, it is their own. But they say it’s not their own. This is a terrible time and the people are saying what are we doing? Why can’t you lock them up? And again, I went on by telling them that when I was in uniform, younger and rather ruthless, I got from the president downward locked up.
“I said you’re guilty, except you prove yourselves innocent. I myself was locked up and those who misappropriated public funds were given back what they had taken away. Who did anything about it?
“Then I decided to come again. I tried one, two, three four times. God agreed. And the third time I came and met a statesman outside the supreme court. My chief lawyer was Mike Ahamba, Roman Catholic and Igbo. He had witnessed in the box and asked the panel of judges that they should check on certain constituencies in certain states to bring us our register so that we can prove that the people that voted there were the people INEC submitted.
“They said ‘ah! We shall do it. They said no, you must write it. They wrote it. Whether to send to NEC or INEC refused them but when they came to give judgment, this issue was not raised. Another Igbo man, a Roman Catholic, he said that this is what happened. He was among the panel of the judges, he wrote a minority report in my favour. So, why this question of religion and ethnicity and so on. People are worshipping the dollars, the sterlings not to even talk of the naira.
“He wrote a minority reports saying this is what we have decided. But the president of that court was my classmate for six years in secondary school; he is from my own state. So, please, we have nothing to regret. Absolutely nothing. Since we all believe that God works in our hearts not in our talking. God help us, God help our children and grandchildren. We will try as much as we can to work and bring this country back to its senses. God has given Nigeria everything; we are rich in human and material resources that let us keep praying to God that He should put people of conscience in charge at all levels.”