Saturday, May 31, 2008
IBB wants Obasanjo probed
Former Military ruler and self-styled evil genius, General Ibrahim Babangida has endorsed the probe of the eight years rule of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, saying it is a welcome development for Nigeria.
Babangida who spoke in Sagamu, Ogun State said there was nothing unusual to probe the tenure of Obasanjo in view of the series of allegations of corruption leveled against the former President and members of his cabinet, noting that former president Obasanjo embarked on similar excercise when he took over in 1999.
"There is nothing new in the probe. Obasanjo did the same when he first came and it is not a new thing if he is probed," IBB said while answering questions from reporters.
THE Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), had said it had commenced investigation into the eight-year administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Announcing the commencemnet of the probe of the Obasanjo administration,the Head, General Investigations of the anti-graft agency, Mr. Sanda Umaru, said: "We are fighting the same cause. The truth of the matter is that we are on that issue (probing Obasanjo administration) at the moment. We want everyone to know that we are on it and definitely we will get to where we are going.
The probe of Obasanjo was sequel to series of petition sent to the EFCC from various interest groups and the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP).
CNPP had urged the EFCC to " invoke the powers of the Commission as provided in the EFCC Act, to investigate and prosecute Chief Olusegun Obasanjo's clan of lucrative holdings."
The specific allegations levelled against Obasanjo by CNPP include that he withdrew over N1trillion from the NNPC and Federation Accounts with neither authority nor appropriation by the National Assembly. CNPP described such withdrawals as "gross economic and financial crime. The Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission severally fought to stem the tide of the withdrawals scourge; as a last resort it has no alternative but sue the Executive." It said Obasanjo even wrote to the Senate requesting for the dismissal of the RMAFC chairman, Alhaji Hamman Tukur, be cause of the suit.
CNPP also charged that Chief Obasanjo, "during his tenure, illegally appointed himself the minister of petroleum resources, contrary to section 147 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Secondly, his activities in the oil industry were shrouded in secrecy, as he never rendered proper accounts of the oil revenue to relevant agencies like the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC). Thirdly, it is also on record that neither Federal Executive Council nor National Assembly was ever presented memoranda or budget of the oil industry."
The petitioners said, "As Petroleum Minister, the transaction detail was only between himself and the Managing Director of NNPC. Our investigation shows that between 2000 and 2006, Nigeria lost over $130billion unaccounted revenue. A thorough investigation will crack the secrecy and reveal the wanton billon of dollars and that had vanished from the sales book."
Another allegation was that "between 1999 and 2006, over $ 1billion was spent on refineries rehabilitation. The rehabilitation failed and Nigeria was criminally left at the mercy of international oil market fluctuation". In the twilight of his regime, CNPP said, Obasanjo "sold the refineries to his cronies as scraps. For simple logic dictates that equipment is more profitably marketed if functional than sold a scrap. In the case of Kaduna refinery he spent over $200m to repair it and auctioned it at $106m."
With regards to NITEL's sale during the Obasanjo era, CNPP said Investors International Limited (ILL) of London, which at first bought NITEL, "is owned by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo cronies and was induced into buying up NITEL. In the process First Bank Plc. was approached to raise the loan for the payment of 10% first payment in to bid of $1.37billion. The bank in obedience to Mr. President lent $100m (One Hundred Million Dollars) to ILL, which the company paid as part of the required 10% deposit to Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) in lieu of NITEL shares. The loan became controversial as a lot of questions were raised as it contravened Bank and Other Financial Institution Act (BOFIA) 1991. The BOFIA states clearly that no Bank can give a loan to a single client in excess of 35% of the value of its shareholders fund. In the midst of the controversy, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo withdrew $100m from the Federation Account without appropriation by National Assembly to offset NITEL indebtedness to the bank, just before the auction took place."
Among other Obasanjo-era transactions that CNPP wants EFCC to probe are the sale of the Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria (ALSCON) to the second highest bidder, the Russian firm Russel, for $205million even though the American company BFIG made the highest offer of $410m. CNPP said "Russel was paid $160m for the dredging of Imo River, allowed to open an escrow account, which BFIG was denied." It also said, "The puzzle today is that ALSCON was handed over the Dayson Holding BVI and not Russel. We appeal to EFCC to unravel who owns the offshore company Dayson Holding and how much was paid to Nigeria through the BPE."
CNPP also asked for probes of the sales of Ajaokuta Steel Company, Hilton Hotel, and NICON Insurance Plc, the Integrated Power Projects and University Teaching Hospital equipment contracts, which it said "were awarded by presidential fiat," as well as the $7.7billion spent to build substations, transmission lines and gas pipelines which have not taken off. "Geregu, Omotosho, Papalanto and the seven power projects are without gas pipelines, substations and transmission lines and will not in the near future supply us energy", it said.
CNPP also wants EFCC to probe the Egbin power station contracts, the sales of Federal Government houses "at pea-nut prices", the N10 billion it said was spent on poverty alleviation projects, the N100 million Plateau State ecological fund money that former governor Chief Joshua Dariye said he donated to the Obasanjo campaign, the N6.4billion Obasanjo Presidential Library project and Bell Schools, the many Customs duty waivers granted by the Obasanjo regime, and the 200 million Transcorp shares that Obasanjo bought.