In most civilized democratic society when allegations run amuck insinuating impropriety in handling of public funds, the officer with whom the fund is kept in trust, is expected to honourably resign or step aside from active duties. This allows for investigations to be carried out without hindrances or mutilation instigated by the alleged public officer, and more-over, it also ensure that the activities of the public office go on without distractions that may arise from the probe of the officer. If the President Muhammed Buhari anti-corruption crusade is to be taken serious, Nigeria cannot afford to be an exception in this regard.
The news media is awash with report of efforts of the Senate through its joint Committee on Power and Public Accounts to probe the Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Babatunde Fashola on his arbitrary, reckless and unlawful spending of over $35Million ware-housed by Nigeria Electricity Bulk Trading Company (NBET) from a pool of $1Billion Eurobond issue accessed by the administration of President Jonathan in 2013. Our concern at this point would be clearer with a brief narrative of some salient background fact on how intrinsic, systemic corruption perpetuated by individual holds us at ransom as a nation.
It would be recalled that when the former President Olusegun Obasanjo was shuttling round the globeto persuade financial institutions for our debt forgiveness, one of the revelations was that most of the borrowed money were expended on bogus, non-viable projects while the larger chunk found its way into the pockets of policy administrators. It is also apposite that in the past, over N35billion has been expended on the power sector, going down the drain with sleaze without any improvement in the sector. We are even more scared with the antecedent of Babatunde Fashola in this regard. He left Lagos State Government with an unwieldy foreign and local debt profile of over N1tn despite the high internally generated revenue. During his screening by the Senate, there was a mild drama when the ex-Governor feigned ignorance of the scandalous N78 spent from Lagos public funds to build his personal website; he shamelessly claimed that he does not sign cheques!
The $1billion Eurobond issue was gotten by the Federal Government in 2013, part of it; the sum of $350million was earmarked for NBET in 2014, as part of the power generation project reforms. Information spilling out now is the Minister has once again dipped his fingers into public funds; he has unilaterally given $29Million to General Electric and $6Million to others ostensibly for an Afam Fast Power Project. The huge question is that it cannot be ascertained if there is sustainable feasibility on the viability of this project, whether there is presidential approval but obviously there was no appropriation by the National Assembly. It beats one’s imagination how a supposed senior legal luminary could contemplate a policy actions without rudimentary backing of due process and law. This is not surprising however as the Minister has once been queried by the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP) for constructing roads and bridges without the necessarily following the statutory due processes and approvals.
We at the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, CACOL, do not only throw our support behind the invitation of the joint Senate Committee to invite the Minister for clarification, we call on the lawmakers to conduct a comprehensive audit of the $1billion Eurobond as their might have been other infractions committed without been yet exposed to the public glare. If the Minister and others are found culpable in any malfeance, they should be appropriately reported and hand over to the anti-corruption agencies for further investigation and prosecution. CACOL therefore, unequivocally call on the Minister to step aside for smooth probe of his deeds of brazen and daring expenditure of public funds, $35Million already spent, without statutory appropriation.
Executive Chairman, CACOL
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