Buhari: I will recover $16b Obasanjo govt power cash: Obasanjo says he is an uninformed leader

The President vowed yesterday to recover the $16 billion power funds that went down the drain during former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration.

“Where is the power? Where is the money?” the President queried at the Oxbow Lake Pavilion, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, during the presidential campaign rally of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

He said his administration will go after all those involved in the power deals to recover the money and continue with the ongoing development of critical infrastructure for the common good.

Obasanjo was president on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from 1999 to 2007. His successor the late President Shehu Musa Yar’Adua launched a probe into the power projects. Many of the equipment got stuck at the ports while the probe lasted.

A mammoth crowd of party faithful thronged the rally for Buhari’s re-election and the election of APC candidates in the state.

Men, women and youths wearing vests and fez caps branded in APC colours were in a carnival mood, singing, drumming and shouting Sai Baba.

President Buhari, who is seeking another term on the APC’s ticket, at the Government House heliport in Yenagoa, was received by Governor Seriake Dickson, his deputy, Rear Admiral John Jonah, Information & Orientation Commissioner Daniel Iworiso-Markson, and other exco members.

Buhari was also welcomed by APC leader and former Governor Timipre Sylva; Minister of State for Agriculture Heineken Lokpobiri and APC state chairman Jothan Amos, among others.

The President and his team, including APC Presidential Campaign Council Director-General and former Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi and some members of the National Working Committee (NWC), proceeded to the secretariat of the State Traditional Rulers’ Council, where the APC candidate held talks with royal fathers, led by Twon Brass monarch Alfred Diette Spiff.

The President was given an Ijaw name, Ebiwari (Good House) by Amos, who referred to him as “a symbol of truth”  – to the admiration of the crowd.

President Buhari insisted that those who squandered the power funds would not go scot free.

He said: “You know we are building roads; the railway was virtually killed; we are rebuilding it and there was no power; we are bringing power back. The previous government mentioned on their own that they spent $16 billion for power.

“But you are better witnesses than myself; where is the power? Where is the money? We will follow them and eventually, God willing we will get them and we will get our money back.”

The President promised that the APC administration under him will continue to tackle seriously security, economy, infrastructure and corruption.

He said: “We are also promising that we will make people who occupy executive positions both in federal and state levels to  be accountable to the people. If you could recall when I came in 2015 under our great party, the party articulated three issues on which we campaigned and were voted in.

“These are security, economy and fighting corruption. On security, the people of the Northeast are the biggest witnesses of what we achieved because when we came, at least 17 local governments were under Boko Haram. As I speak now, none is under them. But they resorted to train the young men and women, wrap them up with explosives and ask them to explode it in churches, mosques, market places and in motor parks. That is even rare now.

“On economy, when we came in we had very high importation of food stuff. We thank God that in the three previous raining seasons,we realised bountiful harvests. The government’s contribution was to make fertiliser and other agricultural inputs available. That took away many able-bodied persons out of unemployment.

“On fighting corruption, under this system, it is very difficult. But I keep mentioning wherever I go that all those who have account to give should prepare to account for it. Those that are indicted were taken before the court and a number of them are in jail and a number of their properties had been taken away to be sold and put in the treasury to continue with infrastructure.”

The President praised the party leaders, saying the APC was stronger and that its strength would be tested in the forthcoming elections.

Sylva said the APC remained the stronger party in the state and thanked the President for assisting in payment of workers’ salaries through bailouts.

The former governor said the Ijaw people could be forgiven the last time for not voting President Buhari because their son contested the election against him; they had no reason not to vote for him in the coming election.

He accused the state government of spending N120 billion to build an airport without disclosing the contractor’s identity.

Addressing Buhari on why the people would vote for him, Sylva said: “Mr. President, you have also commenced and almost completed a major road in Bayelsa State connecting the community of the former President. You have also commissioned a major water project in Bayelsa, one in Otuoke and another one in Ekeremor, which was done from the Ministry of Agriculture.

“Bayelsa has many reasons they should vote for you again. I always say this to Bayelsa, it is as clear as crystal, visible to the blind and audible to the deaf that Mr. President is winning again. I tell my people that apart from the fact that Mr. President has done a lot, we must also vote for Mr. President because that is the winning team.

“Our father, Melford Okilo, taught us that our alliance with northern Nigeria must be sustained. And for us as Ijaw people, that is what we have always been known for. Let us not make any mistake. I learnt that some people came here to deceive Bayelsans, but we know them for whom they are. We call them ‘People Deceive People’.

“For Ijaw land to grow, we need a forthright President like President Buhari. Izon means ‘truth’ and it is our name as a people. We also know that the name Muhammadu Buhari stands for ‘truth’. Buhari is a truthful person. So, he is our natural ally. That is why we must all vote for President Buhari.

“He has brought many things to Ijaw land. I stand here as a son of Ijaw land, as a former governor and as a chairman of the Maritime University, which is also a school that was instituted by the President. Ijaw people have no reason not to vote for the President. This time we must vote en masse.

Lokpobiri urged the President to ensure a level-playing filed in Bayelsa to enable the APC prove its worth. He accused the state government of squandering N1.3 trillion that accrued to the state for seven years.

He said: “I have the mandate of the Bayelsa people to tell you that Bayelsa doesn’t want to be left of this moving train and winning movement. Right from the days of Melfford Okilo, Bayelsans have always known the party that would win. This time around, Bayelsans have already seen that your reelection had already been concluded.

“The only request we want is for a level-playing field to be provided for Bayelsans to show you that they love you. This state in the past seven years have received N1.3trn. This is excluding local government allocations, bailout funds and loans that run into hundreds of billions of naira.

“But Bayelsa is still one of the least developed states in the country. Bayelsa is still one of the darkest states in the country. Bayelsa civil servants have suffered the highest level of retrenchment in this country.”.

Lokpobiri asked the President to bring his anti-corruption drive to Bayelsa and make the state government account for the money it received without commensurate development.”

What happened to power sector cash, by Obasanjo

FORMER President Olusegun Obasanjo is of the view that those who believed his administration wasted $16 billion on power project implementation with nothing to show for it lacked proper understanding.

In a reply to queries on what happened to the $16 billion power sector funds under his administration, the former president said it was wrong for anybody to reply on what he called “unsubstantiated allegations against him by the then leadership of House of Representatives over the project”.

Before President Muhammadu Buhari vowed yesterday to probe the multi-billion dollar project, he had in May last year, queried where the funds went.

The former President, who responded through his media aide, Kehinde Akinyemi, blamed the query on lack of proper understanding.

He said:  ”It has come to the attention of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo that a statement credited to President Muhammadu Buhari, apparently without correct information and based on ignorance, suggested that $16 billion was wasted on power projects by “a former President.

“We believe that the President was re-echoing the unsubstantiated allegation against Chief Obasanjo by his own predecessor but one.

“While it is doubtful that a President with proper understanding of the issue would utter such, it should be pointed out that records from the National Assembly had exculpated President Obasanjo of any wrong-doing concerning the power sector and has proved the allegations as false.

“For the records, Chief Obasanjo has addressed the issues of the power sector and the allegations against him on many occasions and platforms, including in his widely publicised book, “My Watch” in which he exhaustively stated the facts and reproduced various reports by both the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which conducted a clinical investigation into the allegations against Chief Obasanjo, and the Ad-Hoc Committee on the Review of the Recommendations in the Report of the Committee on Power on the Investigation into how the Huge Sums Of Money was Spent on Power Generation, Transmission And Distribution between June 1999 and May 2007 without Commensurate Result.

“”We recommend that the President and his co-travellers should read Chapters 41, 42, 43 and 47 of My Watch for Chief Obasanjo’s insights and perspectives on the power sector and indeed what transpired when the allegation of $16 billion on power projects was previously made.

“If he cannot read the three-volume book, he should detail his aides to do so and summarise the chapters in a language that he will easily understand.

“”In the same statement credited to the President, it was alleged that there was some bragging by Chief Obasanjo over $16 billion spent on power. To inform the uninformed, the so-called $16 billion power expenditure was an allegation against Chief Obasanjo’s administration and not his claim.

“The President also queried where the power generated is. The answer is simple: The power is in the seven National Integrated Power Projects and eighteen gas turbines that Chief Obasanjo’s successor who originally made the allegation of $16 billion did not clear from the ports for over a year and the civil works done on the sites.

“”Chief Obasanjo challenges, and in fact encourages, anybody to set up another enquiry if in doubt and unsatisfied with the EFCC report and that of the Hon. Aminu Tambuwal-led ad-hoc committee.”