Why we have not invited Obasanjo

  • Sunday, March 30, 2008 - By JAMES OJO, Abuja.
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The House of Representatives committee on Power and Steel probing how $16billion was wasted on power reform between 1999 and May 2007 has yet to invite former President Olusegun Obasanjo to personally appear before the committee, but this fact, a member of the committee said, has not foreclosed the possibility of his being summoned before the conclusion of investigation into what has turned out to be the biggest scam so far unearthed by the new administration.

Patrick Obahiagbon, representing Oredo federal constituency of Edo state, told SATURDAY SUN exclusively that no invitation had been extended to the former president, whom Nigerians believe, and as confirmed by revelations at the public hearing, supervised the disbursement of huge sums in the energy sector.

Expectations were high that Obasanjo would be summoned to appear before the panel, but Obahiagbon said that the work of the committee had just started and that it was the belief of members that as facts are unmasked and it becomes inevitable to summon the former president, nothing on earth could stop the committee from doing so.

Asked if the committee sent invitation to the former president, he said Yes and No. “Yes, but personally No. At personal level, we have not invited him because the committee believes that we must start from somewhere and until we get to somewhere in the process of our investigation and it becomes clear to us that we need him to make clarifications, we will surely invite him.
“Of course, investigation on what was spent on power reform is still on. What people have seen is the cinematography of chapter one. We are embarking on the second chapter and this is the visit to project sites. Certainly, he would be invited. We are going out for the second leg of our fact finding in the couple of weeks.

“We must do all these before we begin to ask him questions. Has it become germane to invite the former president? It is when we have finished collating our facts that we’ll be in a position to ask the question whether it is fair on the part of the committee to engage in any ecumenical dissertation without giving the former president fair hearing. We shall equally ask the questions, whether it is not unfair
Obahiagbon wants Nigerians to believe the words of the chairman of the committee, Hon Ndudi Elumelu, that the committee was not afraid of anybody, that if need be, the former president would testify before the committee, even if it is behind camera, before the report is ready for presentation to the plenary for consideration.

From the avalanche of written and oral evidences before the committee, he said that there was incontrovertible fact that many things were wrong in the handling of award of contracts in the power sector under President Obasanjo’s nose.
“To borrow the word of Peter Pan, I can say that members of the committee were overwhelmed and flabbergasted on what we saw that there was surfeit lawlessness, surfeit of violation of Due process in the regime that made the fight against corruption a mantra.

Where OBJ derailed
“I would never have expected in my widest imagination that what we saw, what we are seeing and what we are likely to see in what has become odoriferous and sheer malady in the power sector, would have taken place between 1999 to 2007, given the sanctimonious sloganeering of the administration in following due process,”

He is of the view that the point at which it was decided to fund the National Independent Power Project [NIPP] from the proceeds of the Excess Crude Accounts, instead of budgetary allocation marks the beginning of the shenanigans that became the hallmark of the laudable project as revealed by the public hearing.

“That was the beginning of lack of due process. The question one would ask is: was it constitutional? Was it legal for the Obasanjo government to have funded NIPP projects from money jointly owned by the three tiers of government?
“I would say, in all ramifications, that that singular action from any focal imagination was clearly unconstitutional. It is an impeachable offence. It is not possible to put something on nothing and expect it to stand.”

Nigerians, he said, have every justifiable reason to be skeptical about what becomes the end products of the tasks that had opened the Pandora’s box in the power sector when juxtaposed with similar assignments in the past, but Obahiagbon told Nigerians not to be weary, or doubt the capacity and ability of the members of the committee to produce a report that would be implementable.
Reactions from members of the public that thronged the public hearing to some postulations by some characters that played vital roles in the disbursement of funds, he noted, were an indicator of what the people expected from the committee and what they expected from the power sector.

That is why he considers as the most insensitive, attempt to distract the committee by those that came to deliver lecture on the amount needed to make electricity available for Nigerians.
“I considered it the most insensitive statement to have been made. I don’t think Nigerians are crying because of not realizing that fact we need colossal amount to the energy sector.
“Nigerians, to me, are not oblivious of what obtains in the international circle. Nigerians need huge amount to get light, but what there are complaints about is that x amount had been expended so far, have we got commensurate result? Can you justify the amount that had been sunk into the power sector so far?

“That is the issue, if you leave that issue and you begin to talk about the enormity of the resources needed to fund the energy sector, that person is simply dwelling on the parochial domain of fallacious genre. Simply put, the person is begging the question and the person will end up in logical portmanteau of narrow matrix,”
Obahiagbon however assured that the committee would not compromise in the onerous task of exposing all the characters, locally and internationally that conspired to cripple the power sector.
“We have a chairman that had warned members not to mortgage the trust imposed on us by the leadership of the House and the faith of multitude of Nigerians demonstrated at the public hearing, even though we expected more people to come out and tell us what they know about the mismanage in the power sector. We have taken it upon ourselves that whoever tries to corrupt any member would be handed to the police, while the member would be handed to the ICPC and EFCC. This is our covenant on this probe,”

Threats embolden us
He confirmed the desperation of some contractors and their collaborators of engaging in the infamous act of threatening members of the committee to stop exposing their nefarious activities, when all overtures to buy the conscience of the committee were rebuffed.
“Yes, the threat is real. Let me say that it is sardonic, it is lugubrious, that contractors or Nigerians would display an act of desperation to the extent of threatening members through telephone calls. The chairman of the committee has been bombarded with such threats on daily basis,” he said.

Apart from the chairman, he alleged that vocal members of the committee at the public hearing, like himself have been inundated with threats. “I have received several calls warning that we should stop what we are doing, that Nigerian Aegean stable can not be cleaned by one man or a group of persons.
“They even dare us that if we leave Abuja to visit the various projects, that the rest would be history for us.”

Asked if he and other members of the committee were not bordered about a threat coming from persons with huge money to throw around, Obahiagbon said that members of the committee are least bordered about the threats. He said that the threats actually embolden them the more.
“We in the committee believe that power of life belongs to God. We believe that somebody or a group of persons must fix the quagmire that has become the lot of the Nigerian state. We believe that somebody must be able to do the right thing to move the nation forward.
“As far as the Power and Steel committee of the House of Representatives is concerned, we are ready to do our job, damn the consequences of opening the rottenness in the power sector for the benefit of Nigerians without fear or favour,” he warned.

International conspiracy
What the committee tends to achieve beyond the mandate to search for the colossal money pumped into the power sector without commensurate result, he said, is to debunk the notion that regular electricity supply in Nigeria was jinxed.
Accepting the fact that collaborators exist to sabotage efforts to fix the energy problems in the country, Obahiagbon said that it only takes two to tango, that is, a Nigerian collaborating with a foreigner to frustrate attempts to have constant power supply in the country.

“I will not claim ignorance of the fact that there are veritable allegations to the fact that the reason why Nigeria is still in the state of Siberia darkness may have to do with the conspiratorial school of thought, which seems to be buttressed by virtue of the fact that at least, nothing less than 80% of the contractors were representatives of fronts for international monopoly of finance capitals of the world.
“Go and read what Walter Rodney said on how Europe Underdeveloped Africa, you will know that it takes two to tango.
“International monopoly finance capitals can not hold Nigeria hostage to facilitate instability if they do not find a collaborator in Nigeria. For every act of neocolonialism, there is a Nigerian collaborator,” he noted.

Some culprits have rushed back to site
Obahiagbon revealed part of the antics of the internal collaborators and their foreign counterparts, after the conclusion of the public hearing. According to him, some contractors after testifying before the panel had rushed back to the sites to start fixing something on ground to justify the claims made before the public sitting of the committee.
“No gainsaying the fact that we in the committee have been saddled with the phobia of the rumour that most of the contractors had run post haste to their site location with a view to cover the lacuna in the contractual agreement. Remember, that some of the contractors wee honest enough to tell Nigerians that they don’t even know the sites.

“But I don’t think one month will be enough for any contractor to fool Nigerians. Don’t forget too that before we started the public hearing, we too, as a committee have, visited most of these sites.
“For instance, what magic will any contractor do on the Mambilla Plateau to justifying the colossal amount that had been advanced? I want to assure Nigerians that the committee has that capacity and efficacy to debunk such shenanigans that might have been put in place by any dubious contractors,” he submitted.

Yar’Adua is up to the task
Obahiagbon wants Nigerians to believe, that just like the committee was determined to get to the root of the power sector mantra, President Umaru Yar’Adua equally possessed the political will to implement what the House will decide on the reports of the committee.
“For a president who was practically installed by the outgone president to come out to the whole world and declare that over $10billion was wasted on power sector without anything to show for it, deserves commendation. We should commend his gut. We must commend his courage, for him to feel dissatisfied with the affairs in the power sector and determine to change it. It takes a strong will to do so”.

Highfaluting words
A lawyer by profession, born of Catholic parents, but now a member of the Roscrucian Order, Obahiagbon has carved a niche for himself in the usage of highfaluting words and showcasing of the rich culture of Benin people.
Tall and lanky Obahiagbon, with two Master Degrees, says the secrets of using highfaluting words to express himself was his penchant for reading of Nigerian Newspapers and all manner of books, right from his secondary school days.

“I am an omnivorous reader. I read wide. I would say without been immodest, and humility, that I read practically all I needed to read before I entered the University of Benin to read Law.
“In fact, I can say that the university system miseducated me because it streamlined my reading scope. It stunted the trajectory of my intellectual discovery, which I embarked upon before I entered university.
“Unknown many homo sapien, the nature plank of my oratorical prowess was Nigerian newspapers, which I read on daily basis with passion. In the last 20 years, I have read a minimum of four newspapers daily and in the past 8 years, I have read a minimum of 7 newspapers every day.
From the newspapers, Obahiagbon said that he learnt new words, new phrases from columnists, while the reading of Dictionary was also a daily routine.

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