Former Minister To Face Forgery, Corruption Charges After Days In EFCC Custody

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Former Minister To Face Forgery, Corruption Charges After Days In EFCC Custody

The former Minister of Power and Steel Olu Agunloye may soon face charges of corruption and forgery as he spends his fifth consecutive day in detention after submitting himself to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Mr Agunloye surrendered himself for interrogation on 13 December, a day after he was declared wanted by the commission over corruption allegations regarding a failed multi-billion-dollar Mambilla Hydropower project.

EFCC sources, who asked not to be named to discuss the matter with our reporter, said charges have been drafted and would soon be filed in court and served on the former minister.

The sources said he was declared wanted because he jumped the administrative bail granted to him.

“We obtained a court order to detain him to conclude investigations,” one of the sources added.

Ex- minister’s associate speaks
But an associate of the former minister, Oluwafisan Bankale, wrote in a statement on Sunday, that he was “neither in hiding nor on the run.”

“By himself, Dr Olu Agunloye walked into the office of EFCC on 13 December and he has remained there since then,” he stated.

Assuring friends and members of the general public who might be worried about Mr Agunloye’s whereabouts and his safety, Mr Bankale said “he is in the custody of the EFCC and cooperating with them.”

He also vouched for the integrity of the former minister.

“In his own words, Dr Olu Agunloye had described the declaration by EFCC that he was wanted for fraud ‘as uncalled for.

“I know enough to add, for the very few who may not be conversant with him, that Dr Olu Agunloye is a patriot who is wired to live and work with integrity. He has both virtues in such sufficient quantum, at least, as to not hide or run on this matter, or any, indeed.

“Dr. Agunloye’s name evokes a pacific aura and a life devoted to high achievement in the public space as befits a thorough intellectual. That point is best-driven home by the fact a scan of the media shows that there is no celebration of his detention, an attestation to the way he is beheld by the public. That is gratifying.”

He also appealed to “those who can” to “hasten his release and that in the meantime, he be dealt with in truly professional manner minding the rule of law.”

Controversy over stalled hydropower project
But Mr Agunloye, a few months ago, spoke publicly about his investigation by the commission over the stalled multi-billion-dollar Mambilla Hydropower project.

He confirmed in his statement then that he had been detained and interrogated by the EFCC over the case.

His comments in September on the issue were in response to a fraud allegation former President Olusegun Obasanjo, under whom he served as minister, levelled against him in an interview with TheCable newspaper with respect to the project.

Mr Obasanjo, in the interview, accused the former minister of fraudulently awarding the contract for the multi-billion-naira Mambilla Hydropower Project without the approval of the Federal Executive Council.

The project, first awarded in 2003 to Sunrise Power and Transmission Limited by the Obasanjo administration, is the subject of decades of a legal dispute that is now under international arbitration between the company and the Nigerian government.

Mr Obasanjo, in distancing himself from the mess that the project has become, claimed that he was not aware that the contract was awarded by his then-minister, Mr Agunloye.

Alleging fraud in the contract award, Mr Obasanjo insisted that no minister in his administration had the power to award a contract beyond N25 million.

Agunloye denies wrongdoing
But in his reply, Mr Agunloye dismissed Mr Obasanjo’s claim and denied any wrongdoing.

He said he was being picked on as the fall guy for the government’s mishandling of the project, while those who were responsible for it were left off the hook.

According to Mr Agunloye, the contract for the project was duly awarded in 2003 by the Obasanjo administration on a Build, Operate and Transfer basis to deliver Nigeria’s biggest power plant with a 3,050 megawatts capacity at no cost to the Nigerian government.

The project was expected to significantly boost electricity to address the shortage of energy in the country.

“The former president was not correct when he referred to the award to Sunrise simply as a $6 billion contract (that is, N800 billion in 2003) under his watch. In truth, it was a Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) contract in which the FGN did not need to pay any amount to the contractor, Messrs Sunrise Power and Transmission Company Limited (Sunrise).“As a matter of fact, Sunrise has not been paid a single Naira or Dollar by the FGN from 2000 till date (14/9/23). Sunrise was to source for funds and execute the project with own funds. The investment of Sunrise to construct the Mambilla hydroelectric project up to the completion stage to deliver electricity was adjudged at a maximum of $6 billion by four Ministers of Power and the former president (Chief Obasanjo) before I became Minister of Power. Sunrise was to recoup its investment from the sale of the generated electricity over a 30- to 40-year period at pre-determined tariffs, also agreed with FGN before May 2003.”

Mr Agunloye stated that in 2003, Mr Obasanjo changed his mind and decided to award the contract, “by paying from government own funds.”

“The former President decided, therefore, to break the Mambilla Hydropower Project into smaller components, like civil engineering works, hydraulic works, structural works etc. with the intention to award them as separate multiple contracts as government procurements, on cash and carry basis, for which Nigerian Government would pay mobilisation fees and make other payments in stages to contractors.

“When one of the contractors, which got a component of the Mambilla project awarded by President Obasanjo as $1.46 billion procurement contract, presented its request for a $400 million mobilisation fees, President Yar’Adua scrutinised the contract and cancelled it in 2008 because of proven corruption on the part of officials who served under President Obasanjo between 2003 to 2007,” he stated.

Mr Agunloye said following the termination of the contract, the company sued the Nigerian government before an international arbitration court where it is claiming that the termination of the contract was illegal.

He said he was being set up as a scapegoat by the Nigerian government to escape sanction for abandoning contractual agreements on the project.

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By Abia ThinkTank

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