The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, has condemned what he described as ‘unverified allegations’ raised by a senator against his ministry.
Dino Melaye, Kogi-APC, had first as a petition, and later as a motion, accused the ministry of mismanaging funds to the tune of $35 million and another attempt to break away with $350 million Eurobond.
Reacting to these allegations, the minister in a statement he personally signed said he will cooperate with the Senate as he and his staff has done nothing wrong in management of the said fund.
“With all emphasis, I state that there is no factual basis for the allegations,” he said. “The ministry, my staff and I have done nothing wrong and we will collaborate fully with the investigating committee when called upon.”
Mr. Fashola noted that he was not a minister in 2013, the period for which the senator claimed the funds were received. He also said the responsibility of managing government debt like Eurobond is that of the Debt Management Office and not his ministry.
He alleged an ulterior motive in the presentation of the allegations as the senator made different allegations while raising it as a petition and later during its presentation as a motion.
“The Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) had on Monday, 6th November 2017 issued a statement on the front page of The Nation Newspaper explaining that the money was not missing, stating also that the $350 million had been invested and that interest had even accrued on the money.
“If there was no ulterior motive for the allegation, this was enough reason for a reconsideration of the presentation of the motion on the floor of the Senate on the 8th of November 2017.
“But the story seemed to have changed from “missing money” last week, to a “desperate attempt to retrieve the money “, this week.”
For the Afam Fast Power project which the senator accused his ministry of spending $35 milion without appropriation and feasibility study, Mr. Fashola explained that it was kickstarted as an investment by a U.S. firm, General Electric, to boost power supply in the country.
“They offered to do this by providing Nigeria with mobile turbines of 600MW if we could find a location with Gas and Transmission evacuation infrastructure. The Afam Power Station fitted because it had transmission and evacuation facilities but all its turbines had been virtually run down.
“The investment was contingent on paying $27,990,000 million which was 15% of 8 (eight) units of 30MW turbines each totalling 240MW valued at about $186,600,000:00.
“This payment of $27.9m was made without breaching any law.
“At this moment, the turbines have arrived Nigeria and currently at the Onne Port. This is verifiable just as works are on going on the site – civil and engineering – preparing to receive the turbines , and install other equipment already at site.”
Describing it as the fastest power project when delivered, the minister said the project will add 240MW to the grid when commissioned.
He added that investors do not require parliamentary approval to invest in the country while cautioning the Senate against pushing out unverified information as it poses “an imminent threat to our investment climate.”
HOW IT STARTED
News of the alleged fraud first emanated from the floor of the Senate on November 2 when Mr. Melaye alleged that the ministry squandered $385 million on projects not appropriated in the budget between 2013 and 2016.
He said that $300 million of the fund was given to the Nigerian Electricity Bulk Trading Company, NBET, while another $35 million was paid to General Electric and some others.
“In July 2013, the federal government raised $1 billion from Eurobond issue. From the proceeds, $350 million was given to NBET in 2014.
“Mr. President, this money was stolen in installments. As I speak to you, sometimes last year again, the Ministry of Power came up with a term they call fast power. This indigested project is supposed to build new generating plants to add power to our grid. The Ministry has spent so far $35 million on the Afam fast power project that has no appropriation or feasibility studies,” he said.
However, presenting it as a motion on Wednesday, November 8, the senator said the ministry had been making frantic efforts to secure the release of $350 million domiciled in the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority to finance electricity projects.
He alleged that the ministry is mounting pressure on NBET to retrieve this fund ($350 million) and divert same to fund the Fast Power Projects.
The Senate mandated its committees on power and public accounts to invite Mr. Fashola, to render an account of funds spent on the project.