· As Nigeria loses N11trn in power sector
The Senate appears to be breaking the corruption hard nut in Nigeria’s import and export sectors as it disclosed that some chief executive officers (CEOs) of 60 companies being investigated for N30 trillion revenue leakages have owned up.
The money was declared missing in the country’s import and export value chain between 2006 and 2017.
This is even as the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) disclosed that Nigeria lost N11 trillion to corruption in the power sector during the former President Olusegun Obasanjo, late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and President Goodluck Jonathan administrations.
According to the Chairman, Senate Joint Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff and Marine Transport, Senator Hope Uzodinma, probing the scam, some firms have admitted their involvement in the N30 trillion graft.
He told newsmen after drilling some of the CEOs in Abuja yesterday, that “they have started confessing their misdeeds.”
The lawmaker affirmed that no amount of blackmail would deter the probe panel from carrying out its constitutional roles, particularly with regard to issues that have direct impact on Nigerians.
Uzodinma said: “If there is anybody who is still in doubt whether there are recoverable revenues of government in the hands of these companies, by the admission of some of them, it means that the person should better wake up.
“We call on all Nigerians to support the Senate. What we are doing and showing by this investigation is that the country can be better and that we can move from where we are now to where we expect the country to be,’’ he stressed.
He added that insinuations that the investigation was shrouded in secrecy were unfounded, pointing out that the committee was being careful in disclosing certain details, as the investigation was still on-going.
“We are not shrouding anything in secrecy. The public is interested in this investigation and you know the Stock Exchange is an important platform for trade in Nigeria. We don’t want to create unnecessary panic in the stock market as some of the companies under investigation are public quoted companies.
“There is a signal we will let out to the public that will destroy the image and integrity of these companies. We have not arrived at any conclusion yet because the investigations are still on,” he stressed.
Uzodinma further disclosed that of the over 60 companies being investigated, the committee had met with the CEOs of 11 of them.
He said in the new phase, the committee was meeting with each of the firms at a time and would continue in that manner until they were exhausted.
He said “some of the companies approached the committee and expressed their willingness to support our investigation because the process of the investigation may require them revealing some of their trade secrets.
“In other not to breach the secrecy that has to do with their business modules, we agreed to their terms because our interest is to achieve result. Some of the companies that appeared before us today have also committed to our success by way of making some admissions here and there,’’ he stated.
The companies which met with the committee yesterday were Dana Group, China Export, Emel Group, Halliburton, Bhojson Plc, Bharat Ventures Ltd, Bua International Ltd, Friesland Campina, Boulos Group, CFAO Group and British American Tobacco Company.
Presenting the SERAP report in Lagos, Dr. Yemi Oke of the Department of Jurisprudence and International Law, University of Lagos, said that Nigeria lost a whooping N11 trillion to corruption in the power sector since 1999.
Speaking at the media launch of a report on the power sector, he lamented that even though trillions had been invested in the sector, Nigeria was yet to enjoy uninterrupted power supply.
The report is titled: “From Darkness to Darkness: How Nigerians Are Paying the Price for the Electricity Sector”.
Oke noted that the much-celebrated power sector reform was yet to yield the desired results as majority of Nigerians were still in darkness.
He said: “The total estimated financial loss to Nigeria from corruption in the electricity sector starting from the return to democracy in 1999 till date, is over N11 trillion.
“This represents public funds, private equity and social investment (or divestment) in the power sector. It is estimated that it may reach over N20 trillion in the next decade given the rate of government investment and funding in the power sector amidst dwindling economic fortunes and recurrent revenue shortfalls.”
Oke added that preliminary findings showed that corruption in the power sector was caused by weak regulations, institutional decay, top-down model of electricity governance and corrupt officials.
He said it was further caused by state monopoly, state controlled electricity governance model and lack of decentralised energy options.
Oke said the inability of the government to bring those who have perpetrated various scams in the sector to justice had continued to create a culture of impunity.
The don, therefore, urged the anti-graft agencies to reinforce the prosecution of such persons and also urged the Federal Government to revisit the privatisation process and equally review the Electric Sector Power Reforms Act 2005 which, according to him, is at variance with the 1999 Constitution.
Also speaking, human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), urged SERAP to challenge the provisions of the Act in court and also use the Freedom of Information Act to question the privatisation process.