“You know, the rail was killed, and one of the former Heads of State between that time was bragging that he spent more than 16 billion American dollars, not naira, on power. Where is the power? Where is the power, we have to pay the debts. This year’s and last year’s budgets I took to the National Assembly were the highest in capital projects, more than N1.3 trillion. Let anybody come and confront me publicly in the National Assembly. What have they been doing? Some of them have been there for 10 years,”
This was the submission of President Mohammadu Buhari at the villa yesterday alleging that $16 billion was spent on power sector without anything to show for it
Buhari bared his mind while receiving members of the Buhari Support Organization (BSO), led by Comptroller-General of Customs, Col Hameed Ali, who visited him at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He described those who have mismanaged the economy through fraudulent electricity projects and misuse of revenue earnings from oil as having no love for the country.
He urged Nigerians to remain vigilant and ensure only people of good conscience are put in charge of governance at all levels as the nation prepares for general elections in 2019.
Buhari said the debt incurred from the $16 billion Obasanjo claimed to have spent is now being paid by his administration, noting that he made the highest capital allocations ever in the 2017 and 2018 budgets.
He alleged that though the nation recorded huge profits from the sale of crude oil when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was in power, nothing was left in the treasury when he came on board 16 years after.
He also took up members of the National Assembly, accusing them of doing nothing, even though some of them have spent over a decade in the federal legislature.
The president furthermore disclosed why he agreed to work with former Head of State, General Sani Abacha, despite negative perceptions about the late dictator.
He said: “Between 1999 and 2014, Nigeria was getting 2.1 million barrels per day at an average cost of $100 per barrel. It went up to $143. So, Nigeria was earning 2.1 million times 100 times 16 years, seven days a week. When we came, it collapsed to $37-$38, and it was oscillating between $40 and $54 sometimes. I went to the Governor of Central Bank. Thank goodness I did not sack him. He is still there. I went with my cap in my hand and said, ‘Oya.’ He said there were no savings, only debts. And you know more than I do.
“The condition of the roads…and some of them were not repaired since PTF (Petroleum Fund Trust) days. No matter what opinion you have about Abacha, I agreed to work with him. And we did PTF roads from here to Port Harcourt, to Onitsha, to Benin and so on, and on top of other things, education, medical care and so on.”
On corruption among public office holders, Buhari said: “Now, we get some of the people with houses here and maybe in Abuja or somewhere in America and Europe. They swear, some of them to God, saying they don’t belong to them. But from their accounts, through the banks, through their companies, it is their own. But they say it’s not theirs.
“This is a terrible time. The people are asking what we are doing. ‘Why can’t you lock them up?’ I went on by telling them what I did when I was in uniform, younger and rather ruthless. I got from the president downward. I locked them up in Kirikiri. I said, ‘You’re guilty, except you prove yourselves innocent’.”
He, however, regretted his failed effort at combating the menace, saying: “I myself was locked up and those who misappropriated public funds were given back what they had taken away. Who did anything about it?”
The president urged Nigerians to reject persons bent on dividing the country along religious and ethnic lines, stressing: “We do not have any other country. We will remain here and salvage it together.”
In his remarks, Ali said the group and majority of Nigerians are passionate about the second term for Buhari because of his integrity, honesty, love and patriotism.
He noted that the president has entrenched fiscal discipline and prudent management of resources, improved the nation’s security and delivered on his promise to revamp agriculture as a major revenue earner for the country.
In reaction, Obasanjo said yesterday that the position of Buhari was based on ignorance, adding that he was relying on the unsubstantiated allegations against him by the then leader of the House of Representatives over the project. The former president who said this through his media aide Kehinde Akinyemi said that a lack of proper understanding prompted Buhari to make his comment.
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 a 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 wrongdoing 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 were 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.