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You changed terms, Aguloye accuses Obasanjo of distortion of facts on $6bn Mambilla Hydropower Project

Obasanjo and Agunloye. File photo

By Gideon Maxwell

A former Minister of Power and Steel, Olu Agunloye, berated former President Olusegun Obasanjo on his recent comments on the bungled multi-billion-dollar Mambilla Hydropower Project, accusing him of distortion of facts.

According to Agunloye, he said it was as a result of “proven corruption on the part of officials who served under President Obasanjo between 2003 to 2007,” that caused the succeeding late former President Umaru Yar’Adua to cancel the contract in 2008.

“When one of the contractors, which got a component of the Mambilla project awarded by President Obasanjo as a $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,” the former minister said.

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

Obasanjo had recently accused Agunloye of fraudulently awarding the contract for the project without the approval of the Federal Executive Council, in a recent interview he granted The Cable.

But faulting Obasanjo in a statement he issued on Sunday, titled “Mambilla, Obasanjo & The Scapegoat Mentality,” Agunloye rejected the former president’s claims on the project, as he alleged that he (Agunloye) was being set up as a scapegoat by the Nigerian government for it to escape sanction for abandoning the contractual agreements on the project.

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Agunloye contended that 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.

He said the project was expected to significantly boost electricity, among others, to address the shortage of energy in the country, informing that after he left the government as a minister in 2003, it was Obasanjo who changed his mind about the terms of the contract and decided that the Nigerian government should directly fund the project.

Later on, however, the project was, by the succeeding government of the Yar’Adua administration in 2008.

Agunloye said Yar’Adua decided to terminate the contract due to alleged corruption on the part of officials who served under Obasanjo between 2003 and 2007.

It was this breach of the contractual agreement, Agunloye said led the company to drag the Federal Government of Nigeria before an international arbitration court to fight the illegal termination of the $6 billion contract.

But Obasanjo exonerating himself from blame had said that he was not aware that the contract was awarded by his former minister, Agunloye, insisting that no minister under his watch could sign a multi-billion dollar contract without his approval, adding that no minister in his administration had the power to award a contract beyond N25 million.

However, Agunloye in his reply on Sunday, September 17, 2023,  dismissed Obasanjo’s claims, as he also insisted that the ex-president awarded the contract.

“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 its 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,” Agunloye said.

He asserted that it was Obasanjo, who in 2023, 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.”

Stating his “Truth About Mambilla,” Agunloye said, ” When the former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, sent an emissary, in person of his close young associate who is a Labour Party (LP) Chieftain to me on 26 August 2023 to discuss the Mambilla Power Project, I knew the former president was getting pretty anxious. My last encounter with the former President was late last year, 2022 and early this year (2023) when the former President was frantically persuading leaders of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), of which I am the National Secretary, to team up with and support the then Presidential Candidate Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP). We declined and turned down the entreaties of former President Olusegun Obasanjo on behalf of the Labour Party, LP.

“Seven days later, on the 3 September 2023, The Cable News reported an extensive interview, granted by the former President titled: “I knew Buhari didn’t understand economics but didn’t know he was so reckless.” In this interview, the former president made misleading and incorrect statements about the Mambilla Power Project.

“I have submitted a 53-paragraph, 14-page Statement backed with 15 Attachments in an 82-page document as an affidavit to the courts in Nigeria and France in respect of the Mambilla Power Project to clear my name. In deference to Pa Obasanjo and as a mark of great respect to the former President, I have sent a copy of these documents through my lawyers to him to refresh his memory.

“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 his 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.”

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