A former Minister for Power and Steel, Olu Agunloye, has accused former President Olusegun Obasanjo of falsehood and deceit over his recent comment on the Mabilla power project.
Bahdstreetvibes reported that the former Nigerian leader had accused Agunloye of mismanaging the power project during his tenure from 1999 to 2003 and failed to brief him on the state of the project.
In an interview with TheCable recently, Obasanjo said Agunloye fraudulently awarded the contract for the project without the approval of the Federal Executive Council.
But in a statement on Sunday, the former minister described the accusation made by Obasanjo as baseless, false, and malicious, adding that the allegation was nothing to write home about.
He said the former president tried to blackmail him with lies about the Mambilla Power Project because he did not support the candidate for the Labour Party in the 2023 presidential election, Peter Obi.
Agunloye said Obasanjo sent an emissary to him about the project months after the former president had tried to sell Obi to him, but he and SDP leaders refused to support the LP candidate.
He, however, said one week after the visit of the emissary, which made him realise that Obasanjo was anxious, the former President claimed that he did not authorize Agunloye to award the Power Project.
He 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 in 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.”
Agunloye explained the nature of the initial contract for the Mambilla Power Project, which was awarded as a Build, Operate and Transfer contract in May 2003 under his watch.
He said that under this model, the contractor, Sunrise Power and Transmission Company Limited (Sunrise), was responsible for sourcing funds and executing the project with its own funds. The Federal Government of Nigeria was not obliged to pay any amount to Sunrise.
Agunloye also explained that the investment required for Sunrise to construct the Mambilla hydroelectric project up to completion was estimated at a maximum of $6bn by four ministers of power and Obasanjo before his tenure as minister of power.
He said after his exit from government as a minister in 2003, Obasanjo changed his mind about the terms of the contract and decided that the Nigerian government should directly fund the project.
Agunloye said the project was terminated in 2008 by late former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua due to alleged corruption on the part of government officials.
He added: “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 the 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 its 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.
“I followed due process and got all necessary approvals for the BOT contract award to Sunrise on 22 May 2003, and there are records to show that the former President Obasanjo propelled the processes from the beginning in 2000 to the end in May 2003.
“In fact, Sunrise started the Mambilla project three years before I became Minister of Power and had arranged meetings with Chinese Companies and the Chinese President in China in which three Power Ministers and the then President Obasanjo attended between 2000 and 2002 before I was appointed Minister of Power.
“On the very day (28 Nov 2002), that I resumed office as Minister of Power, Pa Obasanjo himself, in a formal letter, handed me his presidential approval on the Sunrise proposal with an instruction that Sunrise be invited ‘for the final negotiations for the execution of the Mambilla Power Project.’”