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12.05.2008 Africa

Obasanjo denies power corruption

By myjoyonline
Obasanjo denies power corruption


Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has denied any responsibility for the failure of the country's power generation industry.

In a 5,000 word written submission to a parliamentary investigation panel, he said his administration had increased the amount of power generated.

He denied any personal responsibility for the corruption the panel said it had found in the industry.

The panel said $16bn had been spent without improving power supply.
Mr Obasanjo declined the panel's invitation to appear in person.

He said he chose not to attend because the invitation letter was signed by a subordinate to the investigating panel chairman Ndudi Elumelu.

Many Nigerians rely on personal petrol-fuelled generators and a huge number live without any power at all.

Large industry has been virtually destroyed by the poor power supply.
The House of Representatives investigation alleged that Mr Obasanjo's government had paid millions of dollars to 34 "non-existent companies".

The committee visited the sites where power stations were meant to be built.

It found no work had been done at some sites after several years.

Denials

Defending his record, Mr Obasanjo said his government had inherited 18 years of neglect in the power generation industry, and had done well to more than double power supply.

Gas pipeline vandalism had hampered power generation. One damaged pipeline took two years to repair, he said.

To "the uninitiated" it would seem like no work had been done on the power stations, but the reality was that millions of dollars had been "invested", he said.

But he said the investigation into the power sector may actually hamper improvement, and jeopardise Nigeria's development.

Private partners were being chased away by the probe because they feared being "criminalised".

The former president also said the figure spent on building power stations was much lower than the $16bn the panel claimed.

"One year is already lost, we cannot afford to lose another year without dire consequences in the coming years," said Mr Obasanjo.

String of investigations

Referring to a string of investigations into his tenure, he said the legislature should not work against the interests of the Nigerian economy.

"Theatrical or circus shows will provide fun and, maybe, hurt some people but the reality will remain," he said.

He called for the panel to prosecute anyone who they had concrete evidence of fraud against, but said: "Most of the contractors and suppliers are companies with tremendous reputations and most of their management and staff are men of honour and dignity."

He said under his administration, generation had risen from 1,500 MW to 3,500 MW of electricity.

But the country still has a long way to go, Mr Obasanjo said.

According to him, Nigeria will need to generate 100,000 MW to provide enough for its 140 million population and to support the industry it needs to improve their standard of living.

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