*Dogara wants power privatisation revisited
14 December 2016, Abuja — The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), has said there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that the former Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke, his Petroleum and Finance Ministry counterparts, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke and Mr. Olusegun Aganga, were fraudulently involved in the $1.092 billion controversial Malabu oil deal.
He, however, acknowledged that the payment of the money into an escrow account by the former ministers, instead of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, was illegal.
Speaking yesterday before the House of Representatives ad hoc Committee on the Alleged Corruption, Malpractices and Breach of Due Process in the Award of Oil Prospecting Licence (OPL) 245, Malami also confirmed that Adoke “has not made himself available”, even though he had presented written submissions to the Justice Ministry on the Malabu transaction.
The committee is chaired by Hon. Razak Atunwa.
OPL 245 was awarded to Malabu Oil and Gas Limited belonging to a former Petroleum Minister, Chief Dan Etete, in the 1990s.
However, after the award of the oil block, a legal dispute arose between Shell and Malabu over the ownership of the oil asset believed to hold several hundreds of millions in crude reserves.
The dispute was not eventually settled till 2012, when the Goodluck Jonathan administration called the parties to reach an out-of-court settlement over the ownership of the oil block.
On this basis, Shell, Agip and Total paid $1.092 billion into a designated escrow account to farm into oil block. Of the $1.092 billion, it is believed that about $600 million was paid to Etete by the federal government, raising eyebrows about the propriety of the transaction.
Speaking on the Malabu oil deal at the House yesterday, Malami said: “One thing I have to bring to your notice is that the investigation is ongoing. I cannot with certainty jump to the conclusion of an indictment. The investigation is from different perspectives because of the criminality, breach of contract and associated elements.
“What I am saying in essence, is we are at the stage of investigation and indeed even those that were presumably considered to have played a role are equally being given opportunities to make presentations.”
Malami added that it was difficult to be precise as to whether the investigation had reached the point of prosecution, even though the possibility of prosecution had not been ruled out.
He, however, assured the committee that any persons indicted in the Malabu probe would face the wrath of the law.
Speaking earlier, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, said OPL 245 has a long running history and had been the subject of many investigations, hence the need to put a finality to the matter.
“The failure by previous administrations to take the necessary steps to resolve the disputes associated with OPL 245 has attracted the searchlight of international anti-corruption and money laundering watchdogs which has portrayed Nigeria as unserious in its fight against corruption,” he said.
On another issue, Dogara also called for the privatisation of the power sector to be revisited due to the absymal situation in the sector since the unbundling of the Power Holding Corporation of Nigeria (PHCN) and the transfer of the successor companies in 2013 to the private sector.
Speaking at the investigative hearing into the federal government-secured bond of N309 billion to finance the shortfall in the Nigerian electricity market, Dogara said there had been no positive report from the electricity sector since the privatisation process was concluded.
He observed that the average duration of uninterrupted supply in the country was about six-eight hours a day, with crazy estimated bills issued to exploit consumers, while metering remains low.
“This is in addition to the absence of improvement in generation capacity despite the increase in tariffs in February 2016.
“In spite of all these, we have reports that the cumulative market shortfall has risen to over N700 billion as of date. This trend escalates at the rate of about N25.6 billion monthly, based on NBET’s (Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trader) August 2016 Electricity Market Payment Report,” Dogara said.
Chairman of the House Committee on Power, Hon. Dan Asuquo, in his address acknowledged that the Ministry of Power and NBET had proposed the bond to turn around, the abysmal situation in the power sector.
“It is pertinent to note that we wonder what role the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Company (NERC) is playing in this whole process.
“If N309 billion is injected into the market today, it would only reduce the exposure from N700 billion to N391 billion.
“According to NBET’s August 2016 published electricity market payment report, the bleeding would continue at the rate of N25.6 billion monthly.
“So, does this solve the primary bleeding of the electricity market?” he asked.
The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Power, Mr. Louis Edozien, in his presentation to the committee, said the N309 billion bond, backed with promissory notes, would provide the critical needed funding for the sector, and resolve a significant proportion of the liquidity challenges being experienced.
He urged the House to back the bond.
“It would be in the public interest if the House supports NBET to complete the design of the product and expedite its implementation,” he said.
*Damilola Oyedele – Thisday