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Elumelu, EFCC and power scam

The involvement of the likes of Elumelu in the scam is rather shocking as the lawmaker had almost assumed the public face of the nation’s…

The involvement of the likes of Elumelu in the scam is rather shocking as the lawmaker had almost assumed the public face of the nation’s disdain for corruption. He cut the image of a ‘Mr. Clean’ when not too long ago he crisscrossed the country in the course of his oversight assignment in the power sector, shocking the nation with one expose after another of how the ruling elite pilfered billions of dollars from the national treasury in the name of Independent Power Project, IPP. Elumelu and his colleagues in that committee exposed the underbelly of the graft infested power sector, providing some insights as to why the nation remains in perpetual darkness.

The committee’s discoveries confirmed what Nigerians had long suspected, that a cabal of kleptomaniacs was responsible for the nation’s futile attempt to resolve the challenge in the power sector. The courage and seeming empathy exhibited by Elumelu and his colleagues won them the admiration of pundits, with millions of citizens calling for the heads of those fingered in the scam.

Elumelu’s trajectory and his sudden transformation from being the nemesis of corrupt contactors and their patrons in the power sector to an inmate in Kuje Prison is the tragicomedy of this decade.

Here is a man who made newspaper headlines for rising up in challenge of the corrupt barons in the power sector but could not restrain himself from the allure of the filthy lucre. His current fate is at odd with all his rhetoric in the media and exposes his hypocrisy and attempted to obfuscate the fight against corruption. His plight does not elicit sympathy from me or any patriot who desires the best for this country.

What this episode has brought to the fore is the truism in the popular saying that those who come to equity must do so with clean hands. The fight against corruption is a serious business that does not need a double faced Egungun in the mould of Elumelu

And for a while one was almost tempted to crucify the anti graft agencies like the EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Offences Commission, ICPC for wasting time in moving against persons that were fingered in Elumelu’s report. I wondered why they simply didn’t arrest all the contractors that were alleged to have collected billions of naira in the $16 billion National Independent Power Project scam and failed to deliver. The evidence were open to all to see, at least we saw Elumelu exposing them all on national television. I couldn’t comprehend why EFCC will have to wait for the House of Reps to petition it before taken up the matter. This as far as I am concerned was another case of negligence on the part of the anti graft agency, failing to act when it was important for it to do so. It is almost now certain that the agencies may have been privy to facts that some of us didn’t know.

The EFCC, in particular, deserves some commendation for moving fast to unravel the REA fraud. Who would have thought that Elumelu, Ugbane and their co-travelers would be inmates of Kuje prison at this point in time? I now believe what EFCC Chairman, Mrs. Farida Waziri said during her appearance before the Senate Screening Committee in 2008 that she would step on toes. It certainly took some courage to pull through this complex investigation. The most interesting aspect of this EFCC investigation is that we are told that it did not emanate from a petition as most of the commission’s cases are wont to do. Rather it was triggered by a Suspicious Transaction Report (STR) submitted to its affiliate, the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU by one of the banks. And without making noise about it, the agency went to work to collect evidence as to how the suspects cornered the N6 billion meant for Grid Extension and Solar Projects of the Rural Electrification Agency. It followed up by promptly arresting the culprits and charging them to court. The rest is now history.

The onus is now on Elumelu, Ugbane and others to prove their innocence of the offence for which they have been charged. Otherwise they should bear the full wrath of the law. This should serve as major deterrence to their ilk in position of influence in the public service that pays lip service to the fight against corruption.

At least, the country now has one example to show of genuine attempt to tackle the corruption monster that has kept the nation in darkness for so long. With the REA investigation as well as that of the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission whose Chief Executive, Ransome Owan and six Commissioners were recently arrested and arraigned for fraud, the EFCC has served sufficient notices that it is not going to be business as usual in the power sector. I am sure that those who are still neck dip in scams in the sector would begin to spare some thoughts about their future, knowing that arrest and trial are not far fetched.

No doubt Nigerians will be grateful to any agency that helps the country overcome the problem in the power sector. Experts have consistently posited that Nigeria cannot emerge as an economic force if it does not address the issue of epileptic power supply. Most of the country’s businesses and homes generate their own power supply, making Nigeria the world’s biggest importer of power generating sets. Businesses that are unable to bear the escalating cost of alternative power generation have packed up. Nigerians are concerned, so too is government.

A few fat cats see the sector as their gold mine, to plunder and leave the rest of us in pitch darkness.  But the endgame has begun. We can only hope and pray that EFCC sustains its focus on the sector and doggedly pursues the prosecution of those already ensnared to a logical conclusion.

• Dagogo-Wilcox, Public Affairs analyst, lives in Port Harcourt

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