President Muhammadu Buhari has gone hard on former President Olusegun Obasanjo, accusing his government of wasting $16 billion on the power sector without meaningful result.
The President stated this yesterday at the presidential villa while receiving the Buhari Support Organisation led by the Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Col. Hameed Ali (rtd).
Although President Buhari did not directly mention the former leader’s name, reports indicate that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led government under Obasanjo spent $16 billion on power projects between 1999 and 2007.
There have been calls by different groups, including the anti-corruption organisation, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), on Justice Walter Onnoghen, Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) to appoint an independent counsel to investigate alleged spending on the power sector during the period.
As the 2019 general elections approach, the former President appears to have drawn a battle line between himself and Buhari, with a strong campaign to oust the latter from office.
Obasanjo, on Monday, visited the Afenifere leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti in Akure, the Ondo State capital, to seek his support for the ousting of Buhari from office in 2019.
The House of Representatives had, in 2008, described the $16 billion spent on power by the Obasanjo’s government as a colossal waste, blaming it on “poor budget planning and a lack of proper oversight by relevant bodies.”
Speaking yesterday, Buhari said those who mismanaged Nigeria’s economy in the past, through fraudulent electricity projects and misuse of revenue earnings from oil, had no love for the country.
“One of the former Heads of State was bragging that he spent more than $15 billion on power in Nigeria. Where is the power?” the President asked.
The President urged Nigerians to remain vigilant and ensure that only “people of conscience are in-charge of governance at all levels,” as the nation prepares for general elections in 2019.
He noted that: “I challenge anybody to check from Europe, America and Asia; between 1999 and 2014, Nigeria was producing 2.1 million barrels of crude oil per day at an average cost of $100 per barrel and it went up to $143.
“When we came, it collapsed to $37 – $38 and later was oscillating between $40 and $50.
“I went to the CBN Governor, with my cap in my hand, and asked if we had savings. He told me we had only debts, no savings. Some of the roads were not repaired since the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) days,” he said.
Buhari seized the opportunity to commend late military Head of State, General Sani Abacha, for his government’s inroads in infrastructural provision in the country.
He said: “I don’t care the opinion you have about Abacha, but I agreed to work with him and we constructed roads from Abuja to Port Harcourt, Benin to Onitsha and so on. We also touched education and health institutions.”
On the mismanagement of the economy by previous administrations, President Buhari noted that the perpetrators lacked imagination and plans for the development of the nation.
“Sometimes, I wonder about those who can afford to send their children abroad for studies and yet continue to sabotage the economy, I wonder what kind of Nigeria they want their children to return to and work. There is a lot of lack of imagination.
“If you are working for the country, then you shouldn’t be misappropriating and misapplying public funds the way people did,” he said.
The President noted that under his watch, the 2016 and 2017 budgets recorded the highest appropriation and releases in capital projects, with over N2.8 trillion disbursements in two years.
He urged Nigerians to reject those bent on dividing the country along religious and ethnic lines, warning that they do not mean well for the country.
“I have said severally that we do not have any other country than Nigeria and we will remain here and salvage it together.
“We have nothing to regret, absolutely nothing. God has given Nigeria everything. We are rich in human and material resources. Let us keep on praying to God to put people of conscience in-charge at all levels,” he said.
The President said his approach to corruption as a leader in uniform was different to the present situation where he is now a civilian.
His words: “This is a terrible time and the people are saying, what are we doing? Why can’t you lock them up? And again I went on by telling them; ‘I said when I was in uniform, younger and rather ruthless, I got from the President downward I locked them up in Kirikiri. I said you’re guilty except you prove yourselves innocent’.
“I myself was locked up and those who misappropriated public funds were giving back what they have taken away. Who did anything about it? Then I decided to come and put on agbada. I tried one, two, three four times. God agreed.
“Now we get some of the people with houses here and may be in Abuja or somewhere in America and Europe, they swear, some of them to God, that the houses do not belong to them. But their accounts, through the banks, through their companies, it is their own. But they say it’s not their own,” he added.