The Senate on Wednesday began an investigation into the alleged plan by the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing to secure the release of $350 m domiciled in the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority to finance electricity projects.
The lawmakers specifically criticised the ministry for allegedly spending $ 35 m out of the money on power projects without approval by the National Assembly.
The decision followed the adoption of a motion moved by Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi - West), at the plenary on Wednesday , which was entitled, Monumental Fraud in the Power Sector
Granting a prayer of the motion, the Senate mandated its Senate committees on Power; and Public Accounts to invite the Minister of Power, Works and Housing , Babatunde Fashola SAN to render a detailed account in terms of public funds spent on the Fast Power Projects (Afam Fast Power Project in particular); evidence of feasibility study indicating the viability of the projects ; requisite appropriation by the National Assembly as required by the constitution ; and the controversial presidential approval for the projects".
Another prayer was also granted to mandate same committees“to investigate and consider summoning the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority, the Nigeria Electricity Bulk Trading Company, etc. to generally establish the status of the funds ($ 350 m) and to report back to the Senate within two weeks".
The Senate also unanimously granted the prayer to direct the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing to stop or suspend all attempts or efforts to pressurise the NSIA to release $ 350 m meant for NBET to the ministry for use on the controversial fast power projects.
The Senate President , Bukola Saraki, in his remarks, noted that the issues had previously been raised concerning the power sector in the chamber. He also noted that the law establishing the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority was due for a review.
Saraki's suggestion on the review of the NSIA Establishment Act was presented as an additional prayer and it was unanimously granted.
In the motion, Melaye recalled that the Federal Government raised $ 1 bn through a Eurobond issue in July 2013, while the government released $ 350 m out of the sum to the Nigeria Electricity Bulk Trading Company Plc as shareholder contribution to shore up its capitalisation.
Melaye said, "The Senate observes that this fund has been with the NSlA since 2014 and has helped build market confidence especially among new investors in the electricity market who see NBET's positive balance sheet as a form of security that their investments are safe and that NBET has the wherewithal to meet its payment obligations.
"The Senate is alarmed that there is now a desperate attempt by the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing to retrieve this fund ($ 350 m) and divert same to fund the so-called Fast Power Projects, which the ministry has already spent $ 35 m of public funds not appropriated by the National Assembly".
"The Senate is further alarmed that since the introduction of the Fast Power Project by the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing , a total sum of $35 m has been spent by the ministry on Afam Power Project alone to pay $ 29 m to General Electric as cost for turbines and $ 6 m in consultancy fees to other entities respectively, all without requisite feasibility study of the projects and appropriation by the National Assembly as required by the constitution .”
The senator said “a lot of questions are begging for answers ” as regards the $ 29 m paid to General Electric and the $ 6m paid to other consultants.