By Ahmad Deedat Zakari
Nigeria’s former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, has denied any involvement in the $6bn hydropower contract awarded to Sunrise Power and Transmission Ltd in 2003.
Obasanjo challenged Olu Agunloye, the former minister of power and steel, to tell Nigerians where he derived the authority to award a $6 billion contract to Sunrise Power and Transmission Ltd in respect of the Mambila Hydropower Project in 2003.
Sunrise Power is currently in arbitration with Nigeria at the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), Paris, France, over an alleged breach of contract by the federal government.
In the first arbitration, Sunrise is asking for a compensation of $2.3 billion, claiming it had spent millions of dollars on financial and legal consultants before the contract was jettisoned.
In the second one, the company is asking for a $400 million settlement being the terms of the agreement it entered with the federal government in 2020 to end the arbitration.
Nigeria is fighting the claims on the grounds that Agunloye, who suspiciously awarded the contract one week to the end of his tenure as power minister in 2003, acted illegally.
In an interview with The Cable during the weekend, Obasanjo denied authorising Agunloye to commit Nigeria to the $6 billion “build, operate and transfer” contract.
“When I was president, no minister had the power to approve more than N25 million without express presidential consent. It was impossible for Agunloye to commit my government to a $6 billion project without my permission and I did not give him any permission,” Obasanjo disclosed in the interview with The Cable.
Obasanjo challenged Agunloye to explain where he got the power and authority.
“If a commission of inquiry is set up today to investigate the matter, I am ready to testify. I do not even need to testify because all the records are there. I never approved it,” Obasanjo said.
“When he presented his memo to the federal executive council (on May 21, 2003), I was surprised because he had previously discussed it with me and I had told him to jettison the idea, that I had other ideas on how the power sector would be restructured and funded.
“I told him as much at the council meeting and directed him to step down the memo. I find it surprising that Agunloye is now claiming he acted on behalf of Nigeria. If I knew he issued such a letter to Sunrise, I would have sacked him as minister during my second term. He would not have spent a day longer in office.”
The former president also said Leno Adesanya, the promoter of Sunrise Power, ran away from Nigeria when he was president.
“I would have jailed him if he was in the country because of the things I knew about him. After I left office, he returned and I saw him. I told him that he was lucky I was no longer president. Otherwise, I would have jailed him,” He told The Cable.