Termites in the House
The incoming All Progressives Congress (APC) Government has accused President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan of “defecating in the seat” he is vacating. This very graphic but unpalatable imagery used to describe the outgoing government is perhaps excessive and if one were to search for a more diplomatic way to cast it, it might go something like, “under Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s watch, the structure of our economy got well and truly infected by termites” and now, there are termites in the house!
One crisis the Jonathan administration will definitely leave behind is the energy crisis (both fuel and electricity). Nigeria’s energy crisis has as much to do with greed and avarice as with technical and logistical challenges. Nigerians have seen subsidy payments totaling over N400billion were wrongly paid (in 2011 alone, not to speak of subsequent or prior years) against fraudulent invoicing at least according to the Aigboje Aig-Imokhuede panel. However, this is not a crisis solely of Jonathan’s making but one he inherited, allowed to degenerate, and actively contributed towards its current intractable status. This is comparable to saying there were already termites around but he failed to exterminate or otherwise control them, and now they have fully infested the house.
The fuel subsidy scam is well documented and the incoming administration should immediately prosecute and recover monies from all concerned. Over the last one week, the chickens came home to roost and fuel scarcity exacerbated power cuts exposing the fact that 18 out of 23 power facilities are not generating electricity at the moment. There are a number of other oddities we should be asking the new administration to look into. Why did the Jonathan administration refund $186m to the core investors of the Yola Electricity Distribution Company (YEDC)? Media reports (Daily Trust, Monday May 25, 2015) tell us the sums are a share buy-back with part of it, $59m representing the sum paid for the Disco, $87.8m representing 20% of the profits they projected to earn over 5 years all because of Force Majeure – unforeseeable circumstances that prevent them from fulfilling their contract e.g. Boko Haram operations in the region and then a further unspecified $38.7m. Do we buy this argument given that Boko Haram operations had hit that area of Nigeria at least 3 years before the Disco was purchased? Is there more to it
The core investor in YEDC is Integrated Energy Development Company (IEDC) a company currently chaired by Mr. Tunde Ayeni according to the Daily Trust report. At the time of bidding, General Abdulsalam Abubakar was believed to have been the chairman of IEDC. In fact, links between Mr. Ayeni, Col Sani Bello and General Abdulsalam Abubakar can be traced back to AMNI Oil, which is now also a Tunde Ayeni company today. Of the N213bn that the Jonathan administration promised as a “bailout” fund (Nigeria Electricity Market Stabilization Facility) for Electricity companies, to the best of our knowledge, only those with close association to General Abdulsalam Abubakar have received any payment.
For instance, the same week that General Abdulsalam Abubakar was announced to be chairman of the 2015 Elections Peace Committee, Ibadan and Eko Discos, chaired by General Abdulsalam reportedly received a combined sum of N16.5bn as a loan at 10% per annum repayable over 10years. Other companies who made the list were three GENCOs: Jebba Hydroelectric Plc (Col. Sani Bello whose son is married to Abdulsalam’s daughter) which received N816.83m as well as Kainji Hydroelectric Plc (Col. Sani Bello) and Shiroro Hydroelectric Plc (Ibrahim Aliyu brother to former Niger State Governor and business associate of the man of peace) who followed with N678.85m and N234.81m respectively. It is an interesting co-incidence that these fortunate electricity companies have General Abdulsalam Abubakar in common. All the above should be dismissed by the reader as mere speculation relying on circumstantial evidence with no proof whatsoever. However, if we bear in mind reports of a debt overhang of some N500bn owed banks by the electricity companies, could this be the real stimulus behind the package? If so, which banks and how much do each of these fortunate companies owe?
Pandering to private interests has been rampant and widespread under Jonathan and this has cored out our national resources with the above being merely examples of a pattern. Each of these cases should be investigated by the incoming administration if they are to retain any shred of credibility as change agents. There should be no quiet plea bargains as happened after General Obasanjo took over from General Abubakar who inherited external reserves of $7bn from General Abacha but left $3bn when he exited 11 months 20 days later.
There are termites in the house! Will the new administration be bold enough to live up to the change mantra and exterminate, sweep or otherwise render them ineffective? We wait and watch.