The last may not have been heard about the failed $16 billion National Integrated Power Project as Professor Itse Sagay (SAN), Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), has said his committee may meet the anti-corruption agencies in the country over the facts and figures behind the project carried out in former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration.
The issue has generated brickbats between Obasanjo and President Muhammadu Buhari, with the former president saying he was ready for a probe.
President Buhari said Nigerians deserved to know why there was no corresponding power supply in homes and business premises after the administration of Obasanjo allegedly expended a whopping $16 billion on the power projects.
The power project budget has been a subject of controversy since the end of Obasanjo’s tenure on May 29, 2007.
In 2008, the House of Representatives described the $16 billion spent on power projects between 1999 and 2007 as “a colossal waste.”
Speaking in an exclusive interview with DAILY INDEPENDENT, Sagay said his committee had not looked into the allegations of the project because it didn’t have the mandate to do so as investigation and prosecution were the responsibilities of anti-corruption agencies.
When asked whether his committee would like to meet President Muhammadu Buhari and advise him on the way forward, Sagay answered in the affirmative.
He said: “Yes, when the time comes, we will definitely do that. It is an issue that we were not seriously thinking about in my committee.
“As I said, the anti-corruption agencies are the ones who have all the facts and figures.
“So, we will meet them and give them the initiatives, but if this thing becomes a political issue, it may be necessary to dig in, get the facts and take the appropriate action.
“If anybody wants to make capital of politics by running down the government – which is the most upright government we have had since Murtala Mohammed government – then, this government may have to show that it is a government of principle and a government that has a will to suppress corruption, and those who challenge it will face the music.”
When asked if his committee had not made mention of the failed power projects because it involved Obasanjo, Sagay said it was because it was not within the jurisdiction of his committee to look into the issue.
“No, it is not that we don’t want to look into the issue of the $16 billion power project, but the truth is that my committee doesn’t have that power.
“We don’t do investigation or prosecution. Our work is mainly that of a think-tank. In other words, we do activities to give the anti-corruption agencies greater capacity to make them more effective.
“We make proposals to government to help the fight against corruption. For example, we have been engaged in training of judges and prosecutors both at the federal and state levels.
“We have been engaged in preparing manuals for prosecutors to use, preparing sentencing guidelines for judges to use.
“We also draft the bill on proceeds of crime which will give the agencies power to seize assets that they suspect have been acquired by crime or illegitimately, putting anyone claiming it under the obligation of establishing how he got it.
“We have a draft of that; it is with the National Assembly. We have a special crimes court which would have done more effectively what the Chief Justice has done by saying that certain courts should be set aside for crimes, particularly corruption.
“Of course, we also write regular advice to the president over issues that we think are pertinent towards the fight against corruption,” he said.
He also described Ibrahim Magu, Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), as an “exceptionally dedicated man in the fight against corruption in the country.”
According to him, his committee would continue to support Magu in his job till the end, saying anyone scheming to get him out of office was either a potential or existing looter.
He also faulted the claim by some elite that the presidency could not insist on Magu alone since there were thousands of him out there.
According to Sagay, “Since his appointment by President Muhammadu Buhari, Magu have been doing a fantastic job and it was absurd that some people would be planning to get rid of him as the anti-corruption boss.
According to the senior advocate of Nigeria, “We have a very close rapport with Magu in PACAC; extremely close rapport. He is an exceptionally dedicated man in the fight against corruption.
“He is indefatigable and totally committed to the anti-corruption war. That is the mission of his life.
“He has given up everything else to ensure that this fight succeeds.
“He has sacrificed everything he has for this struggle. So, we in the committee find him an extremely valuable partner in the fight against corruption and we will support him till the very end. He is a great man.
“We regard anyone who wants him out of that office as either an existing looter or a potential looter. These are people who are uncomfortable with him because they have been stopped in their tracks.
“I laugh when the very corrupt elite say there are thousands of Magu out there. It is a lie.
“There are no thousands anywhere. Let them go and produce those thousands. Magu is unique and special and we will stand by him until he completes his job.”