Nigerian activists said on Sunday they have sent a Freedom of Information request to Babatunde Fashola, Minister of Power, Works and Housing, urging him to name contractors who vanished with funds meant for power projects.
Why it matters: Despite billions in investments over the years, electricity has remained so unstable in Nigeria that many have tagged it “epileptic”, and once renamed the Minister of power as “Minister of darkness”. Millions of Nigerians go to bed every night in darkness and companies have to rely on generators to remain afloat. Abandoned by various governments and without any other option, most Nigerian homes own generating sets, but fueling them every day can get expensive, even as noise and air pollution remain a great health concern. In that chaos, many Nigerians have been asking why?
In a statement to TODAY NEWS AFRICA in Washington D.C. on Sunday, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) said it has asked Fashola, the Minister of Power, to provide names and details of contractors and companies that collected money for electricity projects but failed to do any work.
Details should include all electricity contracts between 1999 when democracy returned to Nigeria and the year 2018.
According to SERAP, former Nigeria’s Vice President and Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, declared on Channels TV that “contractors were given some contracts for power projects and were paid hundred percent upfront”.
However, “the money went down the drain. Up till now, we are not holding the contractors responsible. People have collected money upfront one hundred percent and have disappeared; and have not even done any work.”
SERAP said “the revelation by Alhaji Atiku is entirely consistent with SERAP’s recent report titled: From Darkness to Darkness: How Nigerians are Paying the Price for Corruption in the Electricity Sector, which also revealed how over N11 trillion meant to provide regular electricity supply was allegedly squandered by politicians and contractors under successive governments.”
In the FOI request dated 4 January, 2019 and signed by SERAP senior legal adviser Bamisope Adeyanju, the organization said: “By publishing the names of the contractors and their registration details, if any, Nigerians will be better able to hold them to account for allegedly absconding with public funds meant for electricity projects, thereby throwing the country into perpetual darkness and socio-economic stagnation as well as denying people their human rights.”
The organization argued that “publishing the names will make it hard for contractors and companies to get away with complicity in grand corruption. If the requested information is not provided within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions under the Freedom of Information Act to compel you to comply with our request.”
I was born in a small village in Cameroon, groomed in Nigeria’s most populous city of Lagos, and moved to Washington D.C. to practice journalism at a global level. From here in the American capital, I ask big questions to leaders around the world, and focus on business, investment and politics in Africa. Back in Africa while doing my job, I was kidnapped, dumped in the woods and left for dead but survived, only to be attacked at gunpoint by sea pirates, arrested by security forces and falsely accused of being a spy for terrorists. As the publisher of TODAY NEWS AFRICA, I do not have the budget of Fox News, CNN or Amazon. I raise money through donations on patreon.com/todaynewsafrica.