Nigeria is again set to withdraw another huge sum of money ($ 5.3 billion) to finance an urgent approach to the Nigerian power problem. In Naira terms, this translates to N602 billion. The money is to be withdrawn from the Excess Crude Account.
There is nothing wrong with withdrawing money to finance a project that will be of benefit to the people. The problem is just that the money may not percolate down to target. This is because the tradition has been that of leadership mediocrity where huge sums are spent with nothing to show for it. To a lot Nigerians thus, the news of government plans to release $ 5.3 billion for power reform sounded painful.
The immediate past government of Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo spent about $ 16 billion to build new power-generating stations and overhaul ailing ones with the aim of raising the total generating capacity of the nation's power plants from about 3500mw to 10,000mw that the nation currently needs. At the end, some people got rich and the power problem got worse.
During the electioneering campaigns of President Umar Musa Yar'adua, a promise of overcoming the power problem through the declaration of a state of emergency was used as an electoral bait to woo Nigerians into offering their support. He is just about to declare that emergency after a whole one year in office.
In that one year, the legislature has been more interested in the power problem than the office of the president. The senate has investigated the power reforms of the previous government to find out why it failed despite the huge sum of money spent. The investigation knocked off the lid to reveal the astonishing betrayal of the nation as a result of the so-called reform. No single contractor made any solemn attempt at delivering the service for which he collected billions, in hard currency. The investigation opened up the reality that Obasanjo and his friends were in literal terms, 4-1-9ners. The military leader who relayed power to Obasanjo, for instance, won one of the contracts using a non-existent company and simply went to sleep after collecting billions of dollars.
The decision to withdraw $ 5.3 billion is painful because despite the bizarre revelations of the senate investigation, nobody has been punished and the issue seems to be going cold. It is the very reason why the money will again go down the drain.
Deep in his mind, Obasanjo knew that his anti-corruption crusade was a mere smoke screen. It is the reason why the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) kept getting embarrassed by certain actions of the Obasanjo. When the former EFCC boss, Nuhu Ribadu, said more than thirty governors of the total thirty six in Nigeria had cases to answer at the end of their tenures, Obasanjo countered by saying he no of only two. He may have been referring to Joshua Dariye and Dipreye Alamesigha,as they happened to have been arrested in London on account of money laundering.
When Obasanjo left office in 2007, the burden of fighting corruption became the sole responsibility of the EFCC. It was still willing to carry on. Suddenly, Ribadu was sent on compulsory study leave and had to hand over to Ibrahim Lamorde who seemed promising until he was taken off-guard by the naming of Farida Waziri as the new and full-fledged chairperson of the commission. The feeling among Nigerians is that these series of changes within a short period of time has diffused the zeal of the commission to carry-on with cases that were on Ribadu's table.
If we agree that corruption has been the bedrock problem of the nation, then Ribadu's education at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies ought to have been sacrificed to allow him carry on with the fight. If Mrs. Waziri feels she is up to the task, then she must carry on from where Ribadu and Larmode left.
The painful tradition is, no doubt, responsible for the hopeless photo of the future in the minds of young Nigerians who consequently feel owed and have thus resorted to various crimes ranging from armed-robbery to oil pipeline vandalisation, 4-1-9 to hostage taking in return for financial ransom and the risky attempts to travel to destinations of greener pastures that often ended up in tragic consequences.
Impunity to Nigerians that have frustrated the growth of the nation will take us nowhere despite our huge wealth. As long as there is no retribution to past offenders, the $ 5.3 billion will go down the drain once again.