Saharareporters, New York
Extensive investigations by Saharareporters have revealed that the report of the House of Representatives’ probe of squandered investments in the power sector is mired in a labyrinth of power politics that center on the gubernatorial ambition of Liyel Imoke, former Governor of Cross River State who was recently sacked by the Court of Appeal. Our sources disclosed that, contrary to the impression given to the Nigerian public that the delay over the report has to do with an alleged N100 million bribe to panel members, the politics of the report is driven by top leaders of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) led by Umaru Yar’adua, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole and Yar'adua's Chief Economic Adviser, Tanimu Yakubu.
Yar’adua, Bankole, Tanimu and other PDP leaders have worked behind the scenes to frustrate the presentation of the power probe report, pending the scheduling of fresh governorship elections in Cross Rivers State.
Saharareporters has also confirmed that the power probe report has been submitted to the Rules and Business Committee of the House of Representatives, but the committee has refused to schedule the report for debate before the plenary session as required by parliamentary procedures. A group of legislators of the House of Representative had alleged that members of the committee received N100 million from officials of Rockson Engineering Company Limited at the airport in Port Harcourt, according to a petition being investigated by the Ethics Committee of the lower house. The chairman of the committee, Godwin Elumelu denies receiving bribes from the contractors.
A source within the House of Representatives, who has seen the report, told Saharareporters that a coalition of powerful forces indicted in the report are behind the grand conspiracy to kill the entire report. The source said these forces are frightened by the “earth-shaking and earth quaking” findings of the panel.
Saharareporters sources also revealed that, despite media denials, the chairperson of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mrs. Farida Waziri, is firmly in possession of the interim and full reports of the power probe committee.
The report, which indicted Imoke, the deposed governor of Cross River State, is being put in abeyance for political reasons that have to do with making it possible for Imoke to run as a candidate. One source told Saharareporters that for the gubernatorial re-run the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) might hurriedly schedule election within the next month. Already the House of Representatives will be embarking on a six-week vacation starting from tomorrow (Thursday July 31 2008).
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Imoke and Yar’adua are determined to shield Imoke from prosecution by providing him with immunity, but contrary to media reports that Imoke arrest was being frustrated by Obasanjo, Saharareporters learns that Imoke enjoys full protection from Tanimu, the powerful economic adviser to Yar'adua with whom Imoke has secret business relationship.
A federal legislator who didn’t want to be named for fear of reprisal put it succinctly: “The politics behind the bribery allegations and games being played by the speaker and the relevant committee that should have scheduled this report is to allow Liyel Imoke to get his immunity back before the power probe report is released. Thereafter, Yar’adua, Mrs. Farida Waziri and the PDP leadership can claim that their hands are tied by the rule of law.”
The handling of the probe report has exposed another troubling angle to Yar’adua regime’s overt efforts to kill the anti-corruption efforts in Nigeria. As Saharareporters earlier revealed in several published reports, Mrs. Waziri is beholden to a corrupt cabal within the political class, made up of several corrupt former governors indicted for corruption. That dreadful scenario played up last week in Abuja when the EFCC, acting on the interim report provided by the committee probing the scam in the power sector, tried to arrest Imoke.
Reliable sources, one of them a member of the EFCC team dispatched to arrest Imoke in Abuja last week, told Saharareporters that they had Imoke within their reach when a signal came from Mrs Waziri instructing them to call off his arrest.
Apparently, Yar’adua had called the Attorney General of the Federation Michael Aondoakaa to call off the operation after Imoke reached him on the phone.
It was the second time in two weeks that Yar’adua had interfered directly with EFCC operations. The first had to do with the arraignment of controversial businessman, Jimoh Ibrahim, who was arraigned in court for criminal offences while he was junketing with Yar’adua in Europe. The EFCC ended up arraigning him before a Lagos court for forgery in absentia. The EFCC claimed that Mr. Jimoh was arrested before and granted “administrative bail”. Saharareporters was told that the arraignment of Jimoh was just a well-executed fluke aimed at giving unsuspecting members of the Nigerian public the impression that the EFCC under Waziri could bite. This assertion by our sources was validated again today when the EFCC could not produce Jimoh before a Lagos high court for the second time, and instead of asking the judge to issue a bench warrant for his arrest and production in court, EFCC lawyers curiously sought for an adjournment till October 8 2008 to produce him in court. The inability to produce Jimoh in court is linked to an N500 million-dollar bribe the businessman offered the Attorney general, Michael Aondoakaa collected from Jimoh to force the Yar'adua government to return NICON Insurance to him, Saharareporters had revealed this transaction between the duo a while ago.
The new EFCC, under Mrs. Waziri, has yet to commence any serious investigations of its own. It has only worked on cases begun by the EFCC under Nuhu Ribadu and Ibrahim Lamorde. Sources privy to the failed effort to arrest Imoke said Mrs. Waziri left for Lagos in an attempt to cover up the failed operation. In Lagos, she met with the Chief Judge of Lagos High Court. Waxing tough, Mrs. Waziri reportedly told the CJ that she would no longer accept “plea bargains” for cases prosecuted by the EFCC in Lagos. Her false posturing was pathetic especially in view of the story making the rounds that she had just bungled the arrest of a high profile money launderer in Imoke.
Mrs. Waziri was accompanied by Yar’adua’s vice, Goodluck Jonathan, to a meeting in Aso Rock last week where she reportedly met PDP operatives to fashion out how to cover up Imoke’s corruption as stated in the power probe.
Also, she was said to have visited former military dictator, Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida two weeks ago, to pledge that she would not investigate the former army general adjudged to be one of the most corrupt in Nigeria’s history.
Mrs. Waziri is billed to meet with some newspaper editors in Lagos on a rendezvous aimed at effectively recruiting them in her propaganda to fool the Nigerian public about her “reforms” of the EFCC before returning to Abuja today.