Former Minister of Power and Steel, Dr. Olu Agunloye, has insinuated that former President Olusegun Obasanjo tried to blackmail him with lies about the Mambilla Power Project because he did not support the candidate for the Labour Party in the 2023 presidential election, Peter Obi.
According to Agunloye, who is the National Secretary of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Obasanjo sent an emissary to him about the project months after he (Obasanjo) had tried to sell Peter Obi to him. Agunloye said he refused to support the LP candidate like the former President had done.
He, however, added that one week after the visit of Obasanjo’s emissary – which made him realise that Obasanjo was anxious – the former President said in an interview with TheCable that he did not authorize Agunloye to award $6 billion Mambilla Power Project contract to Sunrise Power and Transmission Ltd.
In the interview, Obasanjo urged the former power and steel minister to tell Nigerians where he derived the authority to award the contract to the company in respect of the Mambilla Hydropower Project in 2003.
The Nigerian government is claiming that the contract was awarded one week to the end of Agunoye’s tenure as power and steel minister in 2003, saying he acted illegally.
Sunrise Power is currently in arbitration with Nigeria at the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), Paris, France, after accusing the West African country of breaching contract.
The company is asking for a compensation of $2.3 billion for its spending before the contract was cancelled and $400 million settlement, which it described as the terms of the agreement it entered with the Nigerian government in 2020 to end the arbitration.
But Agunloye said everything Obasanjo in the interview was a lie and that he followed due process and got the necessary approvals.
He, however, insinuated that it might be political as Obasanjo came out with the allegations after he refused to support Peter Obi.
He said, “When the former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, sent an emissary, in person of his close young associate who is a Labour Party (LP) Chieftain to me on 26 August 2023 to discuss the Mambilla Power Project, I knew the former president was getting pretty anxious.
“My last encounter with the former President was in late last year, 2022 and early this year (2023) when the former President was frantically persuading leaders of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), of which I am the National Secretary, to team up with and support the then Presidential Candidate Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP). We declined and turned down the entreaties of former President Olusegun Obasanjo on behalf of the Labour Party, LP.
“Seven days later, on the 3 September 2023, The Cable News reported an extensive interview, https://www.thecable.ng/obasanjo-i-knew-buhari-didnt-understand-economics-but-didnt-know-he-was-a-reckless-spender/amp, granted by the former President titled: “I knew Buhari didn’t understand economics but didn’t know he was so reckless.” In this interview, the former president made misleading and incorrect statements on the Mambilla Power Project.
“I have submitted a 53-paragraph, 14-page Statement backed with 15 Attachments in 82-page document as an affidavit to the courts in Nigeria and France in respect of the Mambilla Power Project to clear my name. In deference to Pa Obasanjo and as a mark of great respect to the former President, I have sent a copy of these documents through my lawyers to him to refreshen his memory.
“The former president was not correct when he referred to the award to Sunrise simply as a $6 billion contract (that is, N800 billion in 2003) under his watch. In truth, it was a Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) contract in which the FGN did not need to pay any amount to the contractor, Messrs Sunrise Power and Transmission Company Limited (Sunrise).
“As a matter of fact, Sunrise has not been paid a single Naira or Dollar by the FGN from 2000 till date (14/9/23). Sunrise was to source for funds and execute the project with own funds.
“The investment of Sunrise to construct the Mambilla hydroelectric project up to completion stage to deliver electricity was adjudged at a maximum of $6 billion by four Ministers of Power and the former president (Chief Obasanjo) before I became Minister of Power. Sunrise was to recoup his investment from the sale of the generated electricity over a 30- to 40-year period at pre-determined tariffs, also agreed with FGN before May 2003.
“I followed due process and got all necessary approvals for the BOT contract award to Sunrise on 22 May 2003 and there are records to show that the former President Obasanjo propelled the processes from the beginning in 2000 to the end in May 2003.
“In fact, Sunrise started Mambilla project three years before I became Minister of Power and had arranged meetings with Chinese Companies and Chinese President in China in which three Power Ministers and the then President Obasanjo attended between 2000 and 2002 before I was appointed Minister of Power.
“On the very day (28 Nov 2002), that I resumed office as Minister of Power, Pa Obasanjo himself, in a formal letter, handed me his presidential approval on the Sunrise proposal with an instruction that Sunrise be invited 'for the final negotiations for the execution of the Mambilla Power Project.'"