EFCC arraigns ex-minister Olu Agunloye over alleged $6billion fraud

THE Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has arraigned the former minister of power and steel development, Olu Agunloye, before a Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court in Abuja.

The EFCC made this known in a post on its X account on Wednesday, January 10.

Agunloye served as minister under former President Olusegun Obasanjo between 1999 and 2003.

On December 13, the commission declared him wanted over an alleged $6 billion fraud.

The anti-graft agency also appealed to Nigerians with useful information about the former minister’s whereabouts to report to the nearest Police station or the anti-graft agency’s zonal office.

Meanwhile, in its Wednesday statement, EFCC stated that the ex-minister was arraigned on a seven-count charge bordering on fraudulent contract awards and official corruption.

One of the counts reads: “That you, Olu Agunloye, whilst being the minister of power and steel on or about the 22nd of May, 2003 in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court awarded a contract, titled  ‘Construction of 3,960mw Mambilla Hydroelectric Power Station on a Build, Operate and Transfer Basis’ to Sunrise Power and Transmission  Company Limited without any budgetary provision, approval and cash  backing and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable  under Section 22(4) of the Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act, 2000.”

Another count reads: “That you, Olu Agunloye, on or about the 10th of August 2019 in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, corruptly received the sum of Three Million Six Hundred Thousand Naira (N3,600,000.00) through your Guaranty Trust Bank account no.0022530926 from Sunrise Power and Transmission Company Limited (SPTCL) and Leno Adesanya for having  conveyed the ‘approval of the government of the Federal Republic of  Nigeria for the construction of the 3,960 megawatts Mambilla  Hydroelectric Power Station’ in favour of SPTCL which you did whilst  serving as the minister of power and steel without the approval of the  federal executive council contrary to and punishable under Section 8(1)(a) and (b) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.”

Agunloye, however, pleaded not guilty to all the charges when they were read to him.

The prosecution counsel, Abba Muhammed, subsequently requested a trial date and urged the court to detain the defendant in a correctional centre.

Meanwhile, the defence counsel, Adola Adedipe, a senior advocate, informed the court about a filed bail application for the defendant, requesting the court to grant bail and place the defendant in EFCC custody.

The presiding justice, Onwuegbuzie ruled that the defendant be remanded in Kuje Correctional Centre.

He also set Thursday, January 11, 2024, for the hearing.

The EFCC had earlier quizzed Agunloye.

In September 2023, Obasanjo accused the former minister of mismanaging the Mambilla power project during his tenure and alleged that Agunloye fraudulently awarded the project contract without the approval of the federal executive council.

Initially awarded in 2003 to Sunrise Power and Transmission Limited, the proposed 3,050-megawatt plant in Mambilla, Taraba state, is expected to be the largest power-generating installation in Nigeria and one of Africa’s largest hydroelectric power stations.

However, the project has been the subject of decades of legal dispute between the company and the Nigerian government.

In 2008, the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, who succeeded Obasanjo, terminated the project.






     

     

    In November 2022, The ICIR, in one of its reports, stated that the EFCC launched an investigation into the project.

    In his defence, Agunloye described Obasanjo’s accusation as baseless, false, and malicious, arguing that the former President was wrong when he referred to the award to Sunrise simply as a $6 billion contract (about N800 billion in 2003).

    Agunloye said the project was a build, operate and transfer (BOT) contract in which the Federal Government 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 (Federal Government of Nigeria) from 2000 till date (14/9/23),”  Agunloye was quoted to have argued.

    Usman Mustapha is a solution journalist with International Centre for Investigative Reporting. You can easily reach him via: [email protected]. He tweets @UsmanMustapha_M

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