N6bn Mambilla project: Ex-minister Olu Agunloye gets N50m bail

A FEDERAL Capital Territory (FCT) High Court has granted bail to a former minister of power and steel, Olu Agunloye, for N50 million.

The ICIR reported on Wednesday, January 10, 2024, that Agunloye was charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) with seven counts, including official corruption and fraudulent contract awarding.

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.”

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, Adeola 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, Jude Onwuegbuzie, ruled that the defendant should be remanded in Kuje Correctional Centre.

At the resumed sitting on Thursday, January 11, the former minister’s lawyer, Adeola Adedipe, moved the bail application for his client “by way of self-recognition or in liberal terms.”

He said Agunloye did not pose a flight danger, and the prosecution’s argument was “borne out of misconception and communication barrier.”

Adedipe also appealed to the court not to order the use of a public servant as surety for his client. .

The prosecution’s attorney objected to the bail request.

But the presiding judge, Jude Onwuegbuzie, stated that the court favoured granting the accused bail.

He gave the defendant N50 million bail and demanded that he present two sureties in an equal sum. 

The sureties must be FCT residents who are “people of means” and “reputable,” who must own real estate valued at N300 million and possess a verified certificate of occupancy.

In addition, Agunloye must submit copies of identity cards and photocopies of his international passports to the court and be available for hearing at all times.

The judge adjourned to February 12 for a continued hearing.

Background

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

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.

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