Power probe: EFCC quizzes 50, traces N1.5b bribe cash to NPDHC chief
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has so far interrogated about 50 people as it revs up its probe of the alleged $9billion power project scandal, The Nation gathered last night.
Top on the list of the interrogees are contractors and top government officials including a Permanent Secretary, functionaries of the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) and those of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN).
Fresh revelations from the probe paint a picture of how contractors and top officials of the NDPHC feasted on about $8.5billion spent on the power project.
Contractors are alleged to have collected huge cash upfront for some projects without doing anything while NDPHC officials hijacked funds meant for compensation to host communities of the projects.
The officials also took humongous bribe sums from many contractors which they allegedly paid into their personal accounts.
Already, the EFCC has traced about N1.5billion to the accounts of an official of NDPHC.
The suspect, who is currently hospitalized, was said to be in charge of paying the compensation which was eventually diverted.
The suspect, according to sources, prostrated before EFCC detectives, and opened up on the list of top directors that benefitted from the cash in his accounts.
Although some of the NDPHC directors have retired, the EFCC is already going after them.
Besides, the EFCC has grilled officials of three of the four firms so far short listed for investigation on the matter.
The companies are Pivot Engineering Company Limited, Hiquado Limited and Chris-Ejik International Agencies Limited.
The EFCC has summoned the Chairman of Rockson Engineering Company Limited, Mr. Joseph Arumemi Ikhide, whose company got about $2billion of the votes for the power project with only about 40per cent job done.
Ikhide has written to the EFCC saying he has a cardiac challenge.
Investigation by our correspondent revealed that although the power probe started about 10 years ago, this is the first time the anti-graft commission has recorded a breakthrough.
Some of the shock findings by detectives border on alleged refurbishing of existing transmission lines after money has been collected for new ones; massive diversion of project funds; outright non-implementation of projects;
The intensity of the probe has made some government officials taking pre-emptive steps to resign or retire.
Some contractors have also volunteered to refund some funds.
A brief obtained by The Nation reads in part: “Based on project status report, we have so far closed in on four companies including Pivot Engineering Company Limited, Hiquado Limited, Chris-Ejik International Agencies Limited and Rockson Engineering Company Limited.
“As for Pivot Engineering Company Limited, it collected the following: N2, 636,660, 463.21 and $31.518, 868.15(Ihovbo Sub-station; N452, 935,050.58 and $5,588,738.16(Ihiala Line Bay Extension). On Ihovbo projects, out of five lots, it completed four remaining one. But at Ihiala axis, out of three projects, one was about 40% completed, another at 20%completion stage and the third at 0%.
“As for Chris-Ejik, it handled Obudu new Sub-Station with 35 % of the job done after being paid N1, 034,292,598.52 and $4,945,087.16. The company complained of Way Leave problem. The same company collected N500million for Lot Trx (Lekki-Ajah /Ota-Ogba-Papalanto. Nothing was done by our investigation but the onus is on the company to come up with proof.
Regarding Hiquado Limited, it executed Ikot Abasi new Sub-Station, Adiabo Sub-Station and Calabar Sub-Station. It got paid as follows: Ikot Abasi( N4,485,695,913.93 and $59,317,649.31) ; Adiabo( N893, 281,533.80 and $7, 811,597.26. The company did well in these two sub-stations. At Ikot Abasi, the company bought materials but could not use because of the existing lines. All the materials will be used.
“But for Calabar EPZ Sub-Station, the completion rate was at 35% because of erosion challenge. The materials were bought but the environmental challenge affected the project. Although these materials had been vandalized, Hiquado Limited has approached the NDPHC to refund the cost of the materials to the agency.”
The EFCC however said Rockson Engineering Company Limited, which received a huge chunk of power project cash (allegedly about $1.5b-$2b) has not gone beyond 30-40 % in the projects it won.
It said all attempts to interact with Chairman of Rockson Engineering Construction Limited, Mr. Joseph Arumemi Ikhide, has failed.
Ikhide’s last contact with the EFCC was on September 26th, 2019 through his lawyer, Mr. Babajide Koku (SAN) claiming that he is abroad for medical treatment.
Notwithstanding, the EFCC insisted that Rockson Engineering has to account for about $1.5billion to $2billion.
The agency’s brief said: “Rockson Engineering Company Limited was the only company awarded both power generation and transmission contracts.
“In respect of generation, the company collected these payments for gas turbines for the following plants: Egbema ( $146, 398,039.39 and N2,097,601,956.89); Gbarain($171,322,997,87 and N2,788, 607,806.23); Omoku ($184,365, 659.02) and N3, 009, 617,903.88); and Alaoji ($752, 940,405.97 and N1, 999, 208, 968.16). Altogether, Rockson has executed about 40% of the generation contracts.”
“Concerning transmission projects managed by Rockson Engineering, it was paid $24, 908, 235.85 and N6,126, 615,461. 05 for Owerri-Alaoji-Omoku-Egbema and Ihiala-Nnewi-Onitsha. All the jobs done were not up to 30%.
“From investigation, it was discovered that part of the cash paid to Rockson Engineering Company Limited was channeled to Rockson International, of which Ikhide is the chairman, to acquire aircraft for Arik Air which has been taken over by Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON).”
As at press time, documents showed that the EFCC has been on the trail of Ikhide for interaction.
In a September 17, 2019 to Ikhide, EFCC said: “The commission is investigating a case in which the need to obtain certain clarifications from your organization becomes imperative.
“In view of the above, you are kindly requested to attend an interview with the undersigned, Abubakar Madaki.”
In a September 26, 2019 response to EFCC’s invitation, Ikhide through his counsel, Mr. Babajide Koku said: “We regret to advise that Sir Joseph Arumemi Ikhide is indisposed and currently undergoing medical treatment abroad as such unable to attend interview as stipulated in your letter.
“We have assured that Sir Joseph Arumemi Ikhide will be available to attend the interview as soon as he is well enough to do so.”
An attached letter from BUPA Cromwell Hospital in London said Ikhide was “presented with severe central chest pain and exertion shortness of breath. He has been advised to complete his cardiac investigation.”
The probe of the $16billion power projects had dominated the nation’s national discourse since 2006 until the EFCC team led by its Acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu made a breakthrough in the last few weeks.
The anti-graft agency initially closed in on 20 suspects including two former governors and a former chairman of a bank.
But the number of those interrogated has risen to 50 with more high-profile Nigerians on EFCC’s radar.
The list is apart from about 17 companies whose roles in the power contracts will also be investigated.
But those in charge of the projects said only $8.58billion was actually allocated between 2005 and 2018.
The said the breakdown is as follows: $2.2billion from 2005- 2007; $600million in 2008; about $5.37b from 2010/2011 to date; $150m-$200m made available to NNPC by CBN; and about $80million for Ibom Plant.
The $8.58billion was allocated as follows:
*About $4.4billion—Power Plants (5,000MW at less than $1m per Megawatt
*About $2billion for Transmission Lines
*About $1.5billion for 350 distribution projects
*$600million -$700million for gas pipelines
*$80million loan from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) for Ibom Power Plant which resulted in an interest-free debenture.