Ten Illuminating Facts about AGUNLOYE & MAMBILLA
20 January 2024
1. Dr Olu Agunloye did not award “any contract for $6 billion”, and he was not involved in “any $6 billion fraud” as being misrepresented in the media by distortions that are traceable to the EFCC to damage and disparage.
2. On 22 May 2003, Dr Agunloye, acting as the Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria conveyed a legitimate approval of the award of the construction of the 3,960-Megawatt Mambilla hydroelectric power project estimated at $6 billion to Sunrise Power and Transmission company (Sunrise) as a *_Build Operate and Transfer_* (BOT) at NO COST to the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN). Under the BOT, Sunrise was to raise its own funds for the construction of the hydroelectric dam and was to operate it for about 35 years, selling the generated electricity therefrom at pre-agreed tariffs to recover its expended funds and thereafter transfer ownership to FGN. The FGN has not paid a single Naira to Sunrise up to this day.
3. On 10 January 2024, Dr. Agunloye was charged to the FCT High Court for “awarding a BOT contract without any budgetary provision, approval, and cash backing” and for “knowingly disobeying the directive of the President”. This was in spite of his then statutory powers as a sitting Minister under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to award contracts. Dr. Agunloye was also charged with receiving payments of N3,600,000 (three million and six hundred thousand Naira) in August 2019, N500,000 (five hundred thousand Naira) in October 2019, and N1,200,000 (one million and two hundred thousand Naira) in November 2019, over 16 (sixteen) years after the award of the BOT contract, from Sunrise’s Mr Leno Adesanya through bank transfers. The payments were said to be towards the medical treatment of the former minister over 16 years after he had left office. The payments were not “bribes for a $6 billion contract awarded” as being peddled in the media by the EFCC.
4. The extant laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in May 2003 did not require an approval of the FEC for a minister to award a contract, more so, a BOT contract that carried zero budgetary allocation. After Dr Agunloye gave approval of the BOT contract in May 2003, there have not been any contrary directives from any President or the Federal Executive Council (FEC) from 2003 to date. Importantly, the Sunrise Letter of Award of May 2003 predated the ICRC Act of 2005, which requires FEC approvals for projects and contracts of FGN.
5. Between 2000 and 2003, President Olusegun Obasanjo duly mentored the processes and award of Mambilla BOT contract. He led three Ministers of Power, excluding Dr Agunloye and other government officials, together with Sunrise, to hold multiple meetings in China with Chinese Government owned technical partners of Sunrise, all of which are renowned for construction of hydroelectric power dams.
6. Sometimes after June 2003, for reasons yet to be disclosed, President Obasanjo switched from the BOT model for the Mambilla project and proceeded to split the Mambilla hydroelectric power dam project into smaller components to be awarded as procurement contracts to be paid for by FGN even though splitting of contracts was and still is unlawful in Nigeria.
7. In 2008, the Yar’Adua regime set up an investigation that showed that the 2003 BOT contract to Sunrise was legitimate. Over the years, renown Nigerian lawyers like Chief Afe Babalola, SAN in Feb 2005, Gbolahan Elias, SAN in May 2018 and Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN in December 2023 had duly pointed out to the FGN that the 22/5/03 BOT award to Sunrise was indeed legitimate. Also, Honourable Attorneys General of the Federation of Nigeria, HAGF Michael Aondoakaa, SAN on 12 November 2007 and HAGF Abubakar Malami, SAN on 20 May 2016 and 17 August 2017 had written to their respective Presidents that the May 2003 BOT contract to Sunrise by Dr Agunloye was duly awarded.
8. Between 2003 and 2007, President Obasanjo pretended not to know that his Minister Agunloye awarded the Mambilla Power Project as BOT, he split the contract, and re-awarded the pieces to other companies. The Yar’Adua and Jonathan presidencies terminated the split contracts for being improper and re-awarded the Mambilla Hydroelectric Power Project back to the Sunrise consortium in November 2012, but this was cancelled under the Buhari presidency in 2017. As a result of this cancellation, Sunrise headed to the international arbitration process in France, and this was followed by several negotiations, multiple breaches, and renegotiations by FGN. To wriggle out of the imminent Arbitration liability, FGN opted to plead pervasive internal corruption in Nigeria and thereafter to scandalise and criminalise key persons involved in the Mambilla Power Project excepting those who served under the Buhari regime, with the hope that this would nullify the Claim of Sunrise at the Arbitration. President Obasanjo promptly put forward Dr. Agunloye as a scapegoat who “disobeyed the president to award a BOT contract” hoping that this may save his own head from the multiple infractions committed in the power sector under his presidency. And, of course, EFCC jumped to action, declared “Dr Agunloye Wanted”, and started to treat him as a common criminal.
9. It is good that President Obasanjo has volunteered to testify in court against Dr Agunloye as this would offer him an opportunity to explain why he changed the Mambilla BOT contract to multiple procurement contracts and to make full disclosures on a number of issues including his personal relationship as well as those of his family members in Sunrise Power and Transmission Company.
10. The ongoing overzealous advocacy to make Dr Agunloye a scapegoat of the filths and corrupt practices in the power sector may not be unconnected with the desperation of the former president to cover his roles in the misappropriation of $16.4 billion funds secured for the power sector under his presidency. But, persecuting Dr Agunloye, generally perceived as one of the best of the lot, may portend greater disasters for the other Ministers of Power and their presidents. It should be recalled that the Yar’Adua probe into the power sector from 2000 to 2007 seriously indicted President Obasanjo, his close official staffs, and all his Ministers of Power except Dr Agunloye. It is surprising how hard corruption is fighting back in Nigeria and leveraging on EFCC as a willing tool.