Rt.Hon.Ndudi Elumelu at the interaction with DOPF members.
By Chukwudi Abiandu
A former House of Representative member who represented Aniocha/Oshimili Federal Constituency, Rt.Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, has revealed how he overcame the plot to nail him through the horrible investigation contrived on an alleged Rural Electrification Agency N5.6 billion fraud.
In a Media parley with members of the Delta Online Publishers Forum, DOPF, on Sunday, 24th December, 2017 in his Country home at Onicha-Uku, Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta State, Elumelu revealed that his saving grace was his penchant to uphold due process in all his transactions, while he was the chairman of the House Committee on Power at the House of Representatives, adding that the contrived investigation against him and subsequent arraignment in court by the Economic Financial and Corruption Commission EFCC was plotted to punish him for instituting a comprehensive probe of the power sector in Nigeria.
“Coming to the National Assembly, I took a number of decisions; one, that I will never do a letter of recommendation for anybody to be given contract. Two, that I will not also be a part of it. The only thing I cannot swear in my life is about insurance because it is my business.
“If they had said that they gave me insurance of one place and that was what I did, I will probably find it difficult to say that I did or I didn’t. Probably what I will do is to call my people and say please, cross check our books and see if we got that job or that insurance business. So that was the first step”, he said.
Elumelu explained further, that the rot as at that time in the power sector was of immense proportion and very many top guns in the country were far deep in the sleaze that led to the rendering of the power sector comatose, hence, his vowed not to spare anybody found wanting irrespective of status in the society.
He affirmed that his determination to do a good job for the benefit of the country led him to stepping on very powerful toes of the untouchables in the country and they did everything possible to stop him by all means, for the fact that he was very critical about rural electrification processes in the power sector at that time.
“If you recall, Liyel Imoke was the minister then, his cousin was made the MD of Rural Electrification Agency. So when I did the probe, I found out that in every state, they were duplicating what the state was doing on paper not in reality. By duplication, I mean if I put this Electric Pole here, I will put up a sign post and call it Delta State Rural Electrification project. Then the national Rural Electrification team will come there, take cognizance of where these poles are, come for appropriation and include it in the budget of that same spot. Thus, by the time the budget is passed, they would award that contract for the same spot, all in a space of one month after doing all the necessary contract award documentation and processes as stipulated by the due process code.
“They will award and say it has been executed and the day auditors will go, the auditors will obviously notify them. They will come to that place and paste Rural Electrification Sticker, so when auditors of the Federal Government leave, they will remove the sticker and leave the state government sticker, which was a clear duplication.
“So what I did, in every state I went, I took the Federal Rural Electrification and the State Rural Electrification heads, I said, Commissioner, you will follow me, MD you will follow me and in each pole, we will ask them, show me your own. In the whole federation, we found out that, that was what was happening. So, my recommendation was first, remove the MD of the Rural Electrification back to the Ministry to give room for further EFCC investigation of our recommendation for possible prosecution. Of course in so doing, there were hands that had benefited.”
The former federal legislature stated that the power committee recommendation ruffled the feathers of some very power persons and that led to various strategies by them to pull him down, even as he added that the constituency project, solar street lights, which were projects he included in the budget that were his constituency projects were used against him.
“So after looking at what to use to catch me, they didn’t see anything, they saw those projects and said i was the one who made Rural Electrification to award the contract. By the time they calculated the contract for the whole nation for rural electrification, it was N5.6bn. So the MD, they awarded the job to, they called him and begged him to be a witness; ‘ claim that he forced you to award those contracts without due process’, they instructed him. But unfortunately for the MD, he didn’t know what they were telling him because it means he circumvented the law and the law of Procurement Act has no provision for influence. So he didn’t even read it, and they picked him first,” Elumelu revealed, while confirming that the MD was made to write a statement indicating that he influenced the award of the contract by the Rural Electrification Agency, adding that he equally alleged that even the Solar Light project in Onicha-Uku, his community, were awarded and as at that time it had not even been done.
Elumelu further revealed that the former EFCC boss, Mrs. Farida Waziri, also brought her own intimidation strategy, even employing the influence of family members to sway him, but according to the politician, he stood his ground, stressing that he was able to convince those employed to dissuade him, which even made his elder brother to take up the matter with the then President ,Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, who he noted, expressed surprise at the probe.
He quickly added that the action of the then president did not, however, stop them from taking him to Court, even when it was very clear that there was no evidence of fraud to warrant his persecution, for the fact that everything that has to do with the contract followed due process, with an advance payment guarantee by 10 banks including Zenith Bank, housing the N5.6billion component which was alleged to be owned by him, stressing that his persecutors, in the cause of what he called media trial, did not tell Nigerian about the bank guarantees.
“So that was how my lawyer now took them on and now challenged them on the foundation of the arraignment, because to proffer charges on any suspect, you must have reasons to proffer charges and the court ought not to have granted them leave to proffer charges if there are no reasons for that. So, we sued them on the wrong foundation for the court to have even abinitio allowed them to profer charges. So they came and the only way to allege that you have proof to prefer charges is on proof of evidence and they could not defend it.
“All they said was that oh no by the time we open the case you will see evidence, we said this is the evidence. It was then Justice Oniyongi tongue- lashed EFCC. He said “Look, I’m so ashamed in this country, the man did a probe, alleged that they stole $13.8bn and instead of going after those who stole that money, you are talking about N5.6bn. Let us even assume that the man took N5.6bn, you didn’t go after $13.8bn, you are going after N5.6bn.
“It was the same day my lawyer moved the motion, that I was discharged and acquitted.”