Former Minister of Power, Olu Agunloye, has responded to former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s accusations concerning the Mambilla power project, dismissing them as unsubstantiated and untrue.
In an interview with TheCable, Obasanjo challenged Agunloye to explain the basis for awarding a $6 billion contract to Sunrise Power and Transmission Ltd for the Mambilla hydropower project in 2003.
Sunrise Power, currently embroiled in arbitration with Nigeria at the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in Paris, France, over an alleged contract breach by the federal government, is seeking compensation of $2.3 billion, claiming it incurred substantial expenses on financial and legal consultants before the contract was abandoned.
Sunrise Power is also demanding a $400 million settlement as part of the terms of its 2020 agreement with the federal government to resolve the arbitration.
The Nigerian government’s argument against the lawsuit revolves around Agunloye’s alleged “illegal” actions, asserting that he awarded the contract “suspiciously” one week before his tenure as Power Minister ended in 2003.
In a statement released on Sunday, September 17, Agunloye refuted the allegations, deeming them unfounded, false, and malicious.
He clarified that the initial contract for the Mambilla power project, awarded in May 2003 during his tenure, was structured as a “build, operate and transfer (BOT) contract.”
Agunloye disclosed that the contract required Sunrise to finance and complete the hydroelectric project independently, with an estimated cost of up to $6 billion (N800 billion in 2003) as evaluated by four power ministers and former President Obasanjo prior to his tenure.
Agunloye, who asserted that no Nigerian president, including Obasanjo, had ever questioned or interrogated him about awarding an unauthorized Mambilla contract for two decades, also raised concerns about the change in the project’s contract model after his tenure. He pointed out that Obasanjo had divided it into smaller components.
Under this revised model, Sunrise Power and Transmission Company Limited (Sunrise) was responsible for securing funds and executing the project using its resources. The federal government of Nigeria (FGN) was not obligated to make any payments to Sunrise. However, on May 28, 2007, one day before handing over power to President Umaru Yar’Adua, President Obasanjo altered the terms of the Mambilla project from a Build, Operate, and Transfer (BOT) contract, which would not have required any FGN investment, to a fully funded FGN Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) contract.