Afenifere, the Yoruba socio-cultural and political organisation, and the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) have called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to probe the N3.5 billion contract controversy involving Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello.
A statement issued in Lagos yesterday by the National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, noted that there had been allegations against former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration, adding that his children could not distinguish between Nigeria and Otta farm.
Afenifere said the Austrian scandal involving Iyabo was a reflected Obasanjo’s “weak moral standard”.
“We therefore call on Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to immediately apprehend Iyabo and carry out a thorough investigation. If she is found out to have committed this heinous crime, she should be charged to court immediately and vacate her seat at the National Assembly,” the statement added.
CNPP accused President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua of shielding corrupt politicians and their accomplices.
In a statement in Abuja, the coalition asked why Yar’Adua was continuously pointing accusing fingers at vandals, on the embarrassing darkness the country is thrown into. It also queried why probes into Wilbros, Seimens, the Metropolitan Police, M. Schneider and Obasanjo-Bello scandals were emanating from abroad when there are anti-graft agencies in the country.
According to the statement, “Without prejudice to the subsisting case at the International Court of Arbitration, Paris France, Conference of Nigeria Political Parties hereby reaffirms our position that President Umaru Yar’Adua is shielding corrupt officials, especially ex-president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and ex-governors.
“It is appalling that if the deal had not gone sour, we could have been kept in the dark in a 15,673,356.60 euros and 762,976,093.00 naira deal, concerning electricity, a vital segment of our 2020 quest to industrialise the country.”
Also, former governor of Edo State, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, described the revelation as a welcome development.
He said the scandal had shown that the war against corruption was on course, adding that the development was an abuse of office.
He also described claims of anti-corruption war by the former president, Obasanjo, as hypocritical and mere attempts by his administration to create distractions from the evils being perpetrated at the background.
“It is a welcome development. All things are now eventually being revealed. It is a good thing because we are now beginning to see that the war against corruption has no respect for anybody. Although, it was a frustrated contract that involved complete abuse of office, I’m glad that the information is out.
“The allegation of the N3.5 billion contract shows the hypocrisy at the time. It showed that the war against corruption was just an attempt to divert attention from what was going on at the background,” Oyegun said.
Former Secretary General of Afenifere, Mr. Ayo Opadokun, said if the allegation was found to be true, it would be an unfortunate experience.
He called on the EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to investigate the allegation and reveal its findings as soon as possible.
“If the story as published is true, it is an unfortunate dimension to who has legitimacy in governance. If it is true, our intelligent and security outfits, I mean the EFCC and the ICPC have to verify the claims and come up with genuine findings. I also imagine that we are about to witness the exposure of perfidy that has overrun Nigeria in the couple of years. If this story is true, it shows whether Nigeria wants to be taken seriously in the comity of nations or not,” Opadokun said.
Former governor of Ogun State, Chief Olusegun Osoba, said the allegation could not be true.
“I hope it’s not true. If it is true, it will be unfortunate. I will want to see thorough evidence. If it’s true, it will be most unfortunate,” he said.
“What a shame that a very incompetent company going by the account of Chief Albert Awofisayo, the mastermind, was awarded strategic substations of the Integrated Power Projects in the Niger Delta-Line-Bay- Obudu and Benin- North?” CNPP said. adding: “it is our considered view that the M. Schneider contract scam has exposed the planlessness and squandermania that is the hallmark of the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo regime.Chief Obasanjo and confederates pretended in awarding fictitous power contracts.
“How can a patriot award huge contracts of seven power projects of 300 mega watts per station at $1m per mega watt, without concrete and credible substations or transmission lines and gas pipeline contracts?” the group asked.
Dr. Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, daughter of former president Olusegun Obasanjo and senator representing Ogun Central Senatorial District, had been named in a controversy surrounding N3.5billion contracts in the power sector.
In a matter which had gone before the International Court of Arbitration in Paris, France, her business partner, M. Schneider, an Austrian company, had petitioned the Presidency and the EFCC over what it called the “fraudulent, corrupt and criminal nature involving Senator (Mrs) Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello (alias Mrs Damilola Akinlawon), then serving as a Commissioner with the Ogun State Government”.
The Austrian company alleged that Iyabo “fraudulently” presented herself as Mrs Damilola Akinlawon while entering into contractual agreement with it to float a company which put in bids for contracts in the power projects embarked upon by the government headed by her.
In the petition dated 30th August 2007 and copied to other anti-corruption agencies like the ICPC, Code of Conduct Bureau and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Ethics, M. Schneider of Austria alleged that Iyabo concealed her identity and presented herself as Mrs Damilola Akinlawon with the “sole consideration of shielding her father, former President of Nigeria, from being perceived as having breached relevant laws in the award of power projects indirectly to her daughter”.
Reacting, Obsanjo-Bello had she was not directly involved in the business.
“I know Prince Awofisayo. Sometime ago, he invited me to be part of a business he wanted to do. Some of these proposals work, other times they don’t. Prince said I should not worry, that he would fund the entire project. I told him since I was a commissioner, it could raise issues of conflict of interest. We agreed to go into the business all the same. Prince formed a company and did all the ground work. We agreed that I should use a different name, yes, because in law there is nothing wrong with that. Even the arbitration panel in Paris, on which a judge of the high court of England sat, agreed that legally, there was nothing wrong in that.
“The company put in bids for the power projects without any input from me. It went through a normal, transparent process. I didn’t even know anybody at NEPA, so I could not have influenced anything. The company won the contracts. It is true that I used a pseudonym. It was Prince Awofisayo who funded the whole project. I did not put in a penny and I did not receive a penny from it.”
Also, Prince Albert Awofisayo, the former chairman of the Nigerian subsidiary of the company, dismissed the allegations levelled against him by the company.