The Presidential Task Force on Power yesterday sealed the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) central store located in Ojo area of Lagos after uncovering a plan to defraud the Federal Government of over N24 billion.
It was gathered that the fraud would have been successful if the ministry had approved a request to purchase existing equipment in the store, which had not been disbursed.
The Task Force, which paid an unscheduled visit to the store, Ikeja Distribution Company, and. Eko Distribution Company, was led by the Minister for Power Haji Zainab Kuchi.
She was accompanied by the Task Force Chairman Engr, Dagogo Jack, Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Dr. Dere Awosika and its Vice Chairman, Maj.Gen. Adebayo Ashimiyu Olaniyi.
”Just last week, the Permanent Secretary processed documents requesting a lot of things that are lying down in the store running into N24 billion”, the minister lamented.
The premises of the store were sealed off following discoveries that all that was needed to move the power sector forward were in the store but not distributed to project site.
Maj.Gen. Olaniyi immediately after the discoveries were made, ordered the commanding officers of Ojo Military Barracks to take over the place and ensure that nothing leaves or comes in to the place until investigation is concluded.
The minister said only last week, a proposal for N24 billion was submitted for the purchase of the same items that the Task Force discovered in the store.
She noted that if these discoveries were not made, and the proposal approved, the items would have been taken from the same store in Ojo and the money would have gone into private pockets, thereby making it impossible to achieve success in the power sector.
“The equipment here are more expensive than any other equipment because they run into billions; a single equipment here can cost a million dollars. If we have this much in a sector of power that we believe needs all these things, we wonder why they are still here.
“This is a discovery for us and we are happy that we came here to see these things today.
“Eventually, if we find out that there are people who masterminded this, we will allow due process to catch up with them because it is sad that such a thing could happen”, she said.
The Task Force Chairman, Mr Jack, who lamented that the cartel was bent on ensuring that the power sector remained a failure, noting that an inventory officer was drugged because of the inspection.
He said the officer, who is being treated in a hospital, will be visited by the committee.
The chairman said: “The challenge we have is that we currently grow electricity at the generation level. We have sizeable electricity for it to move down to the room. These people must do the right thing. The transmission must be good.
“The transmission is turning out to be a very weak link and some of the evidence we saw here show why it is so. You have electrical elements lying here for six years, why did you order them and keep the here for that long? If you do not need them and some of them had been ordered three times over, why?
“Basically government is here to make sure that this has to stop. The Task Force has taken over these assets. They can only be allowed to move from here to project and not any other place”, he said.
The committee also visited the Apapa ports Terminal, where 306 containers of installations and materials which were recovered by the Nigerian Customs Service.