An aide to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Mr Reno Omokri, has criticised the report by anti-corruption watchdog Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), accusing three former presidents of squandering trillions of naira on the power sector.
Launched in Lagos on Wednesday, the 65-page report entitled ‘From Darkness to Darkness: How Nigerians are Paying the Price for Corruption in the Electricity Sector’ accused former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan of squandering N11tn.
But Mr Omokri on Thursday condemned the report, which said that Professor Chinedu Nebo who was a minister of power under the Jonathan administration, is alleged to have corruptly funded the privatised power sector with over N200bn.
During a Skype interview on Channels Television’s Politics Today, Mr Omokri, said, “Now, it is ridiculous for SERAP to say that (amount of) money was spent. Under the Jonathan administration, not up to N400bn was budgeted for power because the power sector had been privatised.
“They (SERAP) need to understand, Jonathan signed the Freedom of Information Act in 2010. They should take advantage of that Act and the use it to get the facts from the Ministries, Departments and Agencies.”
Mr Omokri explained that had the Jonathan administration been interested in looting the power sector, it wouldn’t have contemplated privatisation.
He said, “Jonathan was the President that privatised Nigeria’s power sector. Now if you want to loot, if you want to steal money from a sector, you don’t privatise it. Privatisation means the government, the public sector, is letting go of the reins and handing it over to the private sector.
“Remember that on the 26th of August 2010, President Jonathan launched the road map to power sector reforms. This culminated in October of 2012 when the bids were opened. On 30th of September, the companies who bought these 11 power distribution companies received their keys from President Jonathan.”
Reacting to Mr Omokri’s criticism of the report – especially the claim that it was the result of intellectual laziness, the Executive Director of SERAP, Mr Adetokunbo Mumuni, who was a guest on Politics Today accused Mr Omokri of laziness as well.
“Mr Omokiri has just said the job that SERAP did was intellectually lazy. But I don’t think this report was released earlier than yesterday. Unless he would say that he was read the report, I would also say that it is intellectual laziness on the part of Mr Omokri to be condemning a report that he has not read,” he said.
On the claim by the former presidential aide that Jonathan privatised the power sector to make it better, the SERAP Executive Director said, “When you take a step that you want to improve a system and we are seeing that the system is getting worse then there is a problem.”