There is a fresh twist to the hoopla over solar power projects as operatives of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) have quizzed the Managing Director of Rural Electrification Agency. Three other directors of the agency were quizzed Thursday for alleged corrupt practices.
The four top guns are being probed for alleged abuse of procurement laws with relation to four projects.
Top ICPC officials however described the development as routine questioning, insisting the officials would not be detained after being quizzed.
According to available information, the N143.9million projects include 53kWp Solar Hybrid Mini-Grid at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital; 25KWF Solar Mini-Grid at Public Health Laboratory in Lagos; 20KWP Solar Mini Grid in Ikenne; and 10 KWP Solar Mini-Grid in Iberekodo Isolation Centre in Ogun State.
One major bone of contention, sources said, is the allegation that the projects were executed before the Certificate of No Objection for the contracts was received by REA on August 13, 2020.
The top officials were invited by the ICPC through a September 10, 2020 signed by Acting Director, Investigation, Hassan Mohammed.
The letter of invitation reads: “The commission is investigating a case of alleged violation of provisions of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.
“In view of the foregoing and pursuant to Section 28 of the cited Act, you are requested to appear before the undersigned at the commission’s headquarters, Abuja on Thursday, 17th September 2020 at 1000hrs for interview.
“Accordingly, you are also required to direct the under listed officers of your agency to appear before the before the undersigned on dates specified against their names at 1000hrs.
“You are all expected to come along with anyone of the following: A lawyer, Justice of Peace, Official of the Legal Aid Council or any other individual of your choice. Accept the assurances of the Honourable chairman’s high regards, please.”
Those affected include the Director, Procurement, Executive Director, Technical Services as well as the Executive Director, Rural Electrification Fund.
It was learnt that the officials the MD of REA and the three directors were at the ICPC AT 11.00AM in for interaction by the operatives.
Sources said that ICPC acted on a petition by Maarifa Solicitors against the Board of REA.
The petition, which was signed by Olakunle Tayo Fapohunda, the solicitors touched on “serious complaints of corrupt practices, circumvention of due process and procedures which are incompatible with the code of conduct for public officers.
“We are aware that every public servant in Nigeria has a bounden duty not to do or direct to be done in abuse of his office any arbitrary act prejudicial to the rights of any other person knowing that such act is unlawful or contrary to any government policy.
The petitioners highlighted issues regarding two Solar Hybrid mini-grids projects by REA in Abuja as well as Lagos, claiming that there were hints of corrupt practices
According to the petition: “A mini-grid is only suitable for a location where power is non-existent and not where there is an existent power grid like in the instant.
“In the whole of these awards, the Technical and Physical Planning departments that are saddled with the function rendering the requisite technical advice, were excluded, for obvious reasons.
“It is also standard practice that under no circumstance is a contractor empowered to issue contract bid directly to the Managing Director and some selected officers alone.
“In these two locations where these mini-grids were installed, not only that there was existing power supply, there was even a 2, 353KVA generator in Gwagwalada, Abuja for instance. Also, in the South-West under which Lagos and Ogun states fall, there existed power grids(one in Lagos State and two in Ogun State and even functional generators.
“Yet the Board of REA went ahead to expend N75million respectively on each of these projects under reference.
“Arising from the foregoing, we urge your commission to thoroughly investigate the contents of this petition,” the petition said.
It was also learnt that another petition has been forwarded to the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-corruption (PACA), Prof. Itse Sagay, against same set of REA topguns.