Obasanjo Denies Authorization of Controversial $6 Billion Contract for Mambilla Hydropower Project

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has responded to the controversial $6 billion contract awarded to Sunrise Power and Transmission Ltd for the Mambilla Hydropower Project in 2003 by former Minister of Power and Steel, Olu Agunloye.

Agunloye and officials from the Ministry of Justice have faced questioning regarding the Sunrise affair and could potentially face legal action. Nigeria is contesting the contract’s validity, arguing that Agunloye, who awarded it suspiciously just one week before the end of his tenure as Power Minister in 2003, acted unlawfully. Currently, Sunrise Power is in arbitration with Nigeria at the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in Paris, France, claiming breach of contract by the federal government.

In the first arbitration, Sunrise seeks $2.3 billion in compensation, asserting that it spent millions on financial and legal consultants before the contract was abandoned. In the second arbitration, the company is seeking a $400 million settlement based on the terms of an agreement reached with the federal government in 2020 to conclude the arbitration.

Former President Obasanjo, in an interview with The Cable, denied authorizing Agunloye to commit Nigeria to the $6 billion “build, operate, and transfer” contract, challenging the former minister to reveal the source of his authority to award the contract.

He stated, “When I was president, no minister had the power to approve more than N25 million without express presidential consent. It was impossible for Agunloye to commit my government to a $6 billion project without my permission, and I did not give him any permission.”

Obasanjo continued, “If a commission of inquiry is set up today to investigate the matter, I am ready to testify. I do not even need to testify because all the records are there. I never approved it.”

He further explained that he had advised Agunloye to abandon the project and had directed him to step down the memo during a federal executive council meeting, stating, “I find it surprising that Agunloye is now claiming he acted on behalf of Nigeria. If I knew he issued such a letter to Sunrise, I would have sacked him as minister during my second term. He would not have spent a day longer in office.”

Obasanjo also mentioned that Leno Adesanya, the promoter of Sunrise Power, had left Nigeria during his presidency and that he had informed Adesanya that he was fortunate not to have been jailed.

Sunrise initiated arbitration against Nigeria on October 10, 2017, alleging a “breach of contract” concerning the agreement to construct the 3,050MW Mambilla Hydropower Plant in Taraba state.

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