Nigeria detains senior lawmakers in power scam

Two senior Nigerian lawmakers in charge of investigating graft in the power sector were detained by police late Monday in connection with a $41 million scam involving electricity contracts.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said Ndudi Elumelu, chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Power, and its vice chairman, Mohammed Jibo, were expected to face corruption charges later this week.
Reuters notes Elumelu’s committee is investigating the misuse of billions of dollars of public funds for Nigeria’s shoddy power sector, one of the main brakes on economic development in Africa’s most populous nation.
“They are being investigated for their role in a 6 billion naira ($41 million) contract scam for rural electrification by the Ministry of Power,” said EFCC spokesman Femi Babafemi. “They will be arraigned in court this week.”
The EFCC last week arrested the Senate’s chairman of the power committee, Nicholas Ugbane, and Abdullahi Aliyu, the permanent secretary of the power ministry, for their role in the electricity scam.
Despite being Africa’s largest oil producer, Nigeria’s power system is in a shambolic state due to decades of corruption and mismanagement. Much of the OPEC member country goes without mains electricity for weeks at a time, leaving Nigerians to rely on expensive gasoline-powered generators.
President Umaru Yar’Adua has repeatedly promised to declare a national emergency on power, during which billions of dollars would be invested in the sector, most recently saying he will do so this month.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo spent $10 billion on the power sector during his eight-year tenure, but there was no tangible improvement.
Corruption is endemic in sub-Saharan Africa’s second biggest economy, from traffic police asking for bribes at checkpoints to multi-million dollar cases involving top politicians and government officials.