OPERATIVES of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) have arrested a former minister of power Saleh Mamman in connection with an alleged N22 billion fraud.
Mamman, who served as a minister under President Muhammadu Buhari between 2019 and 2021, was arrested in the early hours of Wednesday, May 10 and detained at the headquarters of the EFCC in Abuja.
The arrest is said to be in connection with the Commission’s ongoing investigation into alleged corruption in the execution of some power projects.
Mamman is accused of conspiring with staff of the ministry in charge of the accounts of the Zungeru and Mambilla power projects to divert and share N22 billion among themselves.
It was gathered that the investigations have uncovered properties in Nigeria and abroad allegedly linked to the suspects, while millions of naira and dollars have reportedly been recovered.
President Muhammadu Buhari on September 1, 2021, sacked Mamman and Sabo Nanono, the minister of agriculture and rural development, in a cabinet reshuffle.
They reported that Mamman’s two-year tenure as power minister was marred by policy inconsistency and non-constitution of the board of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN).
Nigeria’s power sector is strategic for the economic advancement of Africa’s largest economy but has been leapfrogging despite privatisation in 2013.
Mamman took over from Babatunde Fashola, who worked as the supervising minister of the ministry in the first tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
He was sworn in on 21st August 2019 as the minister of power.
The ministry, according to its mandate, is the policy-making arm of the Federal Government in charge of providing direction for enforcement of the right framework and efficient running of the policies of the government in the sector.
However, that a key concern that weakened the policy direction in the power sector under Mamman’s leadership was the regulator -the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) – shifting grounds on eligibility customer status.
The eligible customer status came into effect in 2017.
The eligible customer policy allows the generation companies (GENCOS) to sell power directly to consumers without passing through the electricity distribution companies (DisCos).
The policy comes with great assurance of constant power supply, a departure from the epileptic power supply that is the main characteristic of on-grid power supply.
Fashola came up with customer policy to enable bulk electricity buyers and industrial layouts to take up power from generating companies and pay to them directly.
This initiative was to lessen pressure on the collapse-prone grid and ensure power access directly to industrial clusters and other eligible customers through the generation companies.
But with Mamman as supervisory minister, the NERC halted acceptance of eligible customers, despite Nigeria’s grid failure, epileptic power supply and the national grid only able to take less than 5000 megawatts of power.
Another key issue during his tenure as minister in the power sector was non-constitution of the board of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), which weakened investors’ appetite for long in the sector.
According to a reporter , under Mamman as minister, the TCN was not unbundled. This led to market inefficiency, resulting in grid collapse and blame-trading between the DisCos and the TCN.