General Muhammadu Buhari
By Ojo M. Maduekwe
In the face of deepening world economic crisis, the ability of the Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), General Muhammadu Buhari, to manage the Nigerian economy and fight corruption, if elected president, has been called to question.
THISDAY over the weekend, exclusively took hold of the original copy of a report by the Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund (PTF) Interim Management Committee, instituted on July 7, 1999 by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Based on this report, the PTF under Buhari's supervision was mismanaged. The report was however neither made public nor was it acted upon by the former president.
In its summary, the Committee had advised Obasanjo to "set up a high powered judicial panel to recover the huge public fund and to take necessary action against any officer, consultant or contractor whose negligence resulted in this colossal loss of public funds."
According to the report, the sum of N25,758,532,448 was mismanaged by the Afri-Project Consortium (APC), a company contracted by the PTF as management and project consultant. Buhari as PTF chairman was said to have also "delegated to them the power of Engineer in all appropriate project requiring such power," which made them assume absolute powers to initiate, approve and execute all projects by the PTF.
The mismanagement that took place in the PTF under Buhari's watch was said to have been carried out by the APC (the company) in their capacity as management and project consultants. Both their management services fee and budget for several projects carried out during the existence of the PTF were greatly overpriced.
While carrying out its obligations, the Committee made up of Dr. Haroun Adam as Chairman, and Alhaji Abdu Abdurrahim, Mr Achana Gaius Yaro, Edward Eguavoen, Mr. T. Andrew Adegboro and Mr. Baba Goni Machina as members, engaged three management consulting firms to verify all payments made to PTF from inception to September 30, 1999.
On verification, according to the Committee, "it was found that they (the consulting firms) had overcharged PTF for their services to the tune of N2,057,550,062". Also, while intervening on behalf of the PTF in the road and waterways, education, food, health, and other sectors, the APC, according to the report, inflated all the prices.
For instance, intervention in the health sector, was said to have totalled N9 billion. Projects in this sector were said to have been executed by the APC and PTF in-house staff, and loss of billions of naira were recorded due to price inflation of products and services.
To purchase spectacle frames, which could have been done locally at a price between N80 to N880, the APC, under the watch of the PTF chairman, bought them at an inflated price of N1,900 each. Ambulances were said to have been purchased at N13 million per unit, instead of N3 million. And then price inflation of drugs were done to the tune of N1.5 billion.
The report also said that the PTF lost money to the tune of N3.5 billion from its bank account operations. The PTF operated its bank accounts under three different categories: Administration, Project and Treasury accounts, and the loss of money to these accounts were said to have been due to "overcharge on Cost of Turnover (CoT), non-payment of interest on current account balances as stipulated by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), short payment of interest on deposited funds, and other various discrepancies."
While discharging their duties, the Committee discovered that an average income of N182 billion accrued to the PTF from its inception to the date of filing their report. According to the Committee’s report, the PTF used about 70 per cent of that income on highways and urban road projects.
The report stated further that, "In this project sector there was total variation of contract sums of N68 billion. These variations were not done with properly priced bills of quantities and approved civil contracts procedure as stipulated by government regulations.
"Taking the experience of what has been discovered after verification of various contracts awarded by PTF the minimum potential recovery will be about 15%. This estimated percentage will be about N10 billion. The verification of this project sector was about to take off when the committee members were replaced."
General Muhammadu Buhari