Nigeria's House of Representatives, the lower chamber of parliament, has opened a probe into allegations former President Olusegun Obasanjo spent $16 billion on the power sector, with no tangible result. For VOA, Gilbert da Costa in Abuja reports the disclosure has prompted calls for a wider corruption probe of the past administration.
Nigeria is Africa's biggest oil producer with a daily output of 2.6 million barrels at peak production. It has a long history of severe power shortages caused by insufficient capacity and problems with transmission lines.
In a bid to address Nigeria's intractable power crisis, former President Olusegun Obasanjo committed about $16 billion to the sector, during his eight-year rule. The administration had targeted the goal of 10,000 megawatts of electricity by the end of it's tenure in 2007. However, power generation remained stagnant.
The House of Representatives Committee on Power and Steel, which has been given four weeks to investigate the matter, says it will spare no effort to determine how the money was spent. Committee Chairman Ndudi Elemelu told VOA the former president may be summoned to testify at a public hearing.
"Having spent one naira or one dollar, we have not been able to add even one megawatt to the existing one," Elemelu said. "Rather, we are losing the existing one, day-in, day-out. We have made it clear that everybody, irrespective of your position, that we will call whoever, when necessary, to come and give explanation as to how the money was expended. He [Obasanjo] was in charge. We will invite him, if necessary."
Critics of the Obasanjo administration are calling for a much broader corruption investigation of his government.
Reports that the administration spent more than $4 billion to rehabilitate roads have provoked widespread anger. Nigerian roads are in deplorable condition.
Current President Umaru YarAdua has come under fire for ignoring growing demands for a probe of the Obasanjo administration. Mr. YarAdua, Obasanjo's hand-picked successor, has virtually ruled out any large-scale investigation of his predecessor.
Power supply constraints have undermined Nigeria's potential as a regional economic super power. Nearly all of the country's 10 power stations are operating at less than 30 percent of capacity.