- Category: Law, Crime & Judiciary
- Published on Friday, 09 July 2010 03:03
- Written by Isioma Madike
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The recent exposure of former top state officials in the Halliburton bribery scandal throws to the fore the question of the sincerity of the government in uprooting the menace of corruption from the land.
The anti-corruption posture of some agencies charged with the crusade in the country is no longer new to people, as the campaign has somewhat become more of a cliché in contemporary Nigerian lexicon. In fact, the fight, many observe, has gradually lost steam.
Indeed, the hydra-headed monster, many believe, has been the bane of the country’s quest towards growth and the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), making Nigerians to doubt if corruption would ever be tamed. According to analysts, corruption bleeds the economy to the point of making nonsense of whatever development efforts the country is making and dwarfs the real cost of public expenditure.
Unfortunately, the case of bribery-for-contract involving the multi-national firms of Halliburton, Siemens and Wilbros, which appeared to have been coaxed into limbo, for unclear reasons, are back into public domain.
But, for Georges Krammer, former director-general of the French company, Technip, no one would have heard of Halliburton or the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) bribery scandal. Krammer, who was accused of paying three million euros in illegal commissions during investigations into Elf-Aquitane operations in Asia and
During interrogations, according to reports, Krammer owned up to the commissions paid, which he claimed were legal and in line with company’s policy. But Technip management disputed his claims and left him to face charges of misappropriating the said money.
Angered by this development, reports say, Krammer, who had worked for Technip for 33 years, squealed. He was said to have gone before Judge d’Instruction, Renaud Van Ruymbeke, and bared it all for him. He reportedly told Ruymbeke how Technip’s commission payment system had worked in
It was this disclosure that led to the French inquiry into
However, Jeffrey Tesler and Wojciech Chodan, both citizens of the
But while other nations were making frantic efforts at unravelling the extent of culpability of those involved, not much was done to deal with the scam in
Among the foreigners are the Chagoury brothers, Jack and Gilbert, and an Australian, T.W. Oerlemans. Former Military President Ibrahim Babangida led the pack for the former Nigerian Heads of State.
Others are the late General Sani Abacha, Ernest Shonekan, and Abdulsalami Abubakar. The list also included Maryam, the late wife of Babangida; Abacha’s wife, Mariam; and his late son, Ibrahim. It likewise listed Abdulsalami’s second-in-command, Mike Akhigbe; former
Atiku, who is struggling to regain his relevance in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which he earlier dumped for the Action Congress (AC), in his desperation to rule
However, the real bombshell, which the authorities had kept to their chest, leaked to the market square, shortly after that of the
For instance, Olusegun Obasanjo, the man who trumpeted an anti-corruption hurricane that swept away the jobs, the integrity, and the reputation of mainly his political opponents when he was the President, led the pack. Obasanjo’s group, which included Atiku, former Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Group Managing Directors, Gaius Obaseki and Funso Kupolokun, allegedly got $74 million (N11.11 billion) from the slush fund. The interim report claimed that the quartet received their share of the bribe between 2001 and 2002. The Okiro Report was clear when it stated that $1 million of this amount, in $100 bills, was given to NNPC officials at NICON Hilton Hotel in a “pilot briefcase” for onward delivery to Bodunde Adeyanju.
“The balance was delivered in the same manner and in bullion vans in naira to the same Adeyanju, said to be one of the Special Assistants to Obasanjo,” the report further stated.
It went on to add that “on December 20, 2001, Obaseki reportedly met with Wojciech Chodan and Albert ‘Jack’ Stanley in
But those were not the only names in the scandal sheet.
The trio of Abacha; his Petroleum Minister, Dan Etete; and former IGP, Muhammed Yusuf; were also mentioned in the scam. They received, in what is now being described as the “mother of all bribes” that spanned a decade, according to the report, a princely sum of $43 million between 1995 and 2004.
The report further said that Abacha, who died in office in 1998, received $40 million between 1994 and 1995. According to it, Etete’s share within the period was $2.5 million while Yusuf got $75,000 between 1996 and 1998. Abdulkadir Abacha got $1.888 million.
Jeffrey Tesler, a British lawyer, who acted as intermediary between
“It was agreed in subsequent meetings between Tesler and (Etete) that $40 million would be paid to Abacha, while $20 million would be given to other ‘players’ in the scandalous gas contract,” the report added.
Etete, the report said, negotiated the bribes paid for Trains 1 and 2 contracts, where an agreement was reached to pay a total $60 million to key government officials.
The report emphasised: “Upon signing the LNG Trains 1 and 2 contracts, Tesler allegedly wired $63,000 into a Swiss account for Etete. Around the same time, purportedly to cover up tracks, he was said to have opened negotiations for the purchase of five per cent of Etete holdings in the OPL245 Malabu oil block.
“For this deal, he wired $2.5 million to Etete through Tri-Star accounts in different names, viz: Dan Etete, Buzuki Etete, and Omoni Amafegha. That oil block licence was revoked by the Obasanjo administration,” the report continued.
Abdulsalami, like his colleagues, was also fingered to have pocketed $50 million of the scam with his subordinates. They are his Minister of Petroleum, Don Etiebet; former chairman of the Transition Committee in his government, Ibrahim Aliyu; and Nasir Ado Bayero. The Okiro Report put the figure Abdulsalami and Etiebet cornered at $37.5 million between 1999 and 2000, while Bayero received $600,000 and Edith Edeghoughon $290,000. Aliyu was not left out as he reportedly got $11.7 million of the loot. Etiebet has, however denied receiving any bribe from Halliburton.
The report added: “Sequel to Abacha’s demise in June 1998,
“Preliminary investigations have linked him to Sherwood Petroleum, supposedly owned by M.G. Bakari. Sherwood Petroleum was allocated an oil block (256) on May 13, 1999, and Jeffrey Tesler had advanced $7 million as loan to the company. The deal is believed to have been a cover up for transmission of pay-offs on the Train 3 contract.”
The Okiro team was inaugurated by Yar’Adua to examine the Halliburton scandal, which created waves globally. The interim work was personally signed by Okiro, who headed the inquest. Its term of reference included but not limited to: probe the scandal in the Bonny LNG project, liaise with agencies within Nigeria and outside to disclose the names of those involved, establish the extent of their involvement and the amount collected, and liaise with the Swiss authorities to trace and recover any money stashed in that country’s vault.
After what was described as extensive investigation, the report said the panel reviewed documents. It cited court proceedings in the
Although the Okiro Report was submitted about a year ago, it was never made public, perhaps, some allege, because of the calibre of names involved in the scam.
Members of the panel included EFCC chairman, Farida Waziri, representatives of the National Security Adviser (NSA), State Security Service (SSS) Director General, and National Intelligence Agency (NIA) director.
Following the scandalous revelations, streams of reactions have been trailing the reports. For instance, the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) national chairman, Balarabe Musa, is of the view that the Okiro Report, in particular, is a vindication of his party’s court action against Obasanjo and others over alleged corrupt practices between 1999 and 2007, when he was President.
He said: “Not long ago, the CNPP filed a case against Obasanjo and others over series of corrupt practices, the Halliburton scandal inclusive, and the case is still in court. So, the recent revelations have justified our action, and they have exposed past leaders, who we all know have been involved in all sorts of corrupt practices. I am not surprised by the revelations about the involvement of Obasanjo and others in the alleged Halliburton pay-offs.”
In this same vein, the Progressive Action Congress (PAC) national chairman, Charles Nwodo, expressed disappointment that the Presidency has refused to make public such a significant document, stressing that the country is in trouble since those who manage its affairs are indicted.
President, Campaign for Democracy, Joe Okei-Odumakin, is similarly marvelled at the calibre of people involved in the scandal, which she called the result of prevalent impunity.
“It is unfortunate that the report is not released and it is an eyesore and a source of sadness that the people indicted by it are the same men and women Nigerians have entrusted their lives with for a long time.
“Surprisingly, the National Assembly is about engrafting into the Constitution a clause, which would set free indicted persons and enable them to contest elections. Should we allow this kind of people to return to power? Nigerians must resist that attempt. But for the moment, it is of utmost importance that the Okiro Report be made public. Nigerians must insist on that,” Okei-Odumakin, who was furious that nothing, after one year, has been done on the report, said.
Yet, Abubakar Umar, a retired Colonel says, “The revelation shows the insincerity with which the government is fighting corruption. We are waiting to see what they will do with the exposure. Americans had reportedly acted on the indicted persons, jailing some. It would be a shame if the Nigerian authorities treat the issue the Nigerian way. If that happens, we would have confirmed our rating as the most corrupt country in the world.”
Deputy Senate Minority Leader, Olorunnimbe Mamora, did not differ completely as he thinks the Halliburton scam is one issue that has haunted the nation, more so that it has been shrouded in secrecy. “If the revelations are true, then one would better understand why the issue has not been brought to the frontburner by the current administration. Sure, it was this government that initiated the probe; it is left for them to issue a White Paper to direct the event. I think the top shots said to be involved in the scam may have been why they have refused to release the report to the public. But, I must say, that is not too good, especially as the present government claims to be upholding the rule of law and fighting corruption. The government must be seen to be serious in its fight against corruption,” the Senator remarked.
For Tanko Yakassai, “Nigerians would be disappointed at the end of the show. It is a shame that the ICPC and EFCC, which were set up to fight corruption, have turned to agencies of vendetta, though there was high expectation when they were established. Obasanjo did it and now is the turn of Jonathan.
“And looking at the big names revealed in that report, it’s only a novice that would believe the government would act because those names are behind Jonathan. He started wrongly by being selective; look at the way he is chasing Ibori around, for instance; can he do the same to those indicted in the Halliburton scam? His selective fight against corruption does not, in any way, inspire any hope. He is just fighting perceived enemies like his godfather did. I really do not think any tangible result would come out of that report.”
The AC Publicity Secretary in
His words: “The matter should not be kept under the carpet because the actions of political leaders in the country have caused enormous damages to the nation. The day of reckoning will come.
“Let religious leaders dance away from the idea of romancing with political leaders, so that they would be able to tell them the truth at any point in time.”
Executive director of Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Ibuchukwu Ezike, also said the average Nigerian is not shocked by the revelations.
“They should be brought to book. We reject a situation where the only people who are taken to court and jailed are those that steal yam tubers,” the rights activist said.
Like Ezike, Bamidele Aturu, Lagos-based activist lawyer, is not in any way shocked by the revelations because, according to him, “I have always known that all those who call themselves our leaders have skeletons in their cupboards. As a matter of fact, I am still expecting more revelations.”
In a way, the Halliburton bribery scandal has become a running sore on the conscience of a nation that is supposed to be waging an anti-graft war. Since the scandal broke five years ago, concerned Nigerians have been anxious to see what effort the government would make to get to its root. Unfortunately, Sunday Independent learnt that rathan than go after the culprits, the authoritis are busy looking for how the report leaked to the media. Undoubtedly, the Halliburton saga has done incalculable damage to
Likewise, the Siemens and Wilbros scandals involving 10 million Euros and $6 million in that order in kickbacks to government officials implicated the Presidency, former Communications Minister, a serving senator and dozens of government officials identified by name and amount of bribes received. Others included NNPC and Shell officials, in addition to elements of the ruling party.
What is, however, curious to perceptive minds, is the fact that none in all these scandals have been made to face the law. The consequence is the brazen impunity that others in that mould brag about with.
Halliburton scandal dates back to 1994 when some foreign companies put up bids for the construction of the plant that was to cost $6 billion. To win the contract, a joint venture company, named TSKY, was set up, comprising equal holdings between some companies. The firms are Technip (French), KBR (American) and part of the Halliburton group and Japanese engineering and construction company, JGC.
The investigations alleged that the consortium bribed political leaders and top government functionaries through Tri-Star Investment Limited and Marubeni Incorporated. It also revealed that the group recruited Tesler and Chodan to coordinate the scam.
Additional reports by Emma Maduabuchi, Funmi Falobi, Michael Jegede and Francis Iwuchukwu