Monday, April 16, 2012
FROM all indications, the Halliburton bribery case has gone the way of other scandals – under the carpet. An Abuja High Court recently struck out the case because the prosecution failed to arraign the three suspects involved for the one year the trial lasted.
Throughout the duration of the trial, the agencies prosecuting the case could not produce the 14 witnesses that were scheduled to testify against the three suspects. The suspects in the case – a former permanent secretary in the office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Alhaji Ibrahim Aliyu, retired Air Vice Marshall Abdullahi Bello and Mohammed Bukari – have thus been set free.
IN the Halliburton case, improper payments totalling $182 million was established to have been made to ensure a favourable consideration of the company’s bid for a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) contract. It is one of those scandals that have been widely celebrated and highly sensational largely because of their international dimension. In its bid to demonstrate some measure of seriousness with the fight against corruption, the Federal Government under the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, set up an inter-agency panel to investigate the scam and bring the culprits to book. The panel, which included the police, the State Security Service (SSS), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Nigeria Intelligence Agency (NIA), was headed by a former Inspector – General of Police, Mr. Mike Okiro. The agencies were reported to have undertaken to produce different number of witnesses but they all failed to fulfil their promises.
IT is indeed not a surprise because it is in the character of Nigeria to so behave. It is, however, a matter of deep regret that after the bad image and international embarrassment, the Halliburton case has been so badly bungled. At the time the Okiro panel was set up, there were high expectations that the Halliburton case would be the beginning of serious handling of corruption cases. The high expectations stemmed from the categorical assurance of the government that all those found culpable would be duly punished no matter their status in the society. The government said it was in possession of documents which were expected to strengthen its hands in dealing decisively with those involved in the scandal. It is now evident that either the government was swayed from its initial line of action, or its initial expression of seriousness was sheer playacting.
WHILE Nigeria was engaged in prosecutorial dilly-dallying in a case that was programmed to fail, two Britons and an American were sentenced by a court in Texas, United States, to various terms of imprisonment and fined different amounts of money. It has since come to light that the Okiro panel in the course of its investigations interrogated only the small fries while the principal characters were left untouched. The United States Ambassador to Nigeria at that time, Mr. Robin Sanders, said that necessary documents needed by the Nigerian authorities to prosecute the case had been made available but – as it has now become apparent – the evidence has not been put to use. It is a sad reflection on the sincerity of the government about the much-hyped anti-corruption crusade.
HALLIBURTON is not the only foreign firm to be involved in a scandalous deal with Nigerian officials. Another American company – Wilbros – distributed $6 million to top officials of the Federal Government, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Shell Petroleum Development Corporation (SPDC) and the National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS). Some chieftains of the ruling party – the Peoples Democratic Party – also benefited from the bribe payments. In the case of the German firm, Siemens, five Nigerians were named as receivers of a 10 million Euros bribe. All the foreigners and foreign corporate institutions involved in the case have been made to face the wrath of the law in their different countries. The story has only been different in Nigeria where culprits in corruption cases are – as a standard practice – left to enjoy and flaunt their ill-gotten wealth. But for the fact that the names of those involved in the Siemens case were made public in Germany, their identities would have remained, like others, under wraps as a state secret.
AT the time former Delta State governor, James Ibori, should be on trial in Nigeria for his various misdeeds, he was enjoying the protection of the government and wielding influence in the corridors of power. At the end of the day, he further sullied Nigeria’s already battered image by going to a foreign land to plead guilty to the crimes that were covered up in Nigeria when Chief Michael Aondoakaa functioned as the omnipotent Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation.
IT is highly regrettable that a serious case as the Halliburton bribery scandal could be struck out for lack of diligent prosecution. Many other cases have been similarly swept under the carpet. This is a very unfortunate trend in a country in which development is being stunted by corruption. It has made manifest what the government has been striving to conceal – that the anti-corruption campaign is nothing but sheer sloganeering.Source