Penultimate week, Albert Jack Stanley, a former chief executive officer of Kellogg Brown & Root Incorporated, an engineering subsidiary of Halliburton Company, was sentenced to 30 months in prison by a Texas, USA court. The previous day, it was the turn of Wojciech Chodan, a 74-year-old retired sales executive from Somerset, United Kingdom, who got jailed for two years. Their crime was paying bribes to Nigerian politicians and government officials to secure construction contracts worth $6 billion for the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG), Bonny Island in contravention of the American Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In the massive decade-long bribery scheme, huge sums of money totalling $180 million were stuffed in briefcases and ferreted to Nigeria as kickbacks. Sadly, the Nigerian politicians and government officials who were similarly indicted in the scam have not been successfully prosecuted.
In spite of the sustained public outcry for all those involved in the Halliburton bribery scandal to be prosecuted by the Nigerian authorities, especially since the dirty secrets were exposed by the high-powered panel led by ex-Inspector-General of Police Mike Okiro. At the height of the controversy, all the indicted persons and corporate bodies were billed to face prosecution, including former US Vice President Dick Cheney, who at one time led Halliburton in the bribery scheme. In an unprecedented global compromise, the charges were dropped, after Halliburton agreed to pay a $35 million settlement. Foreign court trials and convictions notwithstanding, the Nigerian government keeps vacillating on the trial of Halliburton’s accomplices in this country.
The closest we came to seeing justice served was the arraignment of Mr Sunday Bodunde Adeyanju, an aide to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2010. However, EFCC’s prosecution was nothing but a charade devoid of diligence. At the worst of times, Nigeria’s then attorney-general, Michael Aondoaaka, entered a nolle prosequi under Section 174 (1) (c) of the 1999 Constitution, thus ensuring that the foreigners involved never faced prosecution. This cast a pall of insincerity on the trial.
While it may be argued that the payment of fines by these major companies represents an implicit acknowledgement of guilt by the affected firms (and so constitutes a gesture of remorse), we shudder at why the government cannot go the whole hog to bring the perpetrators to book. The recent sentencing of Stanley and Chodan should inspire Nigerian authorities to reignite the staid war against corruption. It is in the wider interest of the society for the rich and powerful to be punished for the crimes they commit.
It is only when the federal government rids the country of economic crimes that the much-desired foreign direct investment can come from viable and credible companies in countries where trans-border graft is severely punished.
The veil on the Nigerian criminals indicted in the scandal should be lifted by the EFCC and a wholehearted prosecution effected.