Nigeria Has Enough Evidence to act on Halliburton bribery scandal.

Friday, April 9, 2010

From Tokunbo Adedoja in Washington D.C
United States has said the Federal Government has “enough information” to act on the Halliburton bribery scandal in which some top Nigerian government officials and politicians were fingered.

Speaking at the Foreign Press Center in Washington D.C., US on Wednesday, US Ambassador to Nigeria, Ms. Robin Rene Sanders said it was not true that her country did not give necessary information to the Federal Government to enable it prosecute those involved in the bribery scandal.

Sanders said: “We have been cooperating fully with the Nigerian authorities on all of those cases”.

The engineering subsidiary of Halliburton Co., Kellog Brown & Root (KBR) Inc. of the US, had pleaded guilty to five federal charges that it paid $180 million as bribes to some high profile Nigerian officials in the Executive branch, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) in respect of a contract worth $6 billion.

The Federal Government had said $150 million of the bribe money had been traced to an unnamed account in Zurich, Switzerland.

But the real identities of the Nigerian government officials that received the bribes have not been officially released.

The Federal Government had also said it formally requested the US government to assist Nigeria by de-classifying the information of the court proceedings in the US in respect of the scandal but that, that government had failed to do so.

In 2008, the Federal Government put in place an inter-security agency committee headed by former Inspector-General of Police Mike Okiro to investigate the Halliburton bribe-for-contract scandal.

At the press conference jointly addressed by the US envoy and her Nigerian counterpart, Professor Adebowale Adefuye, Sanders said: “Nigerian government and ministers have that information and they have enough information to act on their own as there are other countries that are involved and they have the same degree of access to those countries as we do.

“We know that that information has been with the Nigerian government for quite sometime and with the previous ministers that have held that ministerial position. So that information is there and is there for you to act on as your laws and your nation deems fit.”

Sanders, however, announced US endorsement of the ongoing banking reforms, saying it forms part of the framework to tackle corruption.

She said US hopes that those who compromised their positions in the sector would be taken through the nation’s judicial process.

“I like to seize this opportunity to talk about the banking reforms and we are hoping that Nigeria still moves forward on the banking reforms as part of your corruption framework or part of your anti-corruption framework. And secondly, those individuals who took advantage of shareholders, in the context of their positions, we hope that those individuals are taken through the judicial process as part of Nigeria’s commitment to rule of law and anti-corruption efforts,”

On what US is doing to help strengthen Nigeria’s anti-corruption crusade, Sanders said the US embassy in Nigeria has been providing training programmes for all the law enforcement agencies on money laundering, suspicious transaction reports and handling of currency confirmation evidence.

She said her country has also been providing technical assistance to the nation’s anti-corruption agencies with a view to enhancing their capabilities.

Commenting on the fears about the next general election and how US intends to assist Nigeria, Sanders said her country had been expressing the view that it does not see the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as presently constituted as laying the foundation that can produce fair and credible elections in 2011.

Sanders said US would like to see an electoral body that has a clear dedicated leadership that would ensure that Nigeria has transparent elections in 2011.

She noted US would be working with Nigeria under the bi-national commission signed last Tuesday between the two countries to strengthen the election process that would ensure transparent, free, fair and credible polls.

This, she said, involves a number of changes including better leadership in INEC and transparent voters’ register, among others.

Responding to a question on the image crisis Nigeria is experiencing as a result of advance fee fraud and scam emails, Adefuye said such allegations are unfair to Nigeria.

The Nigerian envoy said there were instances when the embassy had been informed of criminal cases affecting ‘Nigerians’, only to later discover that those involved are blacks from other African countries.

He noted that the population of Nigeria is more than that of all the countries in West Africa put together, and as such, the world should realise that with such a huge population, it is not unusual for Nigeria to have its own share of miscreants.

Adefuye said this does not, however, take away the fact that the larger population is made up of responsible, hard-working, intelligent and enterprising people.


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