United States has said the Federal Government of Nigeria 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., Wednesday, US Ambassador to Nigeria, Ms. Robin Rene Sanders said it was not true that her country did not give necessary information to the Nigerian 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 emails scam, 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.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mrs Farida Waziri, in Abuja, on Wednesday, disclosed that investigation was ongoing in the Halliburton bribery scandal and findings would be made known soon.
Former heads of state, presidents and top government functionaries in Nigeria had been fingered in the $180 million bribery scandal which had seen some of the company’s executives jailed in the United States of America.
Waziri was reacting to a statement credited to the president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Chief Rotimi Akeredolu, that the probe had been stalled.
Akeredolu had, at the fifth Business Law conference organised by the Section on Business Law of the NBA, on Monday, said it was a shame that one year after the panel was constituted to investigate the scam, no report had been submitted and no prosecution initiated.
Waziri, while receiving the leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) in her office, said the committee set up by the Federal Government to investigate the scandal had been working hard at unravelling the facts of the case and would soon make its findings public.
According to her, “the committee, headed by the Inspector General of Police, is leaving no stone unturned to get to the bottom of the case and it is my belief that it will not be long before a definite pronouncement is made on it.”
She also lambasted Nigerian leaders for being selfish, adding that they had failed their generation, while urging the students to stop the leaders from compromising their future through corrupt practices.
“Let me remind you that as youths and future leaders, Nigeria’s hope of a better tomorrow lies in you, because quite a large number of our present leaders have failed the nation.
“So if you have been disappointed by our leaders, you can’t afford to disappoint yourselves so that your own generation won’t be as wasteful and wasted as ours.
“It is obvious; not many of our leaders seem to be interested in working for your future, as the level of decadence and infrastructural decay in our institutions pin-points.
“All of us, as stakeholders, must ensure that we do all that is possible to fight this cankerworm to a standstill,” she said.
Explaining the purpose of the visit to the headquarters of the anti-graft commission, president of NANS, Jude Imagwe, expressed the student body’s willingness to partner with the EFCC to kick out corruption, not only in the education sector, but also in the society in general.
He asked the commission to commence its war against graft at the grass roots, adding that the commission could work its way to the federal level from there.
“NANS requests urgent investigation and subsequent trial of government officials who have diverted funds meant for public development into self-control funds, thereby increasing the level of poverty and crime in the country,” Imagwe stated.
Obasanjo, Abdulsalami, Sultan, Others Brainstorm On Insecurity
Rising insecurity and agitations for secession by different ethnic groups across Nigeria has attracted the attention of elder statesmen and other national leaders to a meeting in Abuja.
The meeting was organised by Interfaith Initiatives for Peace jointly led by the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, and Emeritus Cardinal John Onaiyekan, and the National Peace Committee chaired by Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd).
Reporters were barred from taking part in the closed-door meeting, expected to proffer solutions to the ongoing security challenges threatening the peace and unity of the country.
It was also an exploratory meeting on pressing issues of national unity, security, peace, integration, economic revitalisation and development, women and youth welfare and general progress.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo; former Head of State, General Abdulsalam Abubakar (rtd); Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar; Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi; Tor Tiv, Prof Ortese Iorzua James Ayatse, Emeritus Cardinal John Onaiyekan; President General (Ohanaeze Ndigbo), Prof George Obiozor; and Afenifere leader, Ayo Adebanjo; were all in attendance.
Others sighted at the meeting are President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba; CAN General Secretary, Joseph Daramola; JAMB Registrar, Prof Ishaq Oloyede; Etsu Nupe, Yahya Abubakar; former Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbe, among several political and traditional rulers at the meeting.
Elder statesmen, Chief Edwin Clark, also attended the event at the Congress Hall of Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, but could not participate in the meeting because he could not climb the staircase to the meeting room.
Fighting Corruption Difficult In Democratic Setting, Buhari Laments
President Muhammadu Buhari says fighting corruption in democratic setting is a difficult task to accomplish.
The president disclosed this during an interview with Arise Television which was televised, yesterday.
According to him, the war against corruption has not been easy for him since he became a democratically elected president six years ago.
He, however, stressed that his administration had succeeded in easing out corrupt public officials without making noise about it.
Buhari recalled that much was achieved in the fight against corruption when he was military Head of State in the early 80s “when a lot of people were sent to prisons before I was also booted out”.
The president frowned at the way and manner local government system was being managed, saying the local government administration was almost non-existent in the country.
He cited situation where state governors continued to starve the local governments of funds saying “in a situation where N300million is allocated to local government and they are given N100million is not fair”.
On activities of bandits and kidnappers particularly in the North-West and North-Central zones, Buhari said he had given the police and Armed Forces the instructions to be ruthless with bandits and vandals terrorising innocent citizens across the country.
He stated that he had told the security agencies to treat bandits and other criminals in the “the language they understand.
“Problem in the north-west; you have people over there stealing each other’s cattle and burning each other’s villages.
“Like I said, we are going to treat them in the language they understand.
“We have given the police and the military the power to be ruthless. You watch it in a few weeks’ time there will be difference.
”Because we told them if we keep people away from their farm, we are going to starve. And the government can’t control the public.
“If you allow hunger, the government is going to be in trouble and we don’t want to be in trouble.
“We are already in enough trouble. So, we warn them sooner than later you’ll see the difference,’’ he said.
On farmers/herders clashes, the president said the problem had persisted because old cattle routes and grazing areas had been violated by development, adding that those who had taken over such traditional arrangements would be dispossessed.
On the fight against insurgency, Buhari dismissed the assertion that majority of Boko Haram members were foreigners.
According to him, the majority of the Boko Haram members are Nigerians, saying this was further corroborated by Borno State Governor, Prof Babagana Zulum.
The president stated that his administration had done a lot to fight the terrorists and insurgents but the problem in the “North-East is very difficult.”
Igboho Declares June 12 Day Of Protest, Warns Buhari
Sunday Adeyemo, popularly known as Sunday Igboho, has declared June 12 as day of protest for Yoruba nation agitators.
The self-acclaimed Yoruba activist said the agitators will hold ‘peaceful rallies’ across the South-West region on Saturday, June 12.
Igboho, who spoke through his spokesman, Olayomi Koiki, in a live video programme aired, last Wednesday night, called on South-West governors to cooperate with the peaceful protesters during the exercise.
He warned the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration not to attack the agitators.
He said, “Let us warn the Federal Government that if there is bloodshed this weekend, the international community is watching, if the military kills any Nigerian this weekend, it is going to be very hot.
“The Yoruba nation rally will go ahead in every part of Yoruba land and the rest of the country where it will hold.
“Red alarm will begin on Friday. People should stock up food Items from Friday night.
“We are not backing down this weekend; we are ready to take back what belongs to us.”
He also enjoined agitators to ‘fast’ on Friday.
This is coming after NANS under the leadership of its National President, Comrade Sunday Asefon, had declared June 12 as National Day of peaceful protest to call on the government to act decisively towards addressing insecurity.
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