FG abandons $180m Halliburton scandal probe

2010-03-21
THE PUNCH Newspaper-Olusola Fabiyi


The Federal Government may have systematically jettisoned its plan to investigate the alleged involvement of prominent Nigerians in the ill famous $180m Halliburton bribery scandal, SUNDAY PUNCH investigations have revealed.



This came as our correspondent gathered authoritatively on Friday that seven months after the appointment of Mr. Ogbonna Onovo as the Inspector-General of Police, he is yet to be briefed on the activities of the Federal Government panel set up to investigate the scam.



A highly dependable source who spoke to our correspondent confirmed that since the former IGP, Mike Okiro, left office on July 24, 2009, the committee had not even met for once.



According to him, nothing has been heard of the committee‘s meeting or the files containing its activities.



Before the coming on board of Onovo as the IGP, his predecessor, Okiro, headed the FG‘s committee inaugurated on April 15, 2009 to commence in-house investigation of the scandal.



Other members of the committee apart from the police helmsman were the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mrs. Farida Waziri; Director General, National Intelligence Agency and the Director General, State Security Services, Mr. Afakriya Gadzama. The representative of the National Security Adviser served as the secretary of the team.



The government had through the then Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Chief Michael Aondoakaa (SAN), assured Nigerians of the President Umaru Yar‘Adua administration’s commitment to the rule of law and war against corruption.



The statement had read, ”Pursuant of the determination of the administration of President Umaru Yar‘Adua to ensure zero tolerance for corruption in the country, the President has constituted a high powered committee to commence an in-house investigation of the Halliburton bribery scandal (violations of the Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act, 2000 and Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act of 2004 in connection with bribe payments with the request for mutual legal assistance made to the government of the United States.”



Hitherto, the Federal Government had claimed on September 20, 2009 that investigation into the scam was stalled following a diplomatic blunder from the Federal Government.



The government said that both France and Switzerland turned down letters seeking details of the transactions on the scandal, as the two countries claimed that the requests were not written in their official languages, but in English.



A Federal Government official described what happened as ”a big diplomatic blunder, which should not have happened in the first place.”



The panel under Okiro had written France and Switzerland for details of the Halliburton transactions involving some Nigerians and their foreign collaborators.



It was also gathered that the panel requested bank accounts of some unnamed Nigerians in the letter.



The former Chief Press Secretary in the office of the Justice Minister, Mr. Taiye Akinyemi, confirmed that France and Switzerland declined to assist based on the mistake of writing them in English language.



He, however, debunked insinuations that the non-briefing of Onovo was a deliberate attempt to derail the investigation, stressing that the IGP was just settling down.



Akinyemi said, ”What is happening now is a transition because you know Onovo just took over and he is settling down.



”Also, France and Switzerland asked that we should make our request to them in French and Swiss; that is being done.



”It is wrong to assume that the panel is no longer working. Soon, you will get to know what they are doing as these two issues are being resolved.”







Before the panel became ineffective, it had quizzed prominent Nigerians including Dan Etiebet, Don Etete, MD Yusuf, Jackon Obaseki, Umaru Shinkafi, Funso Kupoloku and Ibrahim Aliyu.



However, the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties has called on the Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, not to sweep the investigation under the carpet.



The coalition of opposition parties wondered why the Presidency had not deemed it necessary to brief the citizenry on the progress made so far by the panel.



The National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, who stated this in a telephone interview with our correspondent on Friday, said the issue had ”become a national and international embarrassment to Nigeria and Nigerians” and therefore charged Jonathan to be decisive on the issue.

 

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