$26m Scandal: Group Urges Jonathan, Graft Agencies to Probe Bello Adoke
The Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) has warned officials in the government involved in corrupt ventures that their numbers are counted, urging President Goodluck Jonathan and the nation's anti-graft agencies to open investigations into an alleged $26 million bribery scandal involving the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, (AGF) Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke. CACOL is a group of civil-society, community-based and other non-governmental organizations with mission to fight corruption and corrupt persons at all levels in the Nigerian society.
According to petitions to President Jonathan signed by the group's executive chairman, Debo Adeniran, the said $26 million was extorted from ten multinational companies involved in the Siemens and Halliburton bribery scandals in the last quarter of 2010. 'This amount was believed to have been collected under the official cover of making the accused multinational companies pay the legal fees of prosecution counsels even though the accused were never prosecuted in any court of the land to warrant such unethical secret levy. While the EFCC and the Attorney General have listed various sums of money totalling about $240million as funds recovered in fines and penalties from these multinational companies, no one has dared mention the $26million or more secretly extorted from these companies and who the beneficiaries are,' noted copies of the petition that were also copied to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
The group reminded President Jonathan of the zero tolerance towards corruption pledge he made on Thursday, July 14, 2011 while swearing-in the last batch of nine ministers and challenged the President to walk the walk of his talk by formally opening investigations against his Justice Minister and AGF. At that swearing-in event, Jonathan had directed anti-graft agencies to: 'beam their searchlights on the ministries, departments and agencies of the Federal Government, and also focus on the states and local government areas, in order to send out a clear signal, that no form of abuse will be tolerated. 'We will carry out a comprehensive audit of all ministries, departments and agencies of the Federal Government beginning from June 2007. You must observe due process in all that you do. I expect you to be above board.'
CACOL recalled that: 'On November 22, 2010, Siemens reportedly reached a settlement agreement with the federal government under which Siemens will pay 7 bn Naira ($46.5 m) to the Nigerian Government in exchange for the EFCC dropping charges against Siemens AG, Siemens Nig Ltd and four of its officers. The settlement payment was variously described as 'restitution' and 'disgorgement'. In connection with the TSKJ / Bonny Island bribery matter, on November 25, 2010, it was reported that the EFCC arrested ten Halliburton employees in Nigeria during a raid of the offices of Halliburton Energy Services Nigeria Limited in Lagos, as well as one employee each from Saipem Contracting Nigeria and Technip Offshore Nigeria.'
On December 7, 2010, the EFCC reportedly filed corruption charges against Halliburton, former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney (who was the CEO of Halliburton during the period at issue), Albert Stanley (former CEO of KBR), David Lesar (current CEO of Halliburton) and William Utt (CEO of KBR). Technip, Snamprogetti and JGC Corporation were reportedly also charged on the same day. The case reference was Federal Republic of Nigeria v. Halliburton and others, CV/435/10, High Court of Justice, Abuja Judicial Division (Abuja).'
The group also listed a number of multinational companies said to have been forced to pay huge bribes and fines under the guise of paying for prosecution's legal fees. These companies include: Julius Berger, Snamprogetti, Halliburton, Technipp, Shell, Siemens, Saipem, Japanese Gas Corporation, Transocean and Noble Drill.
'While we have been able to get information that Julius Berger alone coughed out $26million USD in fines and another $3million USD as bribe, we call upon your agency as the one that investigated these cases and indeed filed charges against all the accused before they were withdrawn after some secret terms of settlement were forced on the multinational companies by the Attorney General, to as a matter of urgency and in line with President Jonathan's directive how much each of the accused paid as 'legal fees', and how these monies were shared,' the CACOL petition to the EFCC chair, Farida Waziri noted.
'We also request you to establish through your investigation whether it is the practice for the accused in criminal cases to bear the cost of their own prosecution even though in these cases, no prosecution took place…We urge you to also file appropriate charges against anyone found to have abused his office in this matter at the end of investigation.'
President Jonathan's government is facing one of its biggest crisis following a string of criminal allegations against official corruption. The lingering perception is that many top government functionaries and Jonathan appointees accused of corruption are treated with kid gloves, hence despite Jonathan's efforts, corruption still threatens democracy in Nigeria.