That Nigeria has a serious corruption problem is no surprise to even the most casual observer of Nigerian issues. As such, there was little shock when international conglomerates Siemens AG (Germany) and Halliburton (USA) were both exposed for collaborating with various Nigerian officials in corrupt practices to the combined tune of at least $436 million. Siemens AG and Halliburton have been punished by their home countries, Nigerians are yet to see the punishment or even legitimate identification of a single Nigerian individual tied to these corporate corruption scandals. Although the Nigerian public is demanding the identification of Nigerians involved in these and other corruption matters, it might take a lot longer for the guilty to be brought to justice.
Earlier this year, Halliburton admitted guilt in bribing Nigerian officials and agreed to pay $492 million dollars in fines to the United States government. There has been growing discontent amongst the Nigerian people with calls for those involved in the most recent Halliburton scandal to be exposed. Yar'Adua cautioned that although the US government conducted a thorough investigation into the matter, Nigeria must also review the sealed American court documents to determine who will face punishment in Nigeria. Speaking through his spokesman, Yar'Adua said,
"You cannot charge anybody on the basis of speculations. We need the actual facts and that is what we are waiting for and once those facts are available to government then we will prosecute all the people involved."ANOTHER INVESTIGATIVE COMMITTEE
Consequently, Nigeria's Attorney General/Minister of Justice, Micheal Aondoakaa (the 'Nigerian Curiosity of 2007'), created a committee to look into the scandal over a 6 week period. This new Committee is led by Nigeria's Chief Inspector of Police, Mike Okiro, and consists of the heads of other agencies, such as the EFCC Chairwoman who replaced Nuhu Ribadu, Farida Waziri, the head of the State Security Services (SSS), A.A. Gadzama, and a few others.
According to Aondoakaa, the Nigerian government requested many relevant court records from the United States through the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty and will use those documents to conduct an investigation.
A CREDIBILITY PROBLEM
When it comes to anti-corruption, Nigeria unfortunately has a serious credibility problem. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), charged with waging Nigeria's war against corruption, has failed to successfully try and convict any high ranking Nigerians on corruption charges. Additionally, many of the individuals on this new investigative Committee face credibility issues themselves. The new EFCC head, Waziri, is seen by many to be a pawn unwilling and/or unable to bring those who stole from public coffers to justice. Mike Okiro is seen as having played a significant role in removing Ribadu from the EFCC and as noted a few weeks ago, failed to respond or react to recent unsupported suggestions of a possible attack on the American Embassy in Lagos. The SSS is the security outfit which arrested and unlawfully detained Nigerian political bloggers Emmanuel Emeka Asiwe and Elendu and has a reputation of questionable tactics. Michael Aondoakaa, who created the investigative Committee, is apparently linked to a corruption scandal involving an Indian company that allegedly wants monies paid as bribes to be returned.
Even more important than the credibility issues faced by the various individuals tied to the Halliburton scandal Committee is the credibility problem faced by President Yar'Adua himself. Specifically with regard to corporate corruption and Nigerian officials, in 2007, Yar'Adua's spokesperson discussed the then-scandal of the day - Siemens AG,
"The President ... wishes to assure all Nigerians that in the new nation that we seek to build under his watch, any public official found to have abused his or her oath of office will not go unpunished. The President further assures that in this Siemens scandal, as in all cases that border on good governance and transparency, there will neither be sacred cows nor a cover up for anybody found culpable of breaching the law.”This very public promise, like many others made by this administration, begs the question - what progress has been made? Although the ICPC was 'ordered' to investigate that scandal in 2007, it has been 2 years since Yar'Adua made that commitment and there continues to be no indication of any charges against the various Nigerians that were fingered in German courts, specifically, Major General Tajudeen Olanrewaju, Dr. Bello Haliru Mohamed, Chief Cornelius Adebayo, Alhaji Haruna Elegí, and Senator Jibril Aminu.
THE QUESTIONABLE TIME LIMIT
Credibility is not the only issue that forces a curious mind to view this new Committee and those associated with it critically. Apart from the obvious issue of the Committee representing another bureaucratic stalling tactic that has been used as nauseam in Nigerian politics, the 6 week limit imposed on the committee leads one to wonder whether that is enough time to 'investigate' and release the names of the culprits as promised. Although $150 million of the $180 million Halliburton bribe money has been traced to Switzerland, the investigation will hinge on legal documents that must be released by the U.S. Department of Justice. Nigeria sent at least one request on March 30th and has sent a total of 2 to expedite the process. Being that the Department of Justice is now focused on investigating alleged torture techniques used in that country's war against terror, plus the fact that bureaucracies are slow everywhere, it would take the direct act of God himself, though President Obama might suffice, to have those documents released within a reasonable period of time. That 6 week time limit appears unrealistic and might be an indication that this Committee and indeed this administration has little intention of adequately addressing the Halliburton scandal.
THAT RE-BRANDING ISSUE
That Nigeria is trying to rebuild its reputation abroad is a factor that cannot be ignored as well. While it is crucial to present to not just Nigerians but the world in general, that Nigeria will be tough on corruption, previous failures to adequately address corruption and punish the guilty speak louder than any P.R. attempt to focus attention on this new anti-corruption move. It must be reiterated that "success is key" to the re-branding effort and as such, the investigation of Nigerians involved in this scandal will not be enough. In fact, the public naming of those individuals will also not suffice. Nigerians who accepted bribes from Halliburton, Siemens AG and all other corporations must not only be exposed but they must return the monies they gained illegally, and serve jail time without any possibility of the 'plea bargain justice' many other Nigerians fingered in corruption scandals have received. When this happens, Nigeria will be able to shed its reputation as one of the world's most corrupt countries and that will in turn encourage more foreign investment, but most importantly, a belief amongst the average Nigerian that the rules apply to everyone, not just the poor.
NIGERIAN CRIME AND NONEXISTENT PUNISHMENT
The 2008 Power Probe conducted by the National Assembly is another reminder that the crimes of the well connected go unpunished in Nigeria. After months exposing the failures and deep corruption of Nigeria's power sector, the House of Representatives refused to debate the Power probe report, and till this date, not only have culpable individuals and companies not been brought to justice, but Nigerians continue to suffer from little to no electricity supply without the aid of diesel powered generators. President Yar'Adua has said little about punishing those responsible for this unfortunate reality suffered by the majority of Nigeria's people.
If Yar'Adua could not compel the punishment of those responsible for the abysmal state of power in Nigeria, what assurance is there that his administration will indeed investigate and punish those involved in a bribery scandal that amounts to a drop compared to the stolen monies that directly resulted in the ability of all Nigerians to have reliable power supply?
This Halliburton scandal definitely presents an opportunity for the administration to be tough on corruption, but its track record with other similar situations leads to little confidence that this time will be any different. Nigeria definitely has a punihment problem and is unable to take the obvious steps necessary to discipline those who clearly took advantage of their position to fatten their pockets at the expense of Nigeria's children, men and women who now lack the basics that they rightly deserve.
Please read Arrests Made in the Halliburton Scandal.
Related Articles of Interest:
- Arrests Made in the Halliburton Scandal
- Halliburton & Nigeria - Corruption Inc. Pt 2
- Siemens & Nigeria - Corruption Inc.
- Corruption: The Common Denominator To All Our Problems
- Nigeria's Re-branding Effort
- Using Nigerians to Re-Brand Nigeria
- Re-Branding Nigeria: Success Is The Key