Monday, June 22, 2009

In April 2009, Nigeria's government announced the creation of a panel charged with investigating the Halliburton corruption scandal and identifying those Nigerians who received some of the $180 million the company paid to Nigerian officials in bribes. Given Nigeria's serious 'punishment problem', many wondered whether the panel, given a 8 week limit, would accomplish its goal. The time limit is technically up and not only is there little word on the panel's report, but media reports indicate that the Yar'Adua administration is pointing the blame for possible failure at the United States.

While the panel, led by Mike Okiro, investigated the Halliburton scandal, various individuals were arrested, others were questioned, and INTERPOL was put on alert to prevent certain suspects that would seek to flee the country. It was also revealed in May that the previous president, Olusegun Obasanjo, would be interviewed by the panel. However, it is unclear whether any quizzing of Obasanjo actually took place. Like other corruption scandals of the past, Nigerians watched the many news reports related to the panel's investigation with interest and expectations.

When the panel was announced on April 21st, the most glaring limitation was its time limit. The panel was initially granted a 6 week time limit, (later extended to 8 weeks). Although the 8 week time limit for the panel has technically ended, no report has been released to the public, nor has there been any indication that the report has been completed. Instead, it appears that the Yar'Adua administration and the Okiro panel has chosen to lay the blame for the lack of obvious results on the United States. A report in Nigeria's Vanguard newspaper indicated that sources close to the panel believe the U.S. frustrated the panel's purpose. The sources alleged that the U.S. is interested in protecting certain implicated parties - particularly "two former heads of state and a former Vice President ... from being exposed." The Daily Independent also reported on June 13th that the U.S. "denied the presidential panel ... access to [the] true identity [of Nigerians involved in the corruption scandal]." The paper quoted a source who said,
"What the panel desires is mere confirmation of confessions made by the suspects that have been interrogated in Nigeria here, to see if they actually tally with what the Americans have in their records ... Other sources will be relied upon to get the job done."
As a result, the panel is now looking to gain information from European countries.

The Halliburton corruption scandal is not a new one. Nigerians clamored for a long time to get the current administration, which holds the 'rule of law' as its mantra, to investigate it and reveal those involved. It was public pressure that forced Yar'Adua to create the panel and this writer questioned the time limit ,
"Th[e] ... 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."
Additionally, the credibility of many of the panel's members was also an issue. Consequently, it is not hard to assume that as was the case with many other corruption scandals of the past, these "blame the U.S." whispers are simply a typical tactic to do nothing. This talk about the U.S. trying to protect certain Nigerians or the FBI delaying is inconsequential. Firstly, the Nigerian government set its own time limit without consulting with the U.S. which is dealing with issues of its own and cannot be expected to drop everything to address the concerns of a questionable administration's panel. Secondly, as noted by the Daily Independent's source, the panel was only seeking "confirmation of confessions made by the suspects that have been interrogated in Nigeria". If that is truly the case, then the panel already has the information it needs and can release the names of those who have 'confessed' to their crimes. Nigeria is an independent nation and does not need to wait for information from other countries to investigate domestic corruption if it truly wants to. Any and all explanations to the contrary are a stalling tactic and a way to prepare the nation for the panel and this administration's failure. Thirdly, as more time is wasted delaying the release of those tied to this scandal, the more there will be criticism of this administration and questioning of its ability and/or willingness to tackle the difficult issues Nigeria faces. As this administration pushes to 're-brand' the nation's image and re-orientate the psyche of citizens, it should be cautious that its very actions do not hamper its grand objectives.

Hopefully, the hopes of Nigerians who demand that this administration fully commit to anti-corruption efforts by looking directly at the nation's political elite, will not be for naught. There is still time for this administration and the Okiro panel to release the names of Nigerians that benefited from Halliburton's 'slush fund'. The administration must also not forget the individuals already implicated in the Siemens corruption scandal as they should return the bribes they received and face justice in a court of law. Although it is never too late to do the right thing, Nigerians cannot afford for their government to delay on doing what is obviously the right and proper thing to stamp out the scourge of corruption which has benefited a few but left the rest of Nigerians wanting.

Related Articles of Interest:
- Arrests Made In Halliburton Scandal
- Nigeria's Punishment Problem
- Halliburton & Nigeria - Corruption Inc. Pt 2
- Siemens & Nigeria - Corruption Inc.
- Crime & Punishment: The Nigerian Edition

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Anonymous said...

As you said, this smacks of a delay tactic. If the panel hasn't said anything about releasing the report but rumours shifting the blame to the US have already started circulating, they must be preparing to disappoint the public. Watch as the excuses begin to fly.

Adaeze said...


Cee said...

I find it curious that the American government refuses to provide information which will aid the investigation of this issue in Nigeria. I know it's being bandied on blogs and newsites that the US did this because it didn't believe Nigeria would utilize the information properly. That smacks of sentimentality to me.

I think there's more to it that meets the eye. What did Oga Okiro and co. truly ask for? If Mr Yardy personally requested the info, why would America say no? It just doesn't add up to me and I must say I would be most disappointed with America if this is true.

SSD, how does one contact you?

N.I.M.M.O said...

While its difficult to laugh over this serious matter, its rather funny that anyone would have expected anything to come out of this ab initio.

Why would a sitting IGP -the operational and administrative head of the Nigeria Police- head a panel to probe a fraud when he has a retinue of AIGs and DIGs who are specialists in Fraud investigations? They chose the busiest person.

Why would the Nigeria Police need confirmation from the FBI or a US probe Report to confirm its own investigations (if there was any)?

If the Police had released its own report or arrested anybody based on its outcomes, anybody who believes he is wrongly accused can go to court? After all, we are in the era of Rule of Law.

This is Government Magic in action!

Anonymous said...

Is it not naija again? Fool me once.....

The people i should blame are the people who still expected something to come out of the panel. How many times does something happen before you learn? All they do is pitch one team against the other. The members of the panel would find a way to arrest their opponents and a way to "question" their friends.

*hisssssssing big time*

TheAfroBeat said...

Have to share (borrow) yours and NIMMO's thoughts on this. The panel seemed set to fail from the start, and it appears no investigation has really taken place, as there's only so far the US could have gone to hinder investigations (after all their citizens are only one-half of the equation, ours are the other half).

As you argue, this is Yar'Adua letting us down softly, and before long, another "announcement of a panel to look into the scandal of..." will occur and this will be swept under the rug for another period.

Nigeria we hail thee!

Agegelabs said...

Once again this government has failed to convince us that they can be trusted to deliver. This case would have been a great example to show that Nigeria is serious about fixing the bribe problem.

I agree with NIMMO - why is the IGP leading this panel, his job is to investigate, provide evidence and arrest. The panel should be slightly more independent. Better still - just fill it with Judges; I hear they can still be trusted and not bought out.

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