History of the Nigerian telecommunications sector cannot be written without mentioning the name of the German company, Siemens. The success story or otherwise of the sector is closely linked to Siemens over the years. There is therefore no doubting the fact that Siemens has significantly contributed to the development of the sector of the country particularly in providing the basic infrastructure of NITEL’s land line and much later MTEL’s mobile networks.
Going by the long time relationship and monopoly of the sector by Siemens one will not be wrong to say that a number of factors must have influenced this position. One of the key factors that had ensured the monopoly is the fact that Siemens and Germany have been adjudged to be corruption friendly company and nation respectively. Nigerians were therefore not shocked with the revelation in 2007 that Siemens had bribed some top Nigerian government officials among which were a federal minister, a Senator and some other government officials. Siemens as the major contractor to the national telecommunications company, NITEL and MTEL has admitted to bribing a former Nigeria’s Minister, Senator Jubril Aminu and some other top federal government officials with a view to further monopolizing the sector and also covering their numerous shady deals in the country.
As soon as the bribery scandal was exposed and investigations conducted by the German authorities, a German court had indicted Siemens and sentenced its top Executives to various terms of imprisonment for bribing Nigerian officials including Senator Jubril Aminu to the tune of 1.3billion Euros. Consequently, the then Nigerian government under the leadership of President Olusegun Obasanjo revoked the Siemens contract in question and blacklisted the company for the bribery scandal. Regrettably, the Yar’adua administration whose much touted and over publicized seven point agenda among others includes due process, respect for rule of law and above all, its resolve to fight corruption have all been thrown to the dogs. This is particularly so as regards its recent un- banning of Siemens from Nigeria’s telecommunications scene despite the Company’s conviction due to unethical and corrupt business practices in the country.
Siemens was also fined for the bribery scandal. It is also on record that Siemens was found to be involved in offering bribes to government officials in Libya and Russia in order to influence the securing of some telecommunications contracts I those countries. Furthermore, Yar’adua has rewarded Siemens with a new Power contract worth billions of Dollars. Under a new partnership with the company that was blacklisted by its predecessor as the lead firm. The Yar’adua government had recently signed a contract for the construction of three new turbines and waste recovery, boilers/steam turbines at Geregu due for completion on or before 2011 and 2014 respectively. There is no doubt that at a time when government was all out to stamp out corruption in the society, Nigerians are certainly left in doubt as to the sincerity of this fight by the Yar’adua administration that is battling hard to gain legitimacy.
Unsatisfied with the snail speed of investigations into the allegation of Senator Jubril Aminu’s involvement and final indictment by Siemens in the bribery allegation by the anti corruption agency, ICPC, the Yar’adua administration recently asked it to hands-off the case and transfer the case file to EFCC for its prompt intervention and continuation of investigation and possible prosecution. However, the federal government in its style of being supportive and against the fight of corruption, pardoned the German company, Siemens and went further to reward it with a multi billion dollar power contract as part of its intervention measures in the power sector.
Even a member of the House of Representatives, Dino Melaye said: “it is too early for Nigeria to do business with Siemens. If it is other arms of government that do this kind of thing they will be accused of taking bribes”. He added ‘it is unfortunate that government like ours that is campaigning against corruption will now accommodate a globally known corrupt company that has been indicted by a court of competent jurisdiction in its home country’. It is our hope that EFCC will now do a thorough job and do justice to yet another high profile bribery scandal that involves a sitting Senator Jubril Aminu who also chairs the Senate committee on Foreign Affairs. The war against corruption must not have sacred cows. All must be treated equally
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters