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Halliburton Failed Trial: Another EFCC Or Jonathan’s Gaffe?

September 13, 2010

From clear observations, the latest attempt by the Jonathan administration to ‘show’ they are ready to fight corruption could best be described for what it really is- ‘a show’.

From clear observations, the latest attempt by the Jonathan administration to ‘show’ they are ready to fight corruption could best be described for what it really is- ‘a show’.

How could the EFCC have arraigned suspects in such a sensitive Halliburton bribery scandal case without serving them notice of summons? It clearly shows that it’s all political gimmicks to paint the Nigerian government as working hard to fight corruption when in actual sense it’s not doing anything at all. What Should Nigerians then expect as outcome of a trial that started like this. The answer is nothing- same old story by same old thieves. What a shame to Nigeria?

The question is: was the EFCC boss ordered or rather hurried to commence prosecution of the select-suspects in the Halliburton scandal that the prosecutor did not have enough time to serve the writ of summons to those to be arraigned? What actually happened? It’s obvious that people concerned both on the government and the EFCC sides are not telling us the truth.

Worse still, none of the defendants appeared in court?  And the reason for their absence was as funny as it was stupid (without meaning to insult anybody). The defendants were not served with the arraignment notices. Haba! What a national gaffe?  Now, the judge handling the case has washed his hands off the case citing nonchalance of the prosecutors as his main reason. How long can we continue like this as a nation?

It may not be very far from the truth that President Jonathan ordered the trial after he was told that the EFCC Chairman, Farida reported to US officials that he was hampering her efforts at fighting corruption.  Mrs. Waziri also repeated her complaints to UN anti-corruption officials during the launching of the International Anti-Corruption Academy (IACA) in Vienna, Austria.

Could it have been a deliberate attempt by the President to discredit Farida Waziri's statements that he was interfering in the activities of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and to show the international community that he is serious about combating corruption? Could the hoax referred to as commencement of the prosecution part of the desperate initiatives to pave way for a more conducive visit to the United Nations later this month by the president?

Could it have been part of the President’s plan to gain the leverage to upturn the upheaval that would have followed his September 18 declaration to run for the 2011 Presidential election? So by the hoax called commencement of the Halliburton trial, Nigerians would now hail him as a leader who is ready to fight corruption after all: So let us give him the chance to continue in 2011 to do the good works for Nigerians.

Questions! Questions! Questions! And Nigerians may never get to know the real answers or rather the truth. Maybe the next option will be to replace Farida Waziri as the EFCC boss on the grounds that she has not been effective. This picture may be wrong but it looks a very likely step of this big national disgrace

It is still fresh in our memory how the former Attorney General of the Federation Michael Aondoaaka, told the world in a press conference that the Halliburton money, the entire US$180 million, was not disbursed and was kept in a Switzerland bank account. He asked the world, how can you prosecute anyone for money that was not disbursed or collected by him?

Now, the same government under Jonathan unmindful of this previous statement of their high profile corruption-protecting AG, decided to prosecute seven individuals and eight companies out of the manifest of the array of alleged partakers.

The question is: How did they arrive at the new list and what makes those now being prosecuted or rather investigated different from other fingered suspects?

Why should the court trial arising from the scandal ignore the big boys involved?  Conspicuously missing are such names as former president Olusegun Obasanjo and former military head of state, Abdusallam Abubakar amongst others, a clear indication the trial will leave the more culpable accused untouched. The major companies involved in this atrocious bribery were also not in the list of those being prosecuted. Interesting!

The initial attempted trial featured only 12 persons, largely small time officials, and companies.   The big hitters were never invited for interrogation not even by the Okiro panel.

Interestingly, the personal assistant to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Mr Adeyanju Bodunde was among those to be tried for his alleged collection of about US$5 million out of the US180 million bribe and his boss was left out of the trial maybe for lack of enough evidence or the investigation is continuing into his involvement.

The question is: who was Bodunde representing in the receipt of the money? Is it possible to separate Obasanjo and his personal assistant in this matter? And is it possible that Bodunde could collect the money and used it for himself and without the knowledge of his oga? So there is a clear line of deceit in the whole case.

As was rightly asked by a vexed Nigerian analyst: Let us assume that there is a case against those mentioned, what about the other 68 names that the US government found out and had proofs about their culpability which they passed to the Nigerian government? Why the 'piecemeal' prosecution?

The US government confronted those of their citizens involved with the facts and they agreed to plea-bargain and paid fines into the American government coffer totaling about US$972 million.

What we saw as an attempt to prosecute some of the culprits were mere grandstanding and posturing by the government. President Jonathan wanted to build the commencement of the Halliburton trial into his forthcoming United Nations General Assembly address- an image laundering initiative. There was nothing wrong with such scheme as the president is free to do whatever he thinks can enhance his international credibility but the manner the matter was handled, has done more harm and no single good for the credibility of the president and even the EFCC boss who has been struggling to impress the international anti-graft community on her credibility credentials.

Those who have President Jonathan’s ears should in a plain language tell him that by merely prosecuting the more or less inconsequential suspects alone in the Halliburton bribery scandal and even boggling it from the start, he has opened up the doors for unprecedented pressure to be mounted on him to actually show what he really stands for and also meant for this nation. Now he has brought the prosecution into public domain, the international community and the civil rights coalition will be watching to see how he is going to deal with the big boys and the big companies.


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