…And bled the economy
By Onyedika Agbedo
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari is nationally and internationally acclaimed for his disdain for corruption. During his first stint as Nigeria’s number one citizen as military Head of State between 1983 and 1985, he inherited a country that was virtually on its knees as a result of corruption in official circles. Determined to enthrone a new order, he put his hands on the plough and caught the image of a fearless leader who once convinced of a cause, pursues it without looking back or minding whose ox is gored. Back then, he tried to bring back sanity in governance by ensuring that government officials indicted for corruption were prosecuted and severely punished. Although some of his policies were considered as too draconian, he never looked back. However, he was eventually ousted from office through a coup d’etat, paving way for the dismantling of his policies.
Buhari returned to power on May 29, 2015 as an elected President under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC). During his campaigns, he harped on the fact that corruption was behind Nigeria’s underdevelopment. His popular maxim then was that “if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria.” He promised to fight corruption to a standstill if elected as President. In keeping with his word, he has made some bold moves to kick corruption out of the country. For instance, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) appears inspired and independent under his watch. Also, the investigation and prosecution of suspects in the $1.2 billion arms deal nicknamed Dasukigate, and the recent arrest and prosecution of judges on charges of corruption are cases in point.
Nevertheless, analysts argue that an administration that is determined to fight corruption must beam its searchlight on some financial scandals in the past 17 years of our democratic experience that arguably contributed to the current economic challenges of the country. Whether the President would subscribe to such views is a question only him can answer, even though some of the scams have international dimensions. In this report, Sunday Sun recalls some of these cases and the stages of investigation/prosecution of suspects.
The Halliburton Bribery Scandal:
The scandal dates to 1994 when the Nigerian government launched ambitious plans to build the Bonny Island Natural Liquefied Gas Project. A network of secretive banks and offshore tax havens was used to funnel $182 million in bribes to Nigerian officials in exchange for $6 billion in engineering and construction work for an international consortium of companies that included a then Halliburton subsidiary. In 2010, Nigeria indicted former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, who was the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Halliburton before he was elected, only to later clear him when Halliburton worked out a $35 million settlement. Other companies allegedly involved in the scandal included Siemens AG; TSKJ, Technip of France: Snamprogetti of Italy; Kellog, Brown and Roots of the U.S; Japan Gas Corporation (JGC); and construction giant, Julius Berger, which was accused of acting as a conduit for the illegal transfer of $5 million to an alleged beneficiary. Also, a 2010 Nigerian government document reportedly included three former Nigerian presidents, a vice-president, a minister, intelligence chiefs and corporate titans in a list of bribery beneficiaries. While there had been indictment and conviction of foreign companies and their top executives in Europe and America over the scandal, the beneficiaries from Nigeria are yet to be fished out and sanctioned.
N195b Pension Scam:
The administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan had set up the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT) in 2010. He appointed Abdulrasheed Maina as chairman of the team with the mandate to sanitise a corrupt pension system. But following an investigation by the Senate in 2013, it was discovered that Maina had allegedly turned around to lead a massive pension fraud scheme amounting to several billion of naira. The Senate had accused him of mopping up pension funds of about N195 Billion from banks and depositing the money in his private accounts. The EFCC further investigated the case and declared Maina wanted for his role in the fraudulent biometric contracts through which himself and former Head of Service, Steve Oronsaye, and two others allegedly stole over N2 billion of pension funds. Maina was on July 21, 2015 charged alongside Oronsaye, Osarenkhoe Afe and Fredrick Hamilton Global Services Limited before a Federal High Court on a 24-count charge bordering on procurement fraud and obtaining by false pretense. While Oronsaye and two others were in court and pleaded not guilty to the charge, Maina has been at large.
$20b Missing Oil Revenue:
Former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and now Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi had in 2013 alleged that the sum of $20 billion was not remitted to the Federation Account in oil proceeds by the NNPC between January 2012 and July 2013. The allegation generated a lot of controversy in the country with the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) accusing Sanusi of trying to bring down the Jonathan administration in connivance with the opposition. Jonathan eventually suspended him from office. The National Assembly investigated the matter but could not really conclude it. Meanwhile, Sanusi has not withdrawn the allegation.
$16b Power Sector Scam:
In January 2008, the House of Representatives passed a resolution mandating its Power and Steel Committee headed by Godwin Ndudi Elumelu to probe the power sector over alleged investment of $16 billion between April 1999 and June 2007 with the state of the country’s electricity supply getting worse. The committee faced some hurdles in the course of its assignment, including the allegation of N100 million bribe, which was leveled against it. The committee was eventually cleared of the allegation by the Ethics Committee of the House after which it submitted its report where it indicted some government officials for allegedly awarding power to fictitious firms. It therefore recommended the interrogation of some former and serving public officials by the country’s anti-graft agencies for their roles in the power project contracts. No further step has been taken on the report even as power supply in Nigeria remains in a pitiable state. The Buhari administration would be doing the country proud should it dusts up the report with the intention of probing into the matter further and prosecuting culprits.
Kerosene Subsidy Scam:
Former President Umaru Yar’Adua had issued a presidential directive eliminating subsidy payment on kerosene as from July 2009. However, an investigation by the House of Representatives Committee on Petroleum (Downstream) in November 2014 revealed the NNPC continued to pay subsidy claims on the product. But the commodity was neither available on demand nor sold at the approved pump price of N50 per litre to consumers. A litre was rather sold for between N100 and N150 at filling stations. Since the National Assembly members concluded their investigations, no official of the NNPC in the country has been brought to book. Also, oil marketers that perpetrated the fraud have not been prosecuted.
Stella Oduah car purchase scandal:
In October 2013, there were reports that former Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, granted approval to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to purchase two bulletproof BMW cars at an allegedly inflated rate of N255 million for her use. The car contract was not listed in the budget and was not openly tendered for, in violation of government laws. The contract was also not listed in the budget by the NCAA, the agency compelled by the minister to make the purchase. It was also not listed by the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) or Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA). The ministry’s own budget too, had no plan to purchase any car for the minister, or other officials. A committee set up by President Goodluck Jonathan to probe the scandal had indicted Oduah. She was subsequently removed from office but the case has so far been swept under the carpet.
Police Pension Fund Fraud:
The former Director of Police Pension Fund, Esai Dangabar, and five others were accused of misusing N32.8 billion from the Police Pension Fund. Dangabar had pointed accusing fingers at some members of the Senate joint Committee on Establishment and Public Service Matter, and State and Local Government Affairs as beneficiaries of the loot. The Senate denied the allegation but never ordered an investigation into it. However, the six suspects were arraigned on March 29, 2012, on a 16 count criminal charges bordering on conspiracy and criminal breach of trust. The case is still ongoing more than three years after.
Malabu Oil Scandal:
A former minister under the administration of the late Gen. Sani Abacha had awarded the Oil Prospecting Licence 245, better known as ‘Malabu Oil deal’ to himself in 1998, using Malabu Oil and Gas at $20 million out of which he allegedly paid $2 million. However, the Federal Government during the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo revoked the block, but it was later sold to Shell at $210 million, a development that sparked off legal tussles. Nevertheless, while Malabu was still in court, Shell and Nigeria Agip Exploration paid $1.1 billion to the Federal Government for the oil block. But instead of paying the money into the Federation Account, it was allegedly transferred to Malabu and was later shared by some private firms owned by people very close to the presidency. An ad hoc committee of the House of Representatives recently reopened investigation into the ‘the more you look, the less you see’ transaction. The ‘Malabu Oil Deal’ is one transaction Nigerians would want the appropriate agencies to investigate and culprits brought to book.
Immigration Recruitment Scandal:
On March 13, 2015, over 750, 000 applicants converged on the National Stadium, Lagos, to write the recruitment test of the Nigerian Immigration Service. A stampede occurred at the stadium during the exercise and claimed the lives of about 20 unemployed Nigerians. Meanwhile, before the test, candidates were made to pay N1, 000 for application forms. But who was responsible for the collection of the N1, 000 amount paid by the applicants and to whose account was the money paid? The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has arraigned former Minister of Interior, Abba Morro, in court in connection with the scam. A private company, Drexel Nig Ltd, was also implicated in the recruitment scam. The case is still ongoing.