A nation fooled at 50: Nigeria still chasing shadows in corruption fight.

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    Halliburton HQ
    Halliburton HQ

    As Nigerian law enforcement agencies engage in what appears to be an everlasting investigation of government officials indicted abroad for corruption, one country, the United States, is busy raking in massive revenue on account of Nigeria’s dereliction.

    Nigeria’s bribery misfortune has so far generated over N300 billion (approximately $2 billion) in revenue for the United States government, from fines it imposed on companies which bribed Nigerian officials to corner government contracts. Our analysis of the three current major international bribery scandals (Siemens, Halliburton/TSKJ, Daimler) involving Nigerian officials, indicates no traction or indictment from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the agency that leads investigations relating to economic and financial crimes.

    This finding also coincides with the release of a business survey on crime and corruption in our country, which indicates that Nigerians have “little trust in anti-corruption authorities.”

    The report is a collaboration between the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the European Union (EU), and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

    “It is hard to have any confidence in these agencies, and all these endless investigations point at nothing but a case of dereliction, and probably collaboration, or both,” said Jiti Ogunye, a leading public interest lawyer in Lagos, who wondered angrily “how come that 19 years after Siemens, (the Germany-based multinational electrical firm) agreed to pay fines to both the US and German authorities for bribing officials of foreign countries – including Nigeria – to secure contracts, no Nigerian has been prosecuted?”

    Another attorney, Abuja-based Charles Musa, said if the US government is fining its own citizens, and its companies, it is unfortunate that Nigeria, where all the bribery took place, be it Anammco or Halliburton, is just grandstanding and playing to the gallery, and not serious about prosecuting its citizens.

    “In a proper country, those companies should have been fined themselves, and they’ll be blacklisted. It’s unfortunate that we don’t have the political will to prosecute any crime in this country as long as it doesn’t involve a poor man. These people are well known, they (their names) are on the Internet, they are in US court papers, and nothing has happened to them. It is unfortunate,” he said.

    US revenue

    The revenue made by the United States represents fines paid by bribe givers: Siemens, Kellogg Brown & Root, Technip and Daimler AG, to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice in settlement agreements, for giving kickbacks to Nigerian officials in exchange for multibillion dollar contracts. And by the time investigations are completed in the $182 million Halliburton bribery scandal, which has so far yielded $917 million dollars for the U.S. government, the country is likely to rake in an additional N68 billion (approximately $449million) in fines from a former Halliburton executive Albert Jackson Stanley, two United Kingdom citizens, Jeffrey Tesler and Wojciech Chodan, and ENI of France, a member of the infamous TSKJ consortium.

    Already, Mr Stanley has been sentenced to seven years in jail and he is to pay $10.8 million in restitution. Tesler and Chodan, who allegedly coordinated the elaborate bribery scheme on behalf of the TSKJ consortium, have also been indicted by a federal grand jury in Houston and might forfeit $132 million to the American government.

    Investigations into ENI’s involvement in the bribery scheme is still ongoing but in anticipation of its indictment, the company has already set aside 250 million euro, an amount it plans to deploy in a settlement agreement with the SEC and the Department of Justice.

    America has accused the company of violating its Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which forbids “certain classes of persons and entities to make payments to foreign government officials to assist in obtaining or retaining business.”

    Unwilling Nigeria

    But while the U.S. is prosecuting its citizens involved in the scams and compelling concerned companies to pay huge fines, Nigeria, where the offences were committed and whose citizens received the bribes, has failed to properly investigate the cases and punish those involved.

    “What that means is that Nigerian laws and institutions are not working and we are paying dearly for that,” said Bunmi Aborisade, an adjunct professor at the State University of New York. “If those fines had been paid to our country, it would have gone a long way in alleviating poverty among our people. But that is even if the fine proceeds are not stolen again.”

    Siemens was the first to enter into a settlement agreement with the SEC and the American justice department. On December 12, 2008, in a charge brought against it in a US District Court for the District of Columbia, the German company agreed to pay $350 million in disgorgement to SEC and a $450 million criminal fine to the justice department.

    The company had earlier paid fines of 395 million Euro (approximately $569 million) and 201 million Euro(approximately $285 million) to the office of the Prosecutor-General in Munich, Germany, over the same charge that it bribed Nigerian officials to corner four telecommunication contracts.

    When Siemens first entered into these plea agreements, the Nigerian government blacklisted it and suspended it from handling government contracts. But the Umaru Yar’Adua administration soon lifted the suspension, saying the company had repented. The company did not pay any fine and nobody was prosecuted for the crime.

    Two months later, in February 2009, Kellog Brown and Root parted with $177 million and $402 million in payments it made to SEC and the department of justice for its role in the bribing of top-level Nigerian officials in exchange for the contract to build our $6 billion Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas plant.

    The two U.S. agencies then went after German automaker, Daimler, and got it to cough out a total $185 million in fines to settle charges that it compromised Nigerian officials to award several vehicle supply contracts to it.

    With the announcement on Monday that Technip, a member of the TSKJ consortium, had agreed to pay $338 million for its role in the bribery of Nigerian officials, America’s total earning from enforcement proceedings in the $182 million Halliburton bribery scam alone now stands at $917 million (approximately N138 billion).

    “The resolutions announced today demonstrate once again the department’s commitment to aggressively investigate and prosecute international bribery by U.S. and foreign corporations alike,” the justice department’s Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Mythili Raman, said in a statement. “The fact that Technip now must pay criminal penalties and civil disgorgement totalling $338 million should make clear that, in the end, bribery of foreign officials will have consequences.”
    Not finished

    Yet the Americans are not finished. ENI, another member of the TSKJ consortium, is being investigated and both SEC and the Justice department are likely to file separate charges against the company before long. The fourth member of the TSKJ Consortium, JGC Corporation of Japan, may, however, escape U.S. sanctions because it is not listed in the New York Stock Exchange. It is listed in the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

    The U.S. authorities said it was determined to bring to book all those involved in bribing foreign officials in exchange for business favours.

    “The FBI is committed to pursuing those who disrupt the level playing field to which companies in the U.S. and around the world are entitled,” said FBI Assistant Director Kevin L. Perkins. “This case (Technip’s) demonstrates the FBI’s commitment to aggressively investigate violations of this law. We will continue to investigate FCPA matters by working in partnership with other law enforcement agencies, both foreign and domestic, to ensure that both corporations and executives who bribe foreign officials in return for lucrative business contracts are punished.” Analysts say while America’s FBI and SEC are matching words with action, Nigeria’s EFCC, responsible for the Nigerian end of the investigation, is running round in circles and barking without biting.

    Not lifting a finger

    “It is quite unfortunate and pathetic that foreign countries have brought to justice those who have engaged in bribery while doing businesses in Nigeria, while Nigeria, the victim of these corrupt practices, has not lifted a finger in such despicable acts against the country,” said Bukola Oreofe, executive director, Nigeria Liberty Democratic Forum, a New York-based pro-democracy group.

    “One can only leave to the imagination the number of schools, hospitals, roads, agricultural development, avoidable deaths that would have been averted if Nigeria had been protected from this fleecing or if the country, through her own criminal statutes, could bring the local and foreign perpetrators to justice.

    “If the United States can earn millions from such punishment, it is sad that Nigeria looks the other way,” Oreofe said.

    Source: 234Next