Halliburton scam: why no breakthrough

After seven months, the Presidential Panel on the $180 million Halliburton scam is yet to make a breakthrough; it was learnt at the weekend. The panel could not sit in the last seven weeks, with some members allegedly frustrated.

The Federal Government had in April raised a special investigative committee on the Halliburton scam.

Members of the panel were drawn from the Police, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the State Security Service, the National Intelligence Agency and the Office of the National Security Adviser.

The immediate past Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mike Okiro, headed the joint committee before he retired last month.

The Federal Government had on June 15 extended the sitting of the panel by eight weeks to enable its members to travel to the United Kingdom, Switzerland and France to go through some foreign accounts.

A budget of N50 million was also approved for the committee to accommodate the extension.

But despite the expiration of deadline for the sitting of the panel, it is yet to submit its report to the Presidency.

Investigation by The Nation revealed that the inability to get vital documents from the US Department of Justice has made the committee to run into a brick wall.

A source, who spoke in confidence with our correspondent, said: “We have not been able to make appreciable progress in uncovering the syndicate behind the bribery scandal.

“Although we broke new grounds in interrogating some unknown past government officials connected with the scandal, obtaining the vital documents from the US Department of Justice had been difficult.

“The Federal Government explored the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty between it and the US and other countries but they seemed unconvinced that the perpetrators should be brought to book.

“Some of these countries considered the composition of the panel as awkward.

“We have not gone beyond the preliminary findings of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

“The committee has also not been able to sit in the last seven weeks because of the retirement of the chairman of the panel, Mr. Mike Okiro, from the police.

“You know the new Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ogbonna Onovo, needs to settle down before dabbling in the Halliburton probe.

“His approach may be different.