Senate Probes U.S.$180 Million Halliburton Bribery Scam

Daily Independent:
Senators have asked three Committees to investigate the $180 million Halliburton bribery scam and requested President Umaru Yar’Adua to give fillip to the anti-graft drive by disclosing the names of Nigerians involved.

They also appealed to the United States to make public the names and or compel Halliburton and its subsidiary, Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), to do so.

The Senate on Tuesday directed the Committees – Judiciary and Human Rights, Gas and Drugs, Narcotic & Anti-corruption – to investigate the matter in accordance with Section 88 of the Constitution.

It urged the government to expose and prosecute those involved, and to recover from them sums received as bribes.

Last month, while pleading guilty to the scam in the U.S., Halliburton disclosed that Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) officials and senior members of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration collected bribes from it.

Senators on Tuesday condemned the corruption in high places in government circles and the unwillingness of Aso Rock to prosecute the culprits in the latest one.

Information and Media Committee Chairman, Ayogu Eze, said the re-branding project would come to nought if those involved are not named.

“Corruption under-develops Nigeria. The issue of corruption falls at the heart of government in this country. Our people are being impoverished because projects budgeted for are not executed.

“It is time to send a clear message to other countries that Nigeria is set to tackle corruption. Those involved must be named. Re-branding should be total,” he argued.

Navy Committee Chairman, Bode Olajumoke, was not comfortable with the embarrassing silence of the Presidency.

Said he: “Since February 19 when the news of the bribery scandal broke in the media, the government has been keeping deaf ears. This kind of silence is not good.”

Aviation Committee Chairmam, Anyim Ude, lamented that “corruption is too overwhelming in this country.”

Security and National Intelligence Committee Chairman, Nuhu Aliyu, said it is unfair that more than a month after the bribery scandal became public the government has done nothing to clear Nigeria’s name.

“Any country that condones corruption is bound to fail because corruption corrupts absolutely. The government has not been fair to us for not doing anything since the issue was raised.”

Bala Mohammed (ANPP, Bauchi) added: “The government should be condemned for not doing anything on this.”

Also on Tuesday, Health Committee Chairman, Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, drew attention to the fact that the Ogun State House of Assembly has not sat for three weeks because of “security reasons.”

The inability to convene, she noted, is contrary to Section 104 of the Constitution and could prevent the lawmakers from meeting Constitutional requirements.

Section 104 stipulates that “a House of Assembly shall sit for not less than 180 days in a year.”

Iyabo submitted a petition from the legislators, saying they have been prevented from carrying out their Constitutional duties based on what she said the Commissioner of Police called a “security situation.”

Her words: “I received a petition from the Speaker of the Ogun State House of Assembly concerning the Assembly and the fact that for the past three weeks (it) has not been able to carry out its Constitutional responsibilities of sitting to deliberate on the issues concerning the progress of the state.

“Why this has become a problem is that Constitutionally, there are certain number of days the Assembly must sit, and this is being infringed upon.

“The reason that can be attested to, at least from trying to talk to security agencies, is that the Commissioner of Police says that there is a security issue in the state.

“But if there is security issue in the state, you do not then stop one arm of government from doing its job for three weeks? You should resolve it or come to a table to find a solution.

“But instead of doing this, one arm of government is going on with its regular activities while the other arm is not allowed to sit.”

Iyabo described it as a problem “in terms of what the Constitution says, because the Commissioner of Police can perpetually say there is a security situation and you can get this in other states in which the House of Assembly would not be allowed to sit for a period that can extend to years if care is not taken.

“A security situation that is so grievous that the House of Assembly cannot meet for three weeks, I believe is an issue we should take very seriously as going against the Constitution.”

In submitting the petition, she drew attention to Order 41 of Senate Standing Rules, but George Thompson Sekibo countered vide Order 39 (1-10), arguing that she did not move the motion properly.

However, Deputy Senate president, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided, overruled Sekibo, maintained that Iyabo was right, and allowed her to lay the petition before the Senate.

The petition was referred to the Ethics, Public Petitions and Code of Conduct Committee, chaired by Omar Hambagda.

The Committee was given two weeks to submit a report.