SOME things are better not said. Nigeria’s attitude to accountability casts slurs on any efforts to fight corruption and the criminalities it sustains.
How can $26.5 million (about N4.24 billion) be paid to the Federal Government, and nobody is sure who has the money? Why would it take America’s prompting for government to act on the matter?
A $180 million scam involving Halliburton has seen people jailed abroad, others fined, including the construction company, Julius Berger, but in Nigeria, instead of those alleged to be involved to be prosecuted, it is the fine of $26.5 million Berger paid that is missing.
President Goodluck Jonathan’s instruction to the Attorney General of the Federation Mohammed Bello Adoke to recover the money is instructive. There are conflicting statements from Berger, the police and the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation on the money.
One account said the money was with the Accountant General of the Federation. Another said it was with the Attorney General. How would government be unable to trace the money, which Berger paid for a plea bargain?
Nigeria has not investigated the scam in a satisfactory manner. The refusal to try those indicted could be part of the inattentiveness in the matter that made it possible for $26.5 million that should have been recovered to be missing.
Mr. Jeffery Tesler, a Halliburton official, jailed for the scam, listed Nigerian officials who benefitted from bribes paid to them to gain favourable considerations in LNG contracts. Tesler said he used Berger as a conduit for the money which was used to bribe top government functionaries and some prominent Nigerians.
Only a former Special Assistant on Domestic Affairs to former President Olusegun Obasanjo was charged to court. The case instituted in 2010 is still on.
The new scandal became public two weeks ago, when the US government, in response to Nigeria’s request to release the balance of the bribe money held up in a US bank asked Nigeria to account for the plea bargain money.
The additional condition the US gave for releasing the money is prosecution of those involved in the scam.
Our concerns centre on the lax application of accountability in government affairs. The Halliburton money may be only an instance.
There are many cases of money the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, recovered that nobody knows where the money is. What would make government ask for accounts of the money?
Governments should be worried about their accounting standards. The standards have been lowered so much they invite insult from the likes of the US government.
Halliburton money is not missing, we simply have a scandal within a scandal.