By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor
ABUJA— A former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, yesterday, expressed frustration with the inability of Nigeria to investigate and punish all who were implicated in the Halliburton bribery case.
Ribadu, who bared his mind in Abuja, regretted that none of the top Nigerian culprits implicated in the $1.5 billion bribery scandal had been questioned and jailed in Nigeria while others from other countries were already serving various jail terms.
Of the amount involved, top Nigerians got a total of $184 million within 10 years from an Italian firm that got a $6 billion gas project job in Nigeria.
The case cost Halliburton $1.5 billion in fines in the United States.
Ribadu said the Halliburton scandal presented a unique corruption case study in which “a gang of foreigners stole from Nigeria” through the $6 billion natural gas contract won by a consortium of four international companies.
He said: “I first got hint of the case in France. I got back home and tried to investigate the case but it was very difficult or probably impossible because the companies were not here in Nigeria, they didn’t have account there, the people were not there. They had left.
“I rushed back to Paris. I was in Paris many times. I put in a request letter but after a year of trying to get French authorities to help us, the investigating magistrate told me that they could not get anyone to translate my letter from English to French. I knew it was a hopeless case.”
According to Ribadu, after failing to get Italy and Japan to help, he opted to go to the United States even though Dick Cheney, the then US vice president, was on the board of Halliburton.
“The Department of Justice in the United States took up the case. They investigated and prosecuted the case. They placed a fine of over $1.5 billion on the company, the biggest in the world for corporate corruption.”
Ribadu explained that in the cases EFCC under his watch referred to US Department of Justice, including those of Siemens and Julius Berger, the US made over $3 billion in fines.
“But the sad aspect is this, in my own country, where the criminal activity took place, not a single person was made to face justice, especially after I was asked to leave my position. Sadly, Nigeria did not make a dollar out of it,” he said.
Ribadu also recounted his experience in investigating the renowned 419 kingpin, Emmanuel Nwude, chief executives of banks and the former Delta State governor, James Ibori, who is now serving jail term in the UK.
He said in spite of the challenges of fighting corruption in Nigeria, he was glad that Nigeria recovered more stolen money than any other country in the world and got many corrupt people convicted during his tenure.
Ribadu noted that the EFCC was successful because “we built strong networks globally, especially with the UK and the US.”
He said the EFCC’s approach of working with other law enforcement jurisdictions to tackle trans-border crimes led the UK in creating the Overseas Anti-corruption Unit. He urged other countries to follow that example.
According to Ribadu, despite the challenges and the dangers inherent in the job of fighting corruption, “it’s a war worth fighting.”
“The world has to unite so that there will be no safe haven for stolen money and no hiding place for corrupt people,” he added.