By Tony Eluemunor
Last Saturday provided a peek into the anatomy of corruption in Nigeria between 1999 and 2007. Corrupt practices were of epic dimensions and the practitioners were audacious despite President Olusegun Obasanjo and EFCC chairman, Nuhu Ribadu’s advertised anti-graft stance.
Scandalised readers asked what happened to Pentascope after it had ruined NITEL/M-Tel. Answer: Its contract was terminated February 2005, after 20 months; it had paid itself $7, 600, 000 instead of $5, 500, 000; an over-payment of $2,050,000. Then TRANSCORP Plc purchased 51% of NITEL/M-Tel for $500m but the late President Umaru Yar’Adua administration revoked that deal.
Pre-Pentascope NITEL-Mtel earned N1bn monthly and SAT-3 (Satellite arm) raked in N259m. A Senate Committee report said that TRANSCORP took over NITEL in Obasanjo’s time with a syndicated loan from UBA, Union, Skye, Wema and Intercontinental banks on November 14, 2006, but when Yar’Adua cancelled the deal, the loan stood at N76.8bn —and the Debt Management Office had swallowed the debt, and issued FGN bonds to the Consortium of Banks to be repaid from proceeds of NITEL/M-Tel privatization. Please don’t ask me if that meant that TRANSCORP had bought NITEL free of charge.
Questions came on the Halliburton scandal. Yes, Nigeria asked for $250m in a foreign court but accepted $35m (plus $2.5m legal costs) settlement, December 2010. Earlier on July 8, 2010 a court awarded $240m criminal penalties against Snamprogetti Netherlands BV and Technip SA, to benefit the US Department of Justice. In February 2009, KBR and Halliburton entered guilty pleas and agreed to pay a $402 million criminal fine to settle similar US charges; settlement for US$182mn bribes in exchange for US$6bn in engineering and construction work in Nigeria between 1996 and 2004. US got some $640m. Nigeria got $37m; another scandal! And the Nigerians who collected the bribes are still keeping them.
Why did I focus on the two examples? Answer; though part of the shenanigans concerning them took place during Obasanjo’s administration and were known to Ribadu, it was the late Yar’Adua that took any action. Yet, he was the one Mr. Segun Adeniyi, Yar’Adua’s spokesman, accused of being soft on corruption. Mr. Adeniyi, in his book, POWER, POLITICS AND DEATH, blamed just one Nigerian leader as being weak on corruption; Yar’Adua.
Why, because Yar’Adua was Chief James Onanefe Ibori’s friend. Yet, Obasanjo and Segun Adeniyi’s uncle, Gen. Mohammed Abdullahi, Obasanjo’s Chief of Staff for eight years, were in Aso Rock Presidential Villa from 1999 to 2007. Why? Well, according to Mr. Adeniyi himself, his uncle, Gen. Abdullahi had told him of a bribery claim Ribadu made against Chief Ibori, and he Adeniyi had extended that rumour to Yar’Adua—who did not immediately turn against Ibori. Finish!
Could politricks have motivated Gen. Abdullahi Mohammed? Such a thought could never have occurred to Mr. Adeniyi because some politicians of that era, who were opposed in any way to Obasanjo, were vilified as demons, by certain people. Did wholesome or insidious impulses seize Gen. Abdullahi Mohammed, when the former Police ADC to the then Governor Goodluck Jonathan, who had accompanied Jonathan to Aso Rock when Jonathan became Vice President, took a Mr. Solomon Udele, a Policeman newly appointed to the Villa, to Abdullahi’s office?
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The moment Udele, was introduced as a former ADC to Chief Ibori, Gen. Abdullahi phoned the Police Inspector General: “who posted Chief Ibori’s former ADC to the Villa? He must be posted out immediately, yes, immediately and his new post must not be contiguous with Abuja.” Mr. Udele was reposted to Anambra state immediately. Poor fellow: he reported at Awka and resigned…because he was afraid for his life. A career ended. Do we applaud or denounce such behaviour?
Readers also asked why the National Assembly did not check Obasanjo. Ah, it seems long ago and far away now, but the Presidency distabilised the Senate. The Lower House, patriotic and courageous, took their over-sight functions seriously, which made the mass media view the 1999 – 2003 House of Representatives as unnecessarily antagonistic to Obasanjo’s administration. Newspaper columnists vilified Speaker Ghali Umar Na’Abba and the entire House.
Those Reps, young, bright, patriotic, ready to take risks, convinced that Nigerians had the capacity to change Nigeria, and check the excesses of a fast-derailing President, stuck out their necks for the nation. They waded into the GSM rollout debacle; here it would be a sin not to mention the heroic exertions of the House of Reps Communications Committee Chairman, Chief Nduka Irabor. He coordinated Nigerians both at home and abroad by email, and they contributed ideas, freely, on how to better handle the GSM roll-out.
It is likely that without Hon. Irabor, Globacom would never have received its licence. And when the 2003 elections came, the executive ensured that the notable ones among them— Na’Abba, Irabor, Nze Chidi Duru, Sadiq Yar’Adua, Zalaini, very many others, did not return. The late Suru Yari Ghandi survived, moved up to the Senate, where he died, unfortunately. In that same way, Abuja targeted Ibori as a governor that should not contest for reelection in 2013, but the forged ex-convict case against him collapsed.
The media savaged the Reps (accusing them of working with Gen. Ibrahim Babangida to derail Nigerian democracy), so mercilessly that I had to announce in my column in 2000 that I was siding openly with the NASS because the legislature represented democracy more than the executive. I thus challenged any pro-Obasanjo journalist to take on me!!! So, the journalism herd-mentality did not start today.
Unfortunately, Nigerians believed the absurdities about a “Hurricane Obasanjo who was cleansing the system.” That is why, those making so much din, even disturbing the Angels in heaven, over the UK’s return of $4.4m linked to Ibori, said nothing about more humongous sums of money spirited away between 1999 and 2007. The Halliburton scandal alone involved almost $200m. Yar’Adua recovered for us N76.8bn; that is akin to leaving a missing elephant to search frantically, and with mournful tears, for a cricket.