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EFCC still probing suspects in Halliburton scandal


My story, by ex-AGF Adoke

THE Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is still investigating suspects fingered in the Halliburton bribery scandal and would proceed with prosecution when meticulous examination of the issues is completed, spokesman of the commission, Wilson Uwujaren, told The Guardian yesterday.

Speaking in a telephone interview Uwujaren said, “The agency would not go to court yet, because the case is still being investigated. And to ensure diligent prosecution, loose ends must be completely tied, before taking the suspects to court.”

Meanwhile, former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke, has denied soliciting or receiving any bribe from Damian Dodo (SAN), an independent non-executive director of Seplat Petroleum Development Company Plc over the Halliburton bribery scandal.

Adoke, who made the submission while giving an overview of the Halliburton’s out-of-court settlement also attributed former President Goodluck Jonathan administration’s decision on the scandal to the weak penal sanctions provided under Nigeria laws, which award pittance as fines in such bribery cases.

Through a September 1994 bid to the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) for the construction of natural gas plant in Nigeria by M.W. Kellogg and three other companies that form a partnership known as TSKJ, they got a lobbyist, a London lawyer named Jeffery Tesler, who knew the then military dictator General Sani Abacha. Tessler got about $40 million wired to Abacha’s account to help speed up the contract award process in November of the same year.

Last week, the government of President Muhammadu Buhari re-opened investigation into the Halliburton case as expected by Nigerians and the international community.

Six lawyers, five of whom are Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN), were indicted by the EFCC in the $182 million case. Already, one of them, Damian Dodo (SAN), has been interrogated by the anti-graft agency. Others are former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Joseph Daudu (SAN); the immediate past Attorney-General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke (SAN); Emmanuel Ukala (SAN), Chief Godwin Obla (SAN) and Mr. Roland Ewubare.

While the Halliburton case involved a much bigger $182 million, Dodo and the other lawyers are being investigated by the EFCC for a $26 million they allegedly got from the deal.

Dodo was alleged to have got $4.5million of the $26million bribe money that was allegedly carried out in collaboration with some foreign firms. He was also alleged to have withdrawn $2 million of the money, in violation of the money laundering regulations.
He was interrogated for eight hours on Thursday, February 11, by operatives of the EFCC who were said to have been able to extract vital information from him.

However, Dodo has denied committing any crime with regards to the $26 million, which he said was the legal fee of the lawyers in the case.

In December 2010, Nigeria agreed to drop the corruption charges against the company’s former boss, Dick Cheney and Halliburton in exchange for a $250 million settlement. The Federal Government, through the Office of the AGF, then set up a team of five lawyers to ensure the swift recovery of the funds. $26 million was agreed to be paid to the lawyers.

According to reports, Dodo said it was agreed that the money would be paid from the fine imposed on the company, and not directly from Federal Government’s purse.

In a letter addressed to the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, Dodo had admitted receiving $4.5million as legal fees but said he returned $1million to the Federal Government. According to him, the over $200m that was recovered was paid directly into the account of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Dodo also informed that Daudu was the team leader and he acted under his instructions, noting that other details would be provided by Obla (SAN).

“I am also aware that some other sum was approved to the AGF as the Federal Government cost from the payments received by Obla & Co. And that the sum was accordingly remitted to the Federal Ministry of Justice. Chief Godwin Obla will provide you further details in this regard.”

In his overview of government’s out-of-court settlement on the issue, Adoke said he did not solicit or receive money in the Halliburton Scandal.

“I did not solicit or receive any bribe from Dodo or any lawyer on account of the Halliburton case or any other case or transaction that I was involved as Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice,” he explained.

Adoke explained that on assumption of office in 2010, “I was approached by the then Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), Mrs. Farida Waziri, with a letter from some American lawyers to the effect that they wanted to sue Halliburton and other associated companies in respect of the LNG bribery scandal on the understanding that they would be entitled to 33 1/3 of whatever they recovered as professional fees.

“After a review of the files on the subject, I came to the considered view that the best approach would be to assemble a team of Nigerian solicitors working together with the EFFC to commence criminal proceedings against the foreign companies involved, while reviewing on the basis of available evidence how best to deal with the Nigerian individuals involved.”

He added that in furtherance of this strategy, the chairman of the EFCC was asked to nominate a lawyer and a member of the EFCC to constitute a team to commence prosecution while he also nominated the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. J.B. Daudu (SAN), Mr. E.C. Ukala (SAN), Mr. D.D. Dodo (SAN) and the EFCC nominated Mr. G.O. Obla (SAN) and Mr. Emmanuel Akomoye, the then Secretary of the EFCC to participate in the trial and monitor the ensuing negotiations.

The then Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission, Mr. Roland Ewubare was also co-opted because of his extensive experience on the issue from the American perspective having practiced law in the United States for a long time.

He said as soon as the criminal suits were filed, the then National Security Adviser (NSA), Gen. Aliyu Gusau (rtd) called for an out-of-court settlement in view of the strategic role that Julius Berger (one of the companies implicated in the bribery scandal) plays in our economy. It was therefore agreed that a settlement meeting be held in his office and he nominated the Deputy NSA in the person of Kayode Are, to chair the meeting.

“At the meeting convened for that purpose, we took a critical look at the position of our laws and agreed that our laws on the subject matter were weak and relying on the penal sanctions provided under the laws, only pittance by way of fines could be realized from the out-of-court settlement.

“As a result, we opted to pursue the companies on the ground of ‘reputational damage’ occasioned the country by the alleged acts of bribery. It was therefore resolved that the companies involved would be asked to pay fines for reputational damage to the country. To serve as deterrence, it was agreed that companies involved would be made to disgorge 5 (five) times the amount that was transmitted through them and also pay the solicitors fees as was done in the Pfizer’s case involving the Federal Government. That was how Julius Berger was made to pay $ 26 million to the Federal Government exclusive of the solicitors’ fees, which were paid to them directly.”