Former top officials of the Federal Government who were alleged to have received about 10 million euros as bribes from the German telecommunications company Siemens will soon land in hot soup as President Umaru Yar’adua yesterday ordered security agencies to investigate and prosecute them.
The president issued the order in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia where he was attending the OPEC Summit meeting when the scandal story broke.
“Anybody found culpable in the scandal would face the full wrath of the law”, the president said in a statement released by his Special Adviser (Communications) Segun Adeniyi. The statement also said, “The attention of President Umaru Musa Yar’adua has been drawn to media reports of the alleged bribery by an international telecoms company (Siemens) of some past Nigerian public officials and wishes to assure the nation. The President has therefore directed all the relevant security agencies to thoroughly investigate the allegations and take appropriate legal actions against anybody implicated in corrupt practices. The President also wishes to assure all Nigerians that in the new nation that we seek to build under his watch, any public official found to have abused his or her oath of office will not go unpunished. The President further assures that in this Siemens scandal, as in all cases that border on good governance and transparency, there will neither be sacred cows nor a cover up for anybody found culpable of breaching the law.”
A German court in Munich had named some past Nigerian Ministers of Communications as well as a Senator as having received
bribes of about 10 million Euros from the German engineering conglomerate.
The court, in an Oct. 4 ruling, listed Major General Tajudeen Olanrewaju, Dr. Bello Haliru Mohamed, Chief Cornelius Adebayo and Alhaji Haruna Elegí, as well as Senador Jibril Aminu among the alleged bribe receipients.
The court indicted Siemens for offering 77 bribes to cabinet ministers in Nigeria, Libya and Russia, to win lucrative contracts.
Reacting swiftly at the weekend, Mr Emeka Kanu, Media Adviser to Dr. Bello Mohammed, said his boss was innocent of the allegation. He said the allegation was “strange and bewildering, malicious, libelous and wicked evil designs by his political opponents”.
He stated that Mohamed, a former Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service and PDP chieftain, never met the representative of Siemens, Mr Reinhard Siekaczek, mentioned in the court process.
“As for Mr Siedel, we can firmly say Dr Mohammed has had no personal relationship with him other than at the official level as Minister of Communications,” he said. Kanu said Mohammed, currently the PDP National Vice Chairman (North-West), had never received any amount in bribe from any of the persons mentioned in the case.
On Saturday the Wall Street Journal reported that German telecommunications giant Siemens AG paid over N2billion ($17.5 million dollars) in bribes to government and industry officials in Nigeria, Russia and Libya in a bid to win contracts.
Using documents released last month by a court in Munich, the paper published a list of alleged recipients of 77 bribes from the three countries, detailing how much money went to each of the officials. Earlier this month Siemens admitted $ 1 billion dollars (N126 billion) in dubious transactions, showing the extent of a corruption scandal that has engulfed the company.
The revelation came as a surprise as Siemens had previously only admitted a slush fund of 449 million euros and had said it was limited to its telecommunications division. It said on November 8 it had uncovered an additional 857 million euros in money believed to have been used to obtain contracts for the group and the list of countries where it is now investigating possible corruption includes China, Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Norway and Russia.
Crime and Corruption
Legal and Judicial Affairs
Siemens’ new chief executive, Peter Loescher, who took over the reins in July, said the internal investigation into the corruption was “largely completed,” suggesting that the company now believed it had discovered the full extent of the slush funds. Loescher said he hoped a fine of 201 million euros imposed by German authorities in October would help it draw a line under the affair in its home country.
The court document seen by The Journal indicated that about 10 million euros went to Nigerians, including an immigration official, a senator and four former telecommunications ministers: Bello Mohammed, Tajudeen Olanrewaju, Cornelius Adebayo and Alhaji Elewi, the WSJ report said.
It said that in Russia, 38 bribes totalling about two million euros went to the heads of nearly two dozen regional state-controlled telephone companies in the east and west of the country. Six bribes totaling about 300,000 euros were received by two officials at Libya’s state-run General Post and Telecommunications Co., the paper said.
The Action Congress (AC) on Sunday described the scandal as “a national disgrace”. In a statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said the time has now come for the Yar’Adua administration to summon the courage to probe the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
AC said: “The 6-million-dollar Wilbros bribery scandal and now the 12-million-euro Siemens bribery scandal have shown that the Obasanjo administration was a cesspool of corruption, despite its anti-graft battle and Obasanjo’s holier than thou attitude.”
AC said the investigation into the Siemens bribery scandal should determine, among others, the culpability or otherwise of the listed officials; identify the ‘political office holders’ who took over 3 million euros out of the 10 million euros; reveal the identities of the “Telecom and Ministry officials” referred to in the scandal and mete out appropriate punishment to all those involved to serve as a deterrent.
“It is not enough for any of those listed among the bribe takers to hurriedly issue a statement denying their involvement. They must be bold enough to go further, and perhaps institute a legal action to clear their name, if indeed they are not involved. That way, the truth will come out.”
Also yesterday, the federal government begun to probe the processes involved in the sale of all oil blocks during the regime of erstwhile President Olusegun Obasanjo, according to the Minister of State for Energy (Petroleum), Odein Ajumogobia, who spoke in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
The minister ,who was reacting to a suspicion that the sale of two oil blocks to an Indian oil company, ONGC-Mittal, were not without some backdoor deals, said there had been complaints about the way oil blocks had been sold by the previous administration and that his ministry had begun to probe it.
He told journalists on the sidelines of the third Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) summit meeting holding in Riyadh that, “We are reviewing award of blocks by the previous government. There were complaints about the procedure used in award of some of the blocks and we are now investigating that.” There are indications that local and foreign companies would lose acreages if it is found during the investigations that they had obtained the licenses through back door deals.
Daily Trust had reported exclusive in September that there were plans by the Yar’Adua administration to probe the sale of oil blocks because of complaints that due processes were not followed in their sale. There were allegations that the oil blocks were sold out to cronies of the former president and companies that raised funds to prosecute Obasanjo’s aborted third term dream.
Specifically, as it relates to the Indian ONGC-Mittal, the company had in 2005 won rights to OPL 285 and OPL 279, and committed to invest $6 billion in setting up a 180,000 barrel per day refinery, a 2,000 mw power plant and an east-west railway. In another round of licensing shortly before the 2007 elections, the company was given preferential bidding rights for yet another acreage, OPL 250, for which it did not submit any bid.
Crime and Corruption
Legal and Judicial Affairs
The energy minister’s statement is coming at a time when Nigeria has come under international spotlight for ‘back door deals’ in the award of multi-million dollar contracts to international companies. Last week alone, employees of two separate foreign companies who are standing trial in the United States and Switzerland, alleged that they gave bribes to top Nigerian officials to win bids for oil and telecommunications contracts. In the allegations, former ministers under Obasanjo were accused of receiving bribes, though some of them have come out to deny their involvement in the corrupt deals.
In one of the cases involving Joseph Steph of Willbros Group, an oil company that operated in Nigeria during the Obasanjo era, the employee claimed that he gave $8 million as bribe to top officials of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The Willbros employee has been convicted by a US court in Houston, and Attorney-General for the Federation, Michael Aondoakaa (SAN), has said he would go to the US to obtain the identities of those Nigerians alleged to have received the bribes.
For Reinhard Siekaezek, a manager with Simens AG, a German electronic giant, he will face trial in January over bribery allegations involving top government officials in Nigeria, Russia and Libya. He claimed to have bribed ministers and other senior government personnel in the telecommunication sector with about 10 million Euro.