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Nigerian Tribune: US, EFCC probe PDP, NNPC officials – Over N800m bribes

Yemi Ajayi, with Agency Report – 10.08.2007

THE Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the United States government have begun a probe to fish out who in Nigeria allegedly collected $6 million (about N800 million) in bribes from a top executive of a United States oil company, Willbros Group, Mr. Jason Steph.

Those to come under the EFCC’s searchlight are officials of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, the Federal Government, the Peoples Democratic Party and a Nigerian arm of Royal Dutch Shell.

Steph, a former manager at Willbros Group Inc., whose company is a service contractor to major oil companies in the Niger Delta, has been indicted in the United States for breach of corporate governance procedures.

He was accused along with others of bribing Nigerian officials between 2003 and 2005 to help the oil company to secure a $387 million contract to build a gas pipeline.

The EFCC Chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, according to an agency report, said the anti-graft agency was cooperating with U.S. law enforcement agencies on the case.

“You will definitely see the outcome of our own investigations and if it means there will be indictments in Nigeria, then so be it, there will be. It’s very likely,” he told Reuters in an interview.

According to the indictment by the US law authorities, the $6 million bribes were given to officials of the NNPC, the Federal Government, the PDP and a local official of Shell.

Ribadu told Reuters that he was “elated” about the Willbros case and other US probes into companies doing business in Nigeria. “There are several companies that we know are being investigated by the U.S. government under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which is a very big and welcome development,” he added.

Besides the Willbros case, the Swiss logistics firm, Panalpina, had on July 24 promised to raise an internal inquiry after the US Justice Department requested documents from it in connection with a probe into alleged bribery of Nigerian customs officials.

The Wall Street Journal reported that 11 oil and oil services firms had received similar requests. “There are a couple of companies that we are investigating as relating to investigations taking place outside Nigeria of companies that are doing business in Nigeria. It’s very likely that Panalpina will be one of them,” said Ribadu.

Ribadu also dismissed speculations that President Umaru Yar’Adua had curtailed the powers of the EFCC in prosecuting the war against graft.

He said contrary to the speculation, Yar’Adua had been giving the EFCC free hands to operate, adding that the president was only concerned that the EFCC should obey the rule of law in its operations.

“He’s not in any way involved. He’s not showing any interest in what we’re doing as long as we’re doing what is right,” he added. On the decision of a British court which on August 2 froze assets worth 25 million pounds belonging to a former state governor, Ribadu said the EFCC was already probing him.

He promised that the ex-governor’s close relationship with Yar’Adua would in no way affect the probe. According to him, if found culpable, he will be arraigned in court like his colleagues such as Dr.

Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia), Alhaji Saminu Turaki (Jigawa) and Chief Joshua Dariye (Plateau) who are currently being tried in courts for alleged corrupt practices during their tenure.

http://www.tribune.com.ng/10082007/news/news1.html

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