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ThisDayOnline (Nigeria): Atiku, Soleye, Shell Named in Wilbros Bribe Scandal

•No established link to former VP
By Yemi Adebowale, 12.01.2007

Shell Petroleum Development Corporation (SPDC), former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and former finance minister under the General Muhammed Buhari military regime, Dr. Onaolapo Soleye have again resurfaced as alleged beneficiaries of the $6 million bribe distributed by American oil service company, Wilbros Group to secure contracts for the eastern gas gathering system (EGGS) in Nigeria.

Also middle level officials of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) are believed to have been named as being beneficaries of the bribe.

Disclosing this yesterday, sources in the presidency said a four man official delegation comprising the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Michael Aondoakaa; Minister of Energy (petroleum), Mr. Odein Ajumogobia; the Acting Nigerian Ambas-sador to the US; and an official from the office of the National Security Adviser were in the US this week where they carried out preliminary investigations into the Wilbros scandal in Houston, Texas.

While in the US, the delegation is said to have visited the Southern District Court of Texas – presided over by judge Sim Lake – where they were granted access to court documents on the case which allegedly indicted Shell, Atiku and Soleye.

The team has since returned to Nigeria and submitted its report to the President, including recommendations that the relevant government agencies, particularly the Economic Financial Crimes Commis-sion (EFCC), be directed to carry out further investigations into the cse.

It would be recalled that when the Wilbros scandal broke recently, Atiku’s Media Adviser Mr. Shehu Usman forewarned that the former vice president would be mentioned as being  a recepient of the bribe, but that he (Atiku) was being blackmailed “as he was never involved or named as one of the beneficiaries of the bribe money.”

However, THISDAY learnt the delegation was said to have visited Judge Lake at the Texas court who subsequently gave them access to court documents on the case.

According to the documents accessed by the Nigerian officials, in the evidence submitted by Wilbros, Atiku and Soleye were alleged to have received $250,000 each from the oil service company.

“Someone,” said presidency sources, “purportedly acting on behalf of Atiku, collected $250,000 from Wilbros. Another $250,000 was allegedly paid to Soleye. Several former top officials of NNPC also collected from the bribe.”

Some officials of SPDC were also said to have collected an undisclosed amount of money from Wilbros. But it could not be ascertained if they were Nigerians or foreigners.

However, the foot note in the court documents accessed by the Nigerian delegation, revealed that out of the $250,000 allegedly collected on Atiku’ behalf, only $150,000 was released.

The same foot note further revealed that some double accounting might have taken place at Wilbros, as a further $150,000 was said to have been paid to the alleged representative of the former vice president.

It was gathered last night that based on the preliminary findings by the federal government delegation, a report had been submitted to the presidency.

The source further said: “ A copy of the report from the delegation has been forwarded to the EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) to further investigate, with a view to getting to the bottom of this case.”

The Wilbros scandal first surfaced in 2003 with revelations that some Nigerian and Shell officials benefited from a $6 million bribe allegedly distributed by the Wilbros Group to secure contracts for the EGGS in Nigeria.

The EGGS Phase I contract price was approximately put at $216,500,000, the EGGS coating optional scope price was approximated at $30,000,000, while the EGGS Phase II price was approximately $141,000,000; bringing the combined total scope of work price to approximately $387,500,000.

The former General Manager of Wilbros International, Mr. Jason Edward Steph is presently facing prosecution under the Foreign Corrupt Act for being the mastermind that distributed $6 million to senior Nigerian government officials, Peoples Democratic Party stalwarts, NNPC officials, National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS) officials and Shell officials.

http://www.thisdayonline.com/nview.php?id=96701

http://allafrica.com/stories/200712010026.html

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