Two Federal Government officials have gone to the United States for talks on President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption war.
Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Justice Minister Abubakar Malami and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Chair Ibrahim Magu are in the United States, barely two weeks after a similar trip to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where about $200b looted funds are believed to have been stashed away by former public officers.
On the agenda are likely to be the extent of the war against graft, how to repatriate looted funds, the fate of fleeing former public officers, the $180million Halliburton bribery scandal and the $2billion Malabu Oil deal.
The AGF and the EFCC are to participate in the US-Nigeria Bi-National Commission meeting.
According to sources, the EFCC chairman has been in the US in the last five days to meet with various departments connected with the anti-graft war.
It was learnt that the AGF later joined the EFCC boss because of many pending legal issues on corruption matters involving some former public officers.
A source, who spoke in confidence, said: “The AGF and the EFCC chairman are in the US to give status report on the anti-corruption war by the government, areas requiring assistance and how to explore ways of legally ensuring that ex-public officers who have fled to the US return home to account for their tenure.
“Certainly, the agenda will include some issues like the $180million Halliburton bribery scandal, the $2b Malabu Oil deal, the Abacha loot, money laundering cases, 419 scams and the use of some banks for transactions by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) for arms purchase.
“Some of those involved in the $2.1billion Halliburton scam have relocated to the US for further studies or medical trip. A few others have dual citizenship and decided to take advantage to hide in the US.
“We need to act within the ambits of the law and collaborate with the US on how to bring back these suspected former public officers to account for their activities in office.”
Responding to a question, the source added: “For the AGF and the EFCC chairman, they just came on board and it is imperative for them to compare notes and build contacts with relevant departments and security agencies.
“The discussion might also focus on capacity building for staff of anti-corruption agencies. The FBI had been of help over the years but we need more technical back up to win the war.
“As a matter of fact, the US had reservations on the anti-corruption policy of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan and these observations slowed down exchange of information, sharing of intelligence and coordination of activities between the two countries.
“The renewed commitment of the government of President Buhari has buoyed the confidence of the US that the anti-corruption war is winnable.”
A source in EFCC said: “The trip was in connection with the Federal Government’s anti-graft war.”
A presidency source said: “Both the AGF and the EFCC chairman are members of the Nigerian delegation to the US- Nigeria Bi-National Commission where issues of mutual interest and economic benefits are usually discussed. Definitely, the recovery of looted funds will be dominant at the meetings with the AGF and EFCC chairman.
“You will recall that on his first day in office, the President said. ‘The next three months may be hard, but billions of dollars can be recovered, and we will do our best.’ The intensity of the war against corruption has earned Buhari the confidence of the US and others.”
It was gathered that the Halliburton bribery scandal might attract attention at the talks.
The EFCC had in January reopened investigation into the $180million Halliburton scam.
Of about $22, 417, 000 and DRM 500,000 bribes shared to top government officials during the administrations of ex-Heads of State Gen. Sani Abacha and Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar and ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo.
An Abuja High Court on March 27, 2013 struck out the case against six Nigerians arraigned over the scandal.
Those set free are a former Permanent Secretary, Ibrahim Aliyu, Mohammed Gidado Bakari and four companies.
The four companies are Urban Shelter Ltd., Intercellular Nigeria Ltd., Sherwood Petroleum Ltd. and Tri-Star Investment Ltd.
The six accused persons stood trial for allegedly serving as conduits and receiving bribes in hard currency to facilitate natural gas contracts between 1994 and 2005.
Justice Abubakar Sadiq Umar, said the prosecution had failed to diligently prosecute the case.
Also, Bodunde Adeyanju, Obasanjo’s former presidential aide, was arraigned in 2010 alongside George Mark, Jeffrey Tesler(now at large), Hans George Christ, Heinrich J. Stockhausen; Julius Berger Nigeria Plc and Bilfinger Berger GMBH.
It was learnt that Adeyanju has a pending application in the Supreme Court.
Some Senior Advocates of Nigeria have been quizzed by the EFCC in connection with the scandal.