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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Corruption: WikiLeaks fingers Okonjo-Iweala, el-Rufai, Anenih, govs, others

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Minister of Finance Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala




By Adeola Balogun
Saturday, 10 Sep 2011 




The latest US diplomatic cable released on Friday from the whistleblower, WikiLeaks, has made allegations of corruption against some powerful Nigerians.


Some of those listed in the report are either occupying key positions in the present government or had served in the past as federal ministers and state governors.
The list included the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; former Federal Capital Territory Minister, Malam Nasir el-Rufai; Chief Olabode George; former Minister of State for Petroleum,Edmund Dakoru; and a former Minster of Works, Chief Tony Anenih.
Also Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, Senator Florence Ita-Giwa; former governors of Edo, Rivers and Delta states, Chief Lucky Igbinedon, Peter Odili, and James Ibori, who is currently facing trial for alleged fraud in the United Kingdom; were named among corrupt Nigerian leaders in the latest post by WikiLeaks. 




While Okonjo-Iweala was accused of cornering contracts worth $50m for her brother, the governors were fingered for using state funds as donations for the library project embarked upon by former President, Olusegun Obasanjo.
Yet, others were accused of various forms of embezzlement during their tenure. 
The allegations were contained in a cable, in which the United States was considering a response to the corruption machine in Nigeria, entitled, Corruption: Nigeria ‘improves’ to sixth-worst in the whole world...What can we do about it? It followed a release published by Transparency International in its 2005 Annual Corruption Perceptions.




The content of the cable was written by the then US Ambassador in Nigeria, Mr. John Campbell.
The cable, which was posted in 2005, had listed five countries in the whole world that were more corrupt than Nigeria. 
The countries mentioned were Chad, Bangladesh, Turkmenistan, Myanmar and Haiti. 
Transparency International, however, noted that the report was an improvement over what it was in the preceding year.
The international watchdog had considered as worrisome widespread corruption at all levels of the private and public sector.




The cable cast a doubt on the funding of Obasanjo Farm, which was blossoming at the time even though it was nearly bankrupt in the late 1990s. “Some Nigerians think it is unlikely that Obasanjo’s military pension and benefits were the sole source of investment for establishing this huge enterprise, valued by a construction engineer involved in the construction at more than $250m,” the cable stated.




The cable said Daukoru was charged in 1994 for embezzling some $47m as a managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. “The charges were abandoned and Daukoru’s political career soared when Obasanjo took office in 1999.”
Ita-Giwa, according to the cable, was indicted for misappropriation of funds by the Idris Kuta panel in 2000, but was pardoned along other indicted senators and she was named a special adviser to Obasanjo when she left the Senate.




Anenih, the cable alleged, was indicted by the National Assembly for the sum of N300bn missing from Ministry of Works and Housing while he was the minister. Okonjo-Iweala was said to have steered contracts to her brother named JonJon with the help of el-Rufai. The contracts, said to be about $50m, were paid to him for consulting for the ministry. 




El-Rufai who was described as “homeless and seeking a loan to import a taxi from the UK,” suddenly became a proud owner of seven upscale properties in a posh Abuja neighbourhood.


The cable accused the 36 state governors of donating N10m each to the Obasanjo library project. “Following a public outcry, the library organisers stated the donations were from the governors’ personal funds, but several governors backpedalled from their commitments, claiming they had made no such pledges. When a Lagos lawyer filed a code of conduct complaint alleging conflict of interest in the president receiving these donations from recipients of government funds, Obasanjo invoked the immunity clause of the constitution, and the complaint died out,” the cable said. 




Worried by the corruption level in the country, the United States government resolved to help the country out by making judicial use of US visa revocation for corrupt practices as provided by Presidential Proclamation 7750. “It is in the USG interest to support Nigeria’s efforts to root out corruption and while our positive public pronouncements contribute to the environment, the biggest influence we can have is the judicious use of US visa revocation for corrupt practices, as provided by the Presidential Proclamation 7750.



Though we are unable to identify every corrupt official, the Mission is compiling a list of some prominent and egregious corrupt officials from throughout the country. The list will take into consideration the individuals, levels of corruption and the impact on Nigerian stability of a 7750 decision. 




The list could be expanded in many directions, but the Mission feels that such an effort would demonstrate the sincerity and seriousness of the USG’s commitment to good governance and, if these individuals are found ineligible, that finding could contribute greatly to entrenching the precepts of good governance and accountability in Nigeria.”

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