Nigerian Government Vows to Punish Bribe Takers
By Gilbert da Costa
08 April 2009

The Nigerian government said it is ready to prosecute those implicated in a multi-million-dollar bribery case involving a subsidiary of the U.S.-based Halliburton Corporation.

Information Minister Dora Akunyili told reporters the Nigerian government has written to the U.S. government requesting the names of Nigerian officials involved in the Halliburton bribery case.

The U.S. Justice Department said Kellogg Brown & Root LLC (KBR), a former unit of Halliburton, pleaded guilty in February to bribery charges in Houston and agreed to pay fines of more than $400 million.

Minister Akunyili said the government was ready to initiate criminal action against those implicated in the scheme. She also said the names of Nigerians involved would be released to the public.

"As soon as the requested documents are received from the U.S. government, [the] Nigerian government will immediately release the identities of those involved in the scandal and further details of the bribery case to Nigerians," the minister said.

Senior Nigerian officials reportedly accepted about $180 million in bribes from oil services companies to approve a $6 billion contract to build the Nigerian liquefied natural-gas facilities in southeast Nigeria, between 1995 and 2004.

Some Nigerian newspapers have reported that three former heads of state in Africa's top oil producer were among the bribe takers.

President Umaru Yar'Adua took power nearly two years ago pledging zero tolerance for corruption in what is seen as one of the most world's most tainted countries. But campaigners have often questioned his commitment to fighting graft.

Many Nigerians are looking to the Halliburton case as an indication of how seriously the government intends to pursue the anti-corruption campaign.