Halliburton bribery: Judge strikes out suit for want of diligent prosecution

Justice Abubakar Umar of an Abuja High Court on Monday struck out a suit filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against three persons named in the Halliburton bribery scandal.

The EFCC is charging a former Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Head of Service, Ibrahim Aliyu, Abdullahi Bello, and Mohammed Bakari of the Urban Shelter Ltd., on a nine-count charge bordering on corruption and bribery.

They were alleged to have used their companies; Intercellular Nigeria Ltd., Sherwood Petroleum Ltd and Tri-Star Investment Ltd. to benefit from a $7.5 million Halliburton bribe.

Justice Umar struck out the suit after the EFCC Counsel, Kauna Pindam, prayed the court to grant the commission another adjournment to enable it to arraign the accused persons.

Mr. Umar refused to grant the adjournment but reminded the EFCC of an order he gave on January 23 that the commission should be ready to arraign the three suspects named in the 180 million dollars Halliburton bribery scandal unfailingly this Monday.

“I will not grant any more adjournment. Remember I gave an order on January 23 that March 26 date would be the last time the court would give the EFCC chance to arraign the suspects.

“I gave the long adjournment to allow the EFCC to interface with its U.S. sister agency in utilising security information you said you got.

“I warned the EFCC that upon its failure to arraign the accused today, I will strike out the case and write to the Minister of Justice to lodge a complaint about the attitude of the commission.

“I remember I also warned the EFCC and the accused counsel to adhere to the specific details of the order or suffer certain penalties for not following the instructions.’’

Mr. Umar warned the EFCC not to expose the judiciary to ridicule.

“I have checked my records and in the past one year, since February 17, 2011 when I granted leave to the prosecution to arraign the accused; they have not done so.

“It has been over a year now and still the EFCC is coming up with excuses; the EFCC should know that if it is not ready to prosecute and bring cases to conclusion, it should not apply for leave of court to arraign anybody.

“The EFCC should know that I am answerable to the National Judicial Council and what will I say is the reason why this case has been at arraignment stage for the past one year?

“I therefore strike out the suit for want of diligent prosecution,” the judge said.