On Monday, while reacting to the freezing of his Zenith Bank account by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, accused Aisha, wife of President Muhammadu Buhari, of being indicted in the infamous Halliburton Scandal.
The EFCC had blocked Mr. Fayose’s accounts after it claimed it traced to the account N1.3 billion from the office of the national security adviser (NSA) under ex-President Goodluck Jonathan via Sylvan Mcnamara Limited, a company linked to the sons of ex-minister of state for defence, Musiliu Obanikoro.
The EFCC is investigating the alleged siphoning of at least $2.1 billion earmarked for the procurement of arms for the Nigerian military to fight Boko Haram insurgents in the country’s north east.
“Even the president cannot claim to be an angel. The estate he built in Abuja is known to us,” Mr Fayose told journalists in Ado-Ekiti, the capital of Ekiti State.
“His wife was indicted over the Halliburton Scandal. When that American, Jefferson, was being sentenced, the President’s wife was mentioned as having wired $170,000 to Jefferson. Her name was on page 25 of the sentencing of Jefferson. We can serialize the judgment for people to see and read,” he added.
Mr. Fayose repeated the claim in a statement he released on Wednesday by his chief press secretary, Idowu Adelusi. He said Mrs. Buhari refused to travel with the president to the United States because of her involvement in the scandal.
“It is on record that the President has visited USA three times and his wife did not travel with him. Equally, she ought to have visited the USA last year September to chair a United Nation programme but she sent wife of the Senate president, Mrs Toyin Saraki to represent her.”
While two former heads of the EFCC, Ibrahim Lamorde and Nuhu Ribadu told PREMIUM TIMES that the Aisha Buhari named in the Jefferson bribery is an impostor versed in peddling the Buhari name for influence, Mr. Fayose was clearly confusing the Halliburton scandal with Jefferson corruption case.
The William Jefferson case
First, the Hallibuton bribery scandal and the Jefferson bribery cases happened at least 11 years apart.
Investigations into the Jefferson bribery started in 2005 after an investor alleged he paid $400,000 in bribe through Mr. Jefferson, for the former lawmaker to help persuade top government officials in Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon approve the use of a Kentucky-based technology company, iGate’s two-way broadband technology.
On 30 July, 2005, FBI agents videotaped Mr. Jefferson receiving $100,000 in $100 bills in a leather briefcase at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Virginia.
He was also recorded telling an investor Lori Mody, who was acting undercover for the FBI that he needed to bribe former Vice President Atiku Abubakar with $500,000, which he described as a “motivating factor” to secure the broadband contract for iGate in Nigeria.
Unknown to Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Mody was wearing a wire.
In August 2005, FBI agents raided Mr. Jefferson’s home and congressional office and part of the documents found mentioned that an Aisha Buhari transferred $170,000 to him through a proxy firm.
“Government Exhibits 36-87 (6/26/02 $170,000 wire transfer from account in Nigeria in the name of Aisha Buhari to an account in the name of The ANJ Group, LLC, identifying “William Jefferson” as Beneficiary),” the U.S. Government Sentencing Memorandum said on page 22.
Mr. Jefferson was subsequently sentenced to 13 years in prison for the bribery on November 13, 2009. He appealed the conviction but on 26 March 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld the conviction on 10 of the 11 charges.
Mr. Jefferson will be released from prison in 2023.
The Halliburton Scandal
The Halliburton bribery scandal dates back to 1994. It concerned the payment of over $182 million to senior Nigerian officials, including, allegedly, past heads of states, by officials of an American firm, Halliburton, to secure a construction contract for a liquefied natural gas plant in Bonny Island in the Niger Delta.
In 2010 the Nigerian government filed charges against Halliburton and its ex-CEO and former US Vice-President, Dick Cheney. Mr Cheney was the chairman and chief executive of Halliburton between 1995 and 2000.
The charges were later withdrawn after an out of court deal worth $250 million. In comparison, the companies involved in the scam paid a total of $1.5 billion fine to the U.S. government.
Several foreigners involved in the matter have been prosecuted and some jailed in their home countries, but Nigerian authorities have failed to prosecute the country’s citizens involved in the matter.
In June 2015, soon after he was sworn-in, President Buhari promised to reopen investigation into the scandal.