U.S. to ban corrupt Nigerian officials
By Chinedu Offor
Correspondent, Washington D.C.
Nigerian public servants who buy choice estates and invest in the United States through shady means are to be kept out of the country, as tales of the alleged sleaze by the just dismissed Education Minister, Fabian Osuji, and some lawmakers have spread across the Atlantic to jolt Washington.
American officials said the scandal is one more justification to ban Nigerian officials and their families.
Checks at the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (INS) showed that on the average, over 15 Nigerian government officials, including governors, visit the U.S. every week.
Most of them have no reason for coming, the authorities insisted, except to buy choice estates or make investment - and "those suspected to be involved in corruption will from now be banned from entering the U.S."
Plateau State Governor, Josuah Dariye, and his associates are already in the bad books.
State Department sources said when the current investigation of several officials is completed, the U.S. will no longer be a safe haven for serving or former governors and other government officials implicated.
Investigation showed that American authorities are quietly investigating several governors and members of President Olusegun Obasanjo's cabinet, which could lead to the withdrawal of their visas and cancellation of other documents they need to enter the U.S.
"We intend to serve notice that the U.S. will not condone corruption by Nigerian officials who take advantage of their positions to loot public funds", officials stated.
The tougher stance followed a personal message Obasanjo sent to President George Bush to assist Nigeria in curbing corruption.
A source said: "Prior to now, these officials took advantage of our laws to hide their wealth and where such cases go to court, they tie up the system for several years. A proclamation signed by the President, which sealed Dariye's fate, is all that is needed to keep these officials out".
Investigation of Nigerian officials started when it was discovered that several of them own real estates in posh areas of the country.
They allegedly use fronts to set up businesses, and are major shareholders in banks, insurance, medical and oil related enterprises.
"An audit of the assets of present and past Nigerian government officials showed a staggering conservative value running into trillions of dollars.
"Owners of these businesses have no other visible sources of wealth except that they are either government officials or have been in government previously", senior administration sources said.
The investigators are liaising with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and British officials to have an accurate picture of the spread of investment by Nigerian public servants.
Those already in the frame, sources said, include two former heads of state, serving and former lawmakers, ministers, governors and heads of agencies.
The source added: "We are getting active co-operation from Nigeria and of course will pass on the result of our own efforts to Obasanjo".
A preliminary dossier on the "dirty officials", as our sources called the document, is on its way to EFCC Chairman, Nuhu Ribadu.
Administration officials said the move is also to prevent the criminals from using their wealth to influence the political environment.
"The only way to break the circle of corruption in Nigeria is to ensure that those who are elected did not achieve their ambition in a corrupt manner and are not beholden to any person or group in the discharge of their duties and in America. Nigeria will find a willing partner in this fight".