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Nigerian Government's Handling of Bribery Scandal Roundly Criticized

Nigerian opposition parties, anti-corruption campaigners and professional groups have rejected the government's handling of the Halliburton bribery scandal reportedly implicating three former presidents. The government says it will prosecute any indicted Nigerian officials. But opponents have accused the authorities of a cover-up.

One of Nigeria's leading opposition parties, the Action Congress, says the establishment of a panel of top security officials to probe the $180 million Halliburton bribery scandal was an attempt to undermine the investigations.

Other opposition parties, rights groups, anti-corruption campaigners and the Nigerian Bar Association have criticized the government over its handling of the multi-million-dollar cash-for-contract scandal involving U.S. company Halliburton and top Nigerian officials.

Nigeria has asked the United States for the names of the Nigerian officials accused of taking bribes. Nigerian media and non-governmental organizations say three former Nigerian heads of state were among those who accepted bribes.

The anti-corruption group Zero Corruption says the government has shown a serious lack of political will to fight corruption. Auwal Ibrahim Rafsanjani speaks for the group.

"This is just confirming the concern and fear that we have that this government is not serious about fighting corruption," he said. "It happened in Nigeria, the Nigerian government didn't do anything. The people who gave the bribe were investigated, tried and punished in America. And here in Nigeria, Nigerian government officials are not being investigated. It shows there is a lack of a political will to really fight corruption."

KBR, the former engineering subsidiary of Halliburton, pleaded guilty in February to charges it paid $180 million in bribes to win a $6 billion contract to build a liquefied natural gas plant in southern Nigeria.

President Umaru Yar'Adua has come under pressure to step up his anti-graft drive in one of the world's most tainted countries since he came to power in 2007.

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