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Six World Bank Officials Indicted

Pan African News Agency
August 7, 2000

A probe panel report has indicted six World Bank officials in Nigeria for allegedly conniving with officials of the federal agriculture ministry to defraud the government of project funds to the tune of 100 million naira.

The private Comet newspaper Monday reported that the report was submitted by the Justice Saidu Kawo panel that investigated allegations of procurement irregularities in three World Bank- assisted agricultural projects. The projects are the National Fadama Agricultural Development Project, the National Agricultural Research Projects, and the National Agricultural Technology Support project. The officials did not appear before the panel, citing diplomatic immunity.

The report said "it is crystal clear that the World Bank officials connived with the local key officials to cause financial loss to the federal government under the National Agricultural Research Projects." It recommended that three of the officials directly involved with the procurement be ordered to refund 522,577.75 pounds sterling and 561,840 US dollars to the government, being 25 percent surcharge of the contract sum.

Explaining how the fraud was perpetrated, the report said it was done through the procurement of obsolete and refurbished equipment at the value of brand new ones. The equipment include 24 agricultural tractors, vehicles, generators, transformers, seed equipment, laboratory equipment and computers.

The report noted that some foreign companies, which bid for the projects, were unduly favoured by the officials, saying "there were recycling of apparently favoured companies in all the three projects." The companies allegedly favoured include Crown Sakura Ltd (UK), which reportedly supplied refurbished generators and tractors, First Fuji Ltd, (Japan), refurbished tractors and vehicles and Shivind Ltd (London), refurbished generators.

The report is the latest in a series of probes ordered by President Olusegun Obasanjo after assuming office in 1999 to clean up the mess left by successive military administrations, particularly in the last 15 years before he took over. Obasanjo, who had vowed to rid the country of corruption, recently signed into law strict anti-corruption measures passed by the National Assembly.

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