Furore over Church Gift to President Jonathan

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President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan will take a week-long break from his usual work routine beginning today, Monday, April 2, 2012. He will be away from work after the Easter break, beginning Friday and ending next Monday.

But the President will not be far away from the headlines as an anti-corruption group,Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, petitions the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to probe a church building gift given to him by an Italian construction company, Gitto Construzioni Generali Nigeria Limited. The latter is a contractor to the Federal Government.

SERAP wants Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, Chairman of the EFCC to “urgently begin a thorough, transparent and effective investigation into the Church Building donation to the President at Etuoke, in Bayelsa state.

According to the organisation, the ‘gift’ which is a 2,500-seat church building in Otuoke, the President’s village in Bayelsa state by a beneficiary company of Federal Government contracts is worrisome.

In the petition dated 2 April 2012, and signed by SERAP executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organization stated, “We are seriously concerned that given the huge sum of money involved and the timing of the church building ‘gift’, the acts may amount to a bribe to the government by a construction company that has sought and obtained huge contracts from the federal government.”

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“Procurement and investment agreements corrupted by this kind of ‘gift’ invariably lead to increased costs not only in higher prices but also in needlessly expanded and ultimately inefficient projects,” the organization said.

According to the organization, “Both the acts of giving and accepting the disguised bribe undermine the institutions and values of democracy, ethical values and justice, and jeopardises sustainable development and the rule of law. The acts also hurt the government and ordinary Nigerians who may suffer as a result of bad execution of projects by GCG.”

The organization also asked the EFCC to “exert its mandate, power, and resources to ensure that the allegations are fully and effectively investigate the findings of the investigation published and the company and other suspected perpetrators held liable.”

“Foreign bribery is a crime even if the briber would have been awarded a contract or business advantage. It is therefore very important that the Commission sends a strong message that it is willing and able to step up its efforts to detect, investigate and prosecute cases of bribery in international business deals,” the organization added.