Washington is delighted by the deal Abuja struck with Halliburton to drop corruption charges against former Vice President Dick Cheney.
They admitted that it was unlikely that Cheney would have been tried in a Nigerian court, and that “this is the best out of a bad situation.â€
Since Washington was not willing to hand Cheney over, â€œNigeria looks good forcing Halliburton to pay a fine,â€ they added.
It also staves off a messy diplomatic row between Nigeria and the U.S.
Sources confirmed that Justice Department officials had preliminary discussions with Cheneyâ€™s attorneys on the request from Nigeria.
â€œThey were informed that one of the ways to avoid an embarrassing situation is to reach a settlement with Nigeria that would avoid the possibility of Cheney being arrested by INTERPOL if he travels outside the U.S.â€
However, the deal opens Halliburton to prosecution by the Justice Department.
â€œWe will look into the case and if any laws were broken, the administration will go after the firm â€“ with the payment of fine to Nigeria as a major evidence.â€
Cheney remains holed up in his posh St. Michaelâ€™s mansion in Maryland, a get-away fishing town for millionaires and government officials.
He is respected by the Republican leaning community and protected round the clock by the Secret Service.
His personal security detail has been beefed up since Abuja announced plans to try him over the $180 million bribe Halliburton allegedly offered Nigerian officials to get gas contracts on Bonny Island in Rivers State between 1995 and 2005.
Cheney was Halliburton Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) from 1995 to 2000, before he became Vice President to George W. Bush in 2001.
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Chairman, Farida Waziri, announced on Thursday that the matter â€œhas been settled out of court; it has been settled amicably and all the charges have been withdrawn.â€
But the U.S. urged the EFCC to stay neutral in next yearâ€™s ballot and stick to its mandatory role.
U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Terrence McCulley, said when he visited Waziri in Abuja that America, like the rest of the international community, is keenly following the preparation for the vote and wants it credible and transparent, right from the primaries.
â€œIt is important that institutions of the state maintain strict neutrality and should not be used to support any particular party or candidate; the EFCC must be neutral also so that it can play the important role it has been given,â€ McCulley stressed.
He described corruption as a pernicious thing that undermines citizensâ€™ confidence in their leaders while giving the impression that public office is for private gain and not public service.
He said Washington will support legislation that would â€œallow the anti-graft agency pursue individuals, high and low, who engage in corrupt practices.â€
Waziri lamented the lack of equipment to do the job, but noted that the EFCC has recovered over $11 billion corruption benefits since the seven years of its existence, and secured 400 convictions against cybercriminals, advanced fee fraud, and treasury looters.
She said it also recovered over $20 million from companies and individuals who evaded tax.
She lamented, though that the National Assembly (NASS) has failed to pass the Asset Forfeiture Bill.
She requested American assÂºÂ¡Â¡istance in the training of EFCC personal and provision of modern gadgets.