Nigerian Anti-Corruption Activists Demand: Let the Sun Shine in

By Elizabeth Palmberg 12-14-2009

Part 2 of an interview with David Ugolor, head of the African Network for Environment and Economic Justice.

[In part I, African Network for Environment and Economic Justice executive director described how Halliburton poured more than 180 million dollars into bribing Nigerian officials.]

Ugolor: And now, the case is ongoing, and the key actors who were involved in this fraud have been indicted by the Security and Exchange Commission in the United States, they've been found -- but the names of these Nigerians who were involved in this fraud have yet to be disclosed to Nigerian officials.

Sojourners: So even though -- this was the part that got me -- Halliburton admitted wrongdoing, when it was prosecuted in the U.S. under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and it paid a fine --

But they have not paid a fine to Nigeria, where the crimes actually took place!

-- they haven't made public the list of names of people that they bribed.

Because in the U.S. here, the deal they entered into was to seal the names. And now the Nigerian people are demanding that the names of those Nigerians who took the bribes from that company need to be disclosed.

And that's why part of the campaign that our organization is launching, is to use the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, to access the identity of these Nigerians who were actually involved in these corrupt practices.

[For] obvious reasons, this is very important for the Nigerians, for the Americans, for the global movement on anti-corruption. The U.N. Convention on Anti-Corruption will not be seen as a good instrument if this whole Halliburton issue is not treated properly. The U.S. government made a commitment at the U.N. Conference for Financing for Development at Monterrey, their commitment to anti-corruption; they made a commitment at the Vienna Convention; they made a commitment at the OECD framework.

Now to reinforce that commitment I think that it is good that they cooperate with the Nigerian government to make sure that at least the identity of those Nigerians who took part in this bribery scandal are disclosed to the Nigerian people.

The U.S. has already done all the investigation -- we just need to let go the list of names.

The names, that's what's remaining. And that's the challenge for the anti-corruption movement -- we're trying to [explore] co-operation with U.S. organizations and civil society movements, for us to jointly put pressure on the U.S. government.

These names are key actors -- making it impossible for Nigeria to democratize, to have a transparent governance system. That is also making it impossible for foreign aid to Nigeria to succeed. This kind of people should at least be identified and be exposed, so that there will be real democracy in Nigeria.

So it's basically a multi-hundred-million dollar anti-good-governance project that corporations are engaged in right now in Nigeria -- and, in order for civil society to stop that, we need to shed some sunlight on those records.

Definitely, because it's obvious that otherwise there will be no incentive for companies to comply with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act -- this act forbids U.S. companies from engaging in bribery of foreign government officials. Halliburton has done that in Nigeria -- bribed government officials.

These are responsible for the resource curse in Nigeria. These are responsible for the lack of democratic deepening in Nigeria. These are responsible for the human rights abuses in Nigeria. These are responsible for why democracy has not taken its footing in Nigeria.

David Ugolor spoke with Sojourners assistant editor Elizabeth Palmberg earlier this year.

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