Africa And Aboriginal Tuesdays: Why Are So Many African Governments Corrupt? Ask The Corporations. By Dena Montague
Recently Halliburton Company was forced to admit it paid a $2.4
million dollar bribe to a Nigerian government official in exchange for
tax breaks. Payments were made in 2001 and 2002 by Halliburton
subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root. Halliburton has been involved with
several large-scale projects in Nigeria. In 1999 Kellogg Brown and
Root began what was then one of the largest construction projects in
Africa; a major expansion of Nigeria's liquefied natural gas plant in
Rivers State. Halliburton has been active in the Niger Delta and has
several collaborative projects with Nigeria's largest oil producer,
Shell Petroleum Development Company, including development of the first
major offshore oil and gas facility for Shell.
Shell has a sordid history in the Niger Delta. Last month the company
was ordered by Nigerian Court of Appeals to pay the Ogoni people
approximately $2 million for environmental damage. Few Nigerians
anticipate Shell will actually make payments to the Ogoni. What Shell
has made are direct payments to notoriously corrupt and violent Nigerian
security forces during the Ogoni uprising in the 1990's leading to the
execution of environmental and human rights activist Ken Saro Wiwa. The
company has also imported arms on behalf of the Nigerian police.
Recently Shell was forced to shut down operations due to political
unrest in Rivers State related to the oil industry.
Rivers State where much of Halliburton's interests are concentrated has
drawn attention not only for the political unrest in the State but also
has been cited because of widespread electoral fraud organized by
President Obasanjo's ruling PDP party. Oil companies in Nigeria see
Obasanjo as a strong ally due to his oil friendly policies. A summary
of findings by Nigerian Civil Society found that a free and fair voting
environment across Nigeria was "the exception rather than the rule." In
some areas voting malpractice was "part of a systematic plan to either
disenfranchise the voters or distort the votes."
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported:
The Justice Development and Peace Commission which deployed 30,000
observers across Nigeria "described as 'incredible' official results
showing nearly 100 percent turnout in southern Rivers State with 2.1
million of 2.2 million registered voters casting their ballot for the
ruling party on a day when observers reported a low turnout. And in the
volatile oil-rich Niger Delta, ethnic Ijaw militants questioned
electoral commission figures showing a 98 percent turnout near the oil
town of Warri. Weeks of fighting between Ijaws and people from rival
Itsekiri and a boycott organized by Ijaw militants ensured there was
practically no voting in the area. An electoral official assigned to
work in the area told UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
that top politicians in Obasanjo's PDP had taken home electoral
materials and ballot boxes which they filled and returned."
While most Nigerians acknowledge widespread fraud in recent
Presidential and National Assembly elections, Official U.S. reaction to
the Nigerian elections has been supportive of Obasanjo and his ruling
PDP party. U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Howard Jeter claimed the
elections in Nigeria, "had sent a signal to the rest of the world that
the country was consolidating its democracy."
Vice President Dick Cheney's former company, Halliburton has helped
develop projects in at least 20 African countries, including providing
military support in Somalia and Mobutu Sese Seko's Zaire as well as
assist in the development of deepwater exploratory offshore wells in
Angola and Equatorial Guinea.
At the same time the Halliburton bribery scandal broke another scandal
was revealed by The Independent involving ExxonMobil and another oil
rich African country - Equatorial Guinea. ExxonMobil is facing an
investigation into an alleged payoff of up to $500 million transferred
into a private US bank account apparently controlled by the president of
Equatorial Guinea. Ken Silverstein has written an excellent piece on
the politics of oil in Equatorial Guinea entitled "Oil and Politics in
the 'Kuwait of Africa'" describing rampant corruption and poverty in the
oil rich state while oil executives actively court the state for
favorable oil deals.
Dena Montague is a Senior Research Associate with the Arms Trade Resource Center of World Policy Institiute and can be contacted via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org
RESOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION
"Oil and Politics in the 'Kuwait of Africa'"
HRW report - "The Price of Oil: Corporate Responsibility and Human
Rights Violations in Nigeria's Oil Producing Communities"
Nigeria: Civil Society on Elections
Tuesday, May 20, 2003