Africa: Politics and Societies South of the Sahara

Nigeria’s Yar’Adua in Italy: The Price of Joining the Big Eight

Posted in African Politics, Global Africa, Nigeria by ruben eberlein on July 9, 2009

What was the price that the Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua had to pay in order to be invited to the G8 summit in L’Aquila, Italy? Sahara Reporters think that his invitation has to do with the restoration of lucrative contracts for Germany’s electronic giant Siemens in Nigeria. The enterprise was blacklisted for paying bribes to government officials, but the ban was lifted recently. Here is the part of an interview with Nigeria’s President published by The Guardian (Lagos) where Yar’Adua spoke about the advocacy of Angela Merkel for Siemens.

One of the critical areas you just identified, which has so far affected development, is corruption. The perception out there is that this administration is not so committed to fighting corruption like the administration before it. The issue of Siemens came and we had the list and they mentioned past government officials who were involved and your government did not do anything. And during the period, a major bank in Nigeria was said to have been involved in money laundering in the United States and the bank was fined $15 million (USD). Nothing happened to the bank. Now, the Halliburton issue is generating a lot of interest to the extent that the administration’s explanation about $150 million that is said to be in a Swiss bank is incredible. What are you doing about corruption and how can Nigerians be assured that your administration is committed to fighting corruption in Nigeria?

In the case of the bank…? It has not come to me…

(An aide explained the matter was in the past)

Okay, because it (the bank issue) has not come to my attention.

Anyway, I think that it will be wrong to say that the government is not committed to fighting corruption. Because in the case of Halliburton, we have written to the Federal Attorney General of the United States to provide all the necessary evidence, the court papers, documents, on the basis of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty and we are waiting for them to supply the documents or others. There are a lot of speculations surrounding this case… And I think that the most critical step we have taken, which I think the people should take note of, is this issue of having written to the Federal Attorney General of the US as provided by the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty and we cannot take action on speculations. I am not aware that any document as regards anybody anywhere has come to us in this case. The case broke out in the United States of America and we have also set up a committee under the IG to investigate locally any substance of evidence regarding anybody relating to this case. But the most important thing is that, once we have a response from the US authorities, we will take action and I promise this nation that once we have a response, those names that would be mentioned in the response will be made public and we will take actions and direct that the names should be forwarded to the EFCC and those officials and former officials involved will be arrested and prosecuted.

Siemens was blacklisted because of the corruption involving Nigerian officials but your administration lifted the blacklisting and even awarded them more contracts.

The Siemens issue, yes it is true but I must give you some information. When we went for the African Union-European Union Summit in Portugal, the Chancellor of Germany discussed specifically spoke to me on Siemens and assured me that the German government had taken all the steps required and that it had made the company itself-Siemens – to undergo such restructuring and changes. The German government pleaded for the sake of our relationship that we lift the blacklisting because the company now had a totally new management and that the German government was giving the Nigerian government assurance and guarantee that what has happened will never happen again.

We accepted this request in the interest of Nigerian-German relationship. We acceded to the request of the German Chancellor because some times, there are things which involve relations between nations ,to maintain good relationship among countries especially at a time when we are engaged in negotiating the Nigerian-German energy partnership. I did not want us to jeopardise that opportunity and that is so far all we have been doing to get investment in the energy sector. The partnership we have been negotiating indeed is the first one that will provide a concrete result because that is the first partnership that we have discussed that has reached concrete agreement for investment in gas production to the tune of about $1.6 billion dollars. Then we have reached a conclusion and they have agreed that part of the partnership will go completely for the domestic gas use. That it is in the second phase of the investment where they will invest about $7.5 billion that will be the liquefied natural gas. I think these were worthy considerations.

Whole interview from 1st of May 2009 here.

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