Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Nigerian corruption

Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa, due to its location in western Africa along the coast with tons of fertile land due to the last stretch of the Niger River, which crosses the country before it empties into the Atlantic Ocean.  It also enjoys a rich deposit of crude oil, making it one of the world’s leading exporters of the substance. 

Early Tuesday a gasoline line ruptured in the capital city of Lagos.  As is the case in countries where poverty is rampant, there were hundreds of people by the rupture stealing gasoline, but sometime this morning the rupture burst into flames, killing at least 200 people.  A recent explosion also killed 150 people in Lagos.

For such a country rich in oil, for there to be people desperate enough to steal gas from a dangerous break in a pipeline can only mean that the government is corrupt in some way, and the article implies that.

However, another pointer to corruption in that country isn’t getting much press in this country, but is of high importance to Nigerians.  This article by our local Willamette Week breaks a story about a high ranking council at Portland General Electric, who was apparently has been laundering money to Nigeria for a while now.

      News about Mabinton and Uba's relationship with Obasanjo and the expenditure of some of the mysterious cash directly for the president's benefit proved explosive in Nigeria, generating such headlines as "Obasanjo's Aide in Money Laundering Mess," "Corruption Scandal in Aso Rock [the presidential seat]" and "Andy Uba: The Face of a Fraud."

      When they put all the pieces together, the agents investigating Mabinton believed she was helping launder funds for a top official of the Nigerian government.

      While such conduct might be unusual for utility lawyers, it wouldn't have shocked those who follow Nigerian politics. According to Transparency International, a German nonprofit that compiles an annual assessment of more than 150 countries, Nigeria's government is among the most corrupt in the world.

      "In Nigeria, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission estimates that over the years $350 billion in oil money has simply disappeared," says Daniel Smith, a professor at Brown University and author of the recently published book A Culture of Corruption: Everyday Deception and Popular Discontent in Nigeria. "One former president allegedly took $10 to $12 billion himself."

Loretta Mabinton is the PGE worker.  Emmanuel “Andy” Uba is like Karl Rove to the Nigerian Presidency and Olusegun Obasanjo is the President of Nigeria currently.

The author of the article speculates that prosecution and investigation has been difficult in part because the US government does not want a rocky relationship with one of the countries that we buy oil from.  What with rocky relationships we’ve got with pretty much ALL the world’s oil generating countries, complications with another would strain our oil imports.  Which is true, but doesn’t justify curtailing justice, and in this case I think that Nigerians would happily have us nail their President to the wall if he indeed was guilty.

But, admittedly, the list of oil exporting countries that are friendly and not corrupt is small.  The U.S. (do we export any?), Iraq (only just), Russia (do they count as not corrupt and friendly?).  Anyone else?  Doesn’t this just scream, “develop gas alternatives!” at the top of your lungs?

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