The online edition of Nigeria’s Business Day newspaper carried a story on November 19, 2007 that’s noteworthy. It’s about how corrupt multinationals are undermining the country’s economy. The story can be found here. Public corruption always involves two parties — the crooked official and the bribe-paying privateer. Both share the blame. Still, looking at corruption through the eyes of the host country reminds us of the damage inflicted on economies and the harm done to innocent citizens.
We can’t vouch for all the reporting in the Business Day story. But the writer, Martins Azukwike, compiles a roll call of companies recently linked by their home countries to corrupt payments in Nigeria or now being investigated for illegal activities there. The names include Siemens, Shell, ChevronTexaco, Willbros, Halliburton, Technip, Snamprogetti, Kellogg, Japanese Gas Corporation, Agip, TotalFina/Elf, Baker Hughes, Vetco, GlobalSantaFe, Transocean, Tidewater, Noble Corporation, Nabors Industries, Pride International Inc. and Panalpina. Mr. Azukwike could have added ABB, Bristow, Paradigm and others.
No wonder ordinary Nigerians are pointing fingers. Players in the oil patch and elsewhere should pay attention to this warning from the story: “With the gale of exposure of corporate scandals in foreign lands involving the operations of multinationals in Nigeria, opinions are already building with a call to urgently declare a force majeure on the oil companies’ operations in the country. The list of exposure of the misdeeds of these companies, which have opened the Pandora’s Box, is becoming almost endless.”
The drafters of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act knew that public bribery is not a victimless crime. Eventually, ordinary citizens whose daily lives are ruined reach their limit. That’s part of what happened in Somoza’s Nicaragua, the Shah’s Iran, Marcos’ Philippines and Suharto’s Indonesia. Will Nigeria join the list?