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EU may ban corrupt Nigerian public officials

European countries and their financial institutions may no longer be a safe haven for corrupt public officials in Nigeria and their family members.

The European Union (EU) is said to be considering measures, including visa ban, on Nigerian officials found to have enriched themselves through the public till, akin to the Proclamation Act 7750 passed by the United States’ Congress during the George Bush administration.

Sunday Sun exclusively gathered that a dossier on such officials and their family members would be compiled and made available to all the EU countries.
The proposal had been on the drawing board for some years now, but it is being given a fresh impetus as a fallout of the public hearing on Shell’s operations in the Niger Delta held at the Dutch Parliament on Wednesday.

The issue of widespread corruption and the absence of transparency in Nigeria’s oil industry was one of the embarrassing highpoints of the hearing. The Dutch Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Bert Ronhaar, had carpeted the Nigerian government, saying massive corruption was killing the country’s oil industry.
“Nigeria is a very difficult country to work in compared to other countries in Africa. There is a lot of corruption in Nigeria,” the envoy said.

Sunday Sun findings at The Hague, which is the seat of The Netherlands government, revealed that the hearing had given fillip to some of the parliamentarians to work toward mending the negative image the country was attracting as a result of Shell’s activities in Nigeria.

The parliamentarians, particularly those of the left wing, are said to be embarrassed over reports of alleged connivance between oil multinationals and Nigerian government officials to shortchange the country by refusing to disclose accurate data on their operations. Shell Petroleum Development Company, the biggest operator of the Joint Venture Agreement with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), is a subsidiary of The Netherlands-based Royal Dutch Shell.

A member of the Socialist Party in the Dutch Lower House (Tweede Kamer), Sharon Gesthuizen, in an exclusive interview, expressed concern that oil firms in Nigeria were tight-lipped on the issue of bunkering and lack of transparency in the industry. She also said they were already working with some EU parliamentarians on how to discourage the transfer of looted funds from Nigeria and other parts of Africa into Europe.

Asked to shed light on her comment during the hearing on the possibility of a visa ban on corrupt Nigerian officials, she said: “I remember a year ago, there was a conference here in The Netherlands organised by the Hope for Niger Delta Campaign and I went there. There were a lot of Nigerians at that conference and I heard them talk about the visa ban (for corrupt politicians). The first thing I thought was that they were Nigerians and why would they want us to impose visa ban on these people. So, I told them, why don’t you try to solve the problem inside your country?

“But when I went to Nigeria I understood what they meant, because what I saw showed that there was proof for that too. People steal public money and use it. The money that is supposed to go into education or housing is stolen. But when these people need good schools or good medical facilities, they go to Europe or other countries to spend the money.

“The sad thing is that Europe knows and they do nothing about it because of the economic interest and they just say let it be. Then I understood why Nigerians make it such a big deal, and it is important.” The young parliamentarian said visa ban on this category of public officials by the EU was a possibility.

“I hope it is not going to be necessary, but it is possible if they (EU) want to impose some sanctions. It is not a personal campaign but that of my Socialist Party. My party member, Dennis de Jong, is a European parliamentarian. He is organising a hearing on the matter,” she added.

On the next step for the parliament after the hearing, Gesthuizen said: “Immediately after the hearing, I asked my colleagues to join me in putting together questions that would be sent to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. So, we will send them some details of what happened at the hearing and ask for their reaction and what they intend to do. The Minister of Foreign Affairs had early answered some questions I put forward. He said he was going to talk to Peter Voser, that is the Shell boss.

“When we get the report from the government, we will then have a debate. I would ask the government to do three things – to talk to Shell and ask them to commit themselves to be open about spills, about (gas) flaring and about the problems encountered in the course of operations. If they know that the JTF (Joint Task Force) is involved in bunkering and stealing of oil (we saw that with our own eyes) they should report; they should make it public.

This may not be in the sense of making it public in the media, but they should report it to the Dutch Embassy in Nigeria, the Dutch government and the Nigerian government. We want to know if they encounter corruption or bad practices, and they ought to be open about it. It is something we cannot tolerate.”

No date has been fixed for the EU hearing, but it was gathered that it could hold sometime in April in Brussels and that some stakeholders would be invited from Nigeria. 

-Sun

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Posted by on Jan 29 2011. Filed under Latest Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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