Human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria Mr. Femi Falana has lashed out at governments of the United States of America and other major western nations who fuel corruption in Nigeria and other African nations but turn around to heap the blame on corruption for the underdevelopment of African countries.
Speaking at a workshop organised by the Inter-Governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA), Falana highlighted the conviction of top American officials and business executives and recovery of N3 billion fines under Obama’s watch for bribing governments around the world.
He said $1 billion was paid out by US companies and individuals involved in many financial scandals in Nigeria alone.
The prosecutions, he said, were carried out under the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). “But in order to cover up the Nigerian officials involved in the international scam and frustrate their prosecution in Nigeria, the Obama administration has refused to release the certified true copies of the judicial proceedings in violation of provisions of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption”.
Continuing, Falana said, in 2010, the former US vice president, Mr. Dick Cheney, was charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in Nigeria over his involvement in the $180 million bribe paid to Nigerian officials by Halliburton when he was the chairman of the company. The case, he said, was dropped after a “political plea bargain” that led to the payment of $120 million fine to the Government of Nigeria.
“In order to cover up the involvement of western governments and corporations in the promotion of corruption, terrorism and drug abuse in Africa, the impression is often created by top public officials of some foreign governments that Africans are the most corrupt people in the world,” Falana observed noting that only last week, the US secretary of state, Mrs. Hillary Clinton, kicked off her 11-day tour of some African states in Senegal by condemning corruption in Africa and urging African leaders to fight it in order to get good governance in the continent. He said it was also the kernel of President Barack Obama’s message to Africans when he made a brief stopover in Ghana three years ago.
“While we do not condone corruption, it is high time the Obama administration was told to stop blaming the victims of grand corruption promoted and fuelled by western countries led by Switzerland, France, United Kingdom and United States,” Falana said.
Falana said that, a few months ago, a former Nigerian governor, Chief James Ibori, was convicted of fraud and money laundering of £250 million.
“Although the trial judge condemned the reckless looting of the public funds of a poor community in the impoverished Niger Delta, the criminal roles of the British banks and mortgage institutions that provided a conducive environment for the trans-atlantic financial crimes were not penalised,” he said.
He went further to state that the brutal killing of the former Libyan ruler, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi which was supervised by the allied forces, was not unconnected with the decision of western leaders to prevent the eccentric dictator from exposing their shady economic deals in Libya at the International Criminal Court at the Hague where he was wanted for crimes against humanity.
Switzerland, he said, operates a fraudulent banking system which provides a safe haven for corrupt leaders to keep stolen wealth. “Through such dubious banking system, Switzerland has frustrated all legal measures to recover billions of dollars stolen from poverty stricken nations.
“After the Arab Spring it was revealed that the illicit wealth accumulated by the deposed rulers of Libya, Tunisia and Egypt stands at an estimated $190 billion. The bulk of such stolen wealth is kept in secret accounts in Switzerland.”
However, the director-general of GIABA, Dr Garba Shehu, averred that money laundering and terrorist financing inhibit economic development, threaten social and political stability, cause artificial rise in the cost of business, and impede direct foreign investment.
“The fight against money laundering and terrorist financing is therefore a collective responsibility of all stakeholders.
“GIABA recognises the valuable contributions that civil society can make to the public policy -making processes and attaching great importance to the institution’s own dialogue and partnership with civil society organizations.”