Transparency International Weekly Newsletter 5/26/23


26/05/2023: (S)hell no

Presidents are just like us: counting down the days until an arduous job is over.  

During an official engagement earlier this week, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari went off-script and said that he was “desperately looking forward” to the end of his tenure. The outgoing president bemoaned the pressure of his final days in office with which he can hardly cope. Buhari will hand over the reins to his fellow party member President-elect Bola Tinubu in three short days.  

The president should be relieved to know that civil society wants to simplify at least one decision for him: we are urging him to resist any pressure to halt Nigeria’s ongoing litigation against oil giants Eni and Shell.  

It is alleged that the two multinationals paid over US$1 billion in bribes to high-level Nigerian officials for the rights to a lucrative OPL 245 offshore oilfield back in 2011. After Buhari came to power in 2015, Nigerian authorities launched investigations and litigation – both at home and abroad – stalling the oil block’s development. Now, the attorney general is reportedly advising Buhari to order Nigerian authorities to terminate all related disputes. In a letter seen by journalists, the official argues that Nigeria has no chance of winning and, after a series of high-profile losses, should give up.  

Investigations into the deal went on for years – in no small part due to the dedication of our friends at Global Witness, Corner House, HEDA and ReCommon, which all kept up the pressure on authorities around the world. The most promising of these were investigations led by the Italian prosecutors. The Netherlands and the US were also investigating, but dropped the case in favour of letting Italian justice take its course.  

Devastatingly, Italian authorities acquitted the two oil companies in 2021 and then again in 2022, shocking the anti-corruption community. The surprising outcome was also highlighted by an intergovernmental group working on international corruption, which now considers Italy incompliant with its obligation to punish companies engaging in foreign bribery.  

Convinced that the case remains unresolved, this week we called on the other countries that were initially investigating to reopen their probes. Together with our chapters, we wrote to the Dutch and US authorities to explain why controversial exonerations in Italy should not stop them from seeking accountability.  

The Nigerian government must not give up its fight either. Because of the poorly negotiated fiscal terms under the OPL 245 deal, the country’s economy could lose as much as US$5 billion. No president should sign off on this.  

Nigerians need answers. The outgoing government of President Muhammadu Buhari should reject calls to stop litigation over a deal that may have caused the Nigerian public an enormous loss. The incoming government must ensure that we get to the root of the matter. 
Auwal Musa Rafsanjani 

Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (Transparency International’s chapter in Nigeria) 

For years, Buhari has positioned himself as tough on corruption. Unfortunately, we don’t see any evidence of that in Nigeria’s performance on our Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). When asked by a journalist this week, the executive director of our Nigerian chapter Auwal Musa Rafsanjani gave the outgoing administration a low score of four out of 10 for their anti-corruption efforts. 

Rather than reconsidering Nigeria's position on the OPL 245 case, President Buhari can do more for the country and his legacy by doing nothing in his last days. We're happy to take one thing off his plate.  

Top trading countries doing even less than before to stop foreign bribery (October 2022) 
Our Exporting Corruption 2022 report shows that multinational companies bribing their way into foreign markets go largely unpunished. We found Italy to be “limited” in its enforcement against foreign bribery. Just two countries – Switzerland and the US – are considered “active” enforcers that investigate, charge and impose sanctions commensurate with their share of exports. 
Equipping investigative journalists to expose COVID-19 corruption 
Investigative journalists in Zimbabwe and Zambia have exposed corruption in COVID-19 relief programmes, highlighting the mishandling of funds and the exclusion of vulnerable groups. 
Nigeria oil bribery case: Netherlands and US must reopen investigations into Eni and Shell’s role 

Transparency International and our chapters in the Netherlands and the US urge authorities in the two countries to reopen investigations into Eni and Shell for alleged bribe-paying in Nigeria. Simultaneously, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) – our chapter in Nigeria – urges the Nigerian government to refrain from terminating its own disputes. 
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