15 April 2009

Swiss hold '$150m Nigeria bribes'

It is quite clear that we Africas are the real precursors of our poverty and thus the suffering of our own people;and coupled with unscrupolous jackals from the west,the mathematical equation is more than clear to the eyes of everyone.How can people be having the hardest of times during this period of obsterity and we learn to know that most of our leaders and their entourage have "golden" bank accounts in foreign banks,gotten through swindling of public funds or rather all forms of corrupton.Read on...

US investigators have traced $150m in bribes given to Nigerian officials to Swiss banks, Nigeria's justice minister has said.

Michael Kase Aondoakaa said the money was part of $180m in bribes given by US construction company Halliburton to Nigerian officials.

The Nigerian government says it has asked the US to release the names of officials who negotiated the bribes.

Halliburton admitted paying the bribes to top officials between 1994 and 2004.

"We have discovered that $150 million of the bribe money is in Zurich. That is the first shocking discovery. The entire money is $180 million. $150 million is already trapped in Zurich," Mr Aondoakaa said.

Halliburton and its engineering subsidiary Kellogg Brown Root negotiated bribes with "three successive holders of a top-level office in the executive branch of the government of Nigeria" during that time, according to the plea agreement the company made with the US Department of Justice.

The Nigerian government has come under pressure from the media to follow up the findings of the US court and prosecute the Nigerian bribe-takers.

Mr Aondoakaa said they had requested the court unseal the judgement and pass on the names of the officials.

Albert "Jack" Stanley, the former chief executive of KBR who pleaded guilty to making the bribes in order to secure $6bn in contracts, is to be sentenced on 6 May.

KBR has agreed to pay more than $402m in fines, of which Halliburton, as the former parent company, agreed to pay $302m.

Nigeria's Entertainment Industry Best on Continent

pic from "smoke&mirrors"
Minister of Information and Communications, Professor Dora Akunyili, has said Nigeria is formidable in media and entertainment industry in sub-Sahara Africa, saying that Nigeria has a lot of untapped potentials in the sector.

Professor Akunyili stated this at a book launch titled "Nigerian Media and Entertainment Industry, the next frontier, Making Steady Progress" organized by Fountainhead media Group, noting that very few nations in the world can match the prospects that Nigeria is endowed with.

According to her, "Nigeria a bellwether for the continent remains a formidable market for the media and entertainment industry. With a population of 140 million people, a growing middle class and societal thirst for new information and entertainment, very few countries in Africa and the world can match Nigeria's promise and potentials. However, there are many grounds in my opinion yet to be explored by the industry in Nigeria."

The Minister re_emphasis the need for all Nigerians to support the ongoing re_branding campaign as this will help the nation in achieving is millennium development goals.

"To this end, I therefore, urge all Nigerians, the private and public sector to buy into the national re_branding campaign. The campaign is targeted at changing the negative perception of Nigeria abroad. Through re-branding we must start to believe in our country and its future.

She stressed, "But we cannot change the image of Nigeria without attitudinal change. We as a people, from the leadership to the led must form positive attitudes in both our private and public lives." Akunyili said.

African and Caribbean Finance Ministers Meet Over Meltdown

Washington, DC — The impact of the global economic meltdown on Africa, preventing fresh debt problems and the response of global financial institutions, will dominate talks at a meeting expected to feature the Nigerian Minister of Finance, Dr. Mansur Muhtar, and his counterparts from other African and Caribbean countries next week

The meeting tagged "The Commonwealth Ministerial Debt Sustainability Forum" is organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) and will take place at the World Bank headquarters in Washington D.C. on April 22, a couple of days before the Bank/International Monetary Fund (IMF) Spring Meetings.

The gathering will afford finance ministers from some 53 countries representing 1.9 billion of the world's population the opportunity to compare notes on how to deal with the global financial turbulence wrecking havoc in developing countries.

Conveners are specifically concerned with the possible resurgence of excessive and unmanageable debt in the face of deteriorating financial conditions worldwide.

Some African countries, including Nigeria had in the past couple of years successfully paid off and managed their debt profile.

Nigeria's external debt as at February 2009 was $3.5 billion, down from $38 billion before 2006 while the domestic debt was N2.3 trillion, according to the Debt Management Office (DMO).

Both domestic and external debt profile constitute 11 per cent of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a figure the Director General of Debt Management Office, Abraham Nwankwo, was quoted as saying is under control.

However, the financial crisis is placing immense pressure on nations struggling to meet up with demands.

This has prompted concerns about fresh borrowings in developing countries particularly because it is not certain when the situation will change.

"Debt has for a long time been an issue for most of these countries. We might have thought that this was yesterday's news but now with the economic troubles, there is fear that progress the countries had made in securing debt relief and managing their debt may be lost due to a decline in trade, remittances, investment and aid," stated the head of International Finance and Capital Markets at the Commonwealth, Mr Jonathan Ockenden.

According to Samantha Attridge, an adviser on Global Issues at the Commonwealth, "With governance revenue falling and pressures to increase spending, countries may be under more pressure to borrow to help offset the impact of the crisis and meet the reasonable expectations of their people. as financing conditions deteriorate there is a real risk that countries could get into debt problems."

The ministers will share practical experiences in dealing with the current crisis, debt management and the response of the World Bank and IMF. They will have the opportunity to question the adequacy of the response of the two institutions as well as discuss and propose ways of collaboration.

AFRICA: A Lot More Needed to Make South-South Trade Work

By Annelise Sander

GENEVA, Mar 17 (IPS) - Trade experts are sceptical about the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s renewed emphasis on South-South trade to counter the global economic crisis.

Fostering South-South ‘‘recently much-expanded’’ economic cooperation and trade to soften the impacts of the economic and financial crisis on developing countries was discussed at an expert meeting convened by the United Nations’ Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in February this year in Geneva.

‘‘A global financial crisis has shaken the economic foundations of the North and is threatening to shatter the growth and development aspirations of the South. The timing is right to explore how greater South-South cooperation can help developing countries cope with the crisis,’’ UNCTAD Secretary-General Supachai Panitchpakdi told the meeting.

Esperanza Duran, director of the Agency for International Trade Cooperation and Information (AITIC), remarks that, ‘‘every time there is a problem, there is a call for increased Southern trade and cooperation.

‘‘But that will not get us out of this crisis, which is an economic and financial one. The main obstacle is the lack of credit that is essential for export and export guarantees, affecting trade both in the North and in the South.

‘‘Credit is the oil needed to keep the machine functioning. In theory, increased South-South trade could mitigate the effects of the current crisis but in practice, I don’t see how.’’ AITIC is an intergovernmental organisation promoting trade-led growth in developing countries.

Mariarosaria Iorio of the International Gender and Trade Network (IGTN) in Geneva also questions what kind of South-South cooperation UNCTAD is referring to. IGTN is an international network of feminist gender specialists who provide technical information on gender and trade.

‘‘In Africa, trade has meant mainly exports of primary commodities, such as minerals, that increased as the continent fed off the economic boom in China. But for trade to bring real benefits, it should also involve manufactured goods that have an added value.’’

Therefore, in light of the current economic and trade systems, growth of South-South trade would demand a reorientation of local production capacities from mostly primary to manufactured products.

It would also entail a re-balancing of international trade rules and more active participation of Southern partners in global economic decision-making processes, Iorio argues.

Mark Halle of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) in Geneva finds South-South cooperation ‘‘a good idea but South-South trade is still limited.

‘‘This is because the principal reason for promoting it tends to be politically motivated - to replace inequitable market relationships between the North and South with fairer ones between Southern countries.’’

The problem, Halle argues, is that the latter is not necessarily fairer: Southern businesspeople also look for profit and trade works everywhere on the basis of the market, not political criteria. ‘‘Where South-South trade has happened, like in India, China, Brazil and South Africa, it was for the usual commercial reasons, not for political ones.’’

IISD is a policy research institute that promotes sustainable development.
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