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02 March 2015
On January 20 2015 there were reports in the UK Independent newspaper, quickly picked up by the Nigerian media, of the arrest of two UK businessmen on suspicion of having bribed a Norwegian official who was allegedly involved in the sale of six ex-Norwegian navy vessels to a private security company in Nigeria. The two men are alleged to have made payments totalling more than $150,000 to a Norwegian civil servant in order to help secure the sale of the decommissioned vessels by disguising their eventual destination.
The award, to a private company run by a former Niger Delta militant leader, of a contract to supply patrol vessels to secure Nigeria's coast against piracy and the theft of crude oil had already generated controversy when first reported early in 2012. In December 2014 there were more reports in the media about the contract and about the six ex-Norwegian navy vessels, with the head of a government agency being reported as denying that the company had acquired warships. It would appear from the news reports that he had stressed the fact that the vessels in question were delivered without any armaments, and that the armed personnel that would be on board the vessels when deployed would be naval personnel. That obviously raises the question of why the government would award such a contract to a private company rather than procure vessels for the use of the Nigerian Navy, which should be protecting Nigerian waters. Nigerians will be monitoring developments in the UK bribery case with great interest.
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