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Pfizer's Trovan Settlement Demands Irk Nigerian Kleptocrats

Pfizer is emerging as an unexpected champion of the poor against Nigeria's kleptocracy as it negotiates a $75 million settlement in the Trovan case.

Back story: The case stems from tests Pfizer did in 1996 during a meningitis outbreak in the African nation. Eleven children died. Trovan's use was restricted in the U.S. and banned in Europe. The events may have inspired the book and movie, The Constant Gardener. One of the major sticking points holding up the final settlement (aside from this U.S. judge) is how to distribute the money to victims in such a way that it does not find its way into the hands of Nigeria's notoriously corrupt politicians. Nigeria ranks 121st out of 180 countries in terms of corruption (No. 180 -- Somalia -- being the most corrupt).

The AP noted recently:

... two matters remained to be resolved: How to ensure settlement funds reached their intended victims and that the funds disbursement was done with full accountability.
This Day added:
[Governor Ibrahim Shekarau] said a committee of trustees involving various stakeholders had been set up to verify the victims and the veracity of their impairment to ensure that justice is done in the sharing of the compensation.
Nigerian lawyers will, of course, make out like bandits. About $10 million of the settlement is earmarked for them, according to columnist Aliyu Asad. Of the rest:
35 million to the test patients and 30 million towards some form of development of health infrastructure.
That "infrastructure" could take the form of a hospital, which would take years to build, according to Shekarau (pictured).

Asad notes that Pfizer's insistence on making sure that victims actually benefit from the settlement is making Nigeria's elite increasingly uncomfortable:

The powerful have much to gain from this windfall especially with elections only a couple of years away.
Whilst Kano State government are calling for self determination in managing the disbursal of the settlement funds; It is interesting to note that all statements from the Pfizer camp declare that it is their wish transparency and due process be observed in distribution of funds.

Many in Kano States ruling elite may be wishing that settlement had occurred earlier when the eyes of the world were not so sharpened to corrupt practices of large global corporations, but after scandals such as Enron, KBR and Siemens, the world is watching Nigeria and global companies carefully. It would be corporate suicide for a company like Pfizer to just write a blank cheque and walk away.

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