…Boss says nothing wrong with that
In the early 90s, an African country, Equatorial Guinea, found oil. It was a momentous turning point for one of the poorest nations in the world. On paper, the country appears to be the richest country per capita in Africa.
But the reality today is a saddening one. With so much oil wealth, the United Nations reports that less than half of the population has access to clean drinking water and that 20% of children die before reaching the age of five. In fact, most people in the nation now live on $2 a day.
The only development that has been taking place is within the bank accounts of selected members of the Government which is led by President Teodoro Obiang.
While the people suffer and swim in the slums of poverty, the members of the Government live lavish lifestyles.
In fact, one of the President’s sons, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, enjoyed a rather lavish lifestyle on the oil revenue that was supposed to go towards his country’s Treasury.
With monies intended for the state, he bought himself a luxurious US$30M mansion in Malibu, California, some of the world’s finest and rarest sports vehicles such as Lamborghinis and Ferraris. He even bought some of the world’s most expensive Michael Jackson memorabilia such as statues of the pop icon.
But that is not the worst part.
Just months ago, in January 2017, an American Senate Subcommittee investigation into the operations between the Government of Equatorial Guinea and ExxonMobil exposed a number of startling revelations.
Among the reasons for the hearing was that in 2004, the subcommittee identified a bank account in Washington where ExxonMobil and other oil companies deposited millions of dollars owed to Equatorial Guinea for operating there. The money went to President Obiang’s family, the subcommittee found.
This occurred during the time Rex Tillerson was the CEO of ExxonMobil. This man now sits at the desk of the US Secretary of State.
At one of the hearings, Tillerson was grilled by Senator Jeff Merkley. The politician’s questions were based on how President Obiang became exceedingly rich due to ExxonMobil making payments into a private account as opposed to the country’s National Treasury.
Tillerson was asked to say why ExxonMobil participated in such an activity.
Tillerson said, “Senator, I am familiar with the circumstance you’re talking about. That was the subject of an investigation by the Judiciary Committee and there were no findings that Exxon committed any wrong or broke any laws at the end of that investigation.”
He continued, “In terms of the payments that ExxonMobil would make in any arrangement in any contact with any country, (it) would be no different than they are made with domestic producers here in the US that are operating on federal lands.
“There is royalty and there are taxes to be paid to the Treasury. What the government does with those monies when the company pays is up to the government. Obviously, the US government distributes those funds responsibly and some countries, I understand, do not.”
Tillerson noted, nonetheless, that ExxonMobil’s operations do have positive spin-off effects for countries it engages like Equatorial Guinea, such as job creation. He said, however, that he is not suggesting in any way that that mitigates the corruption that is taking place in the country, but it is not without benefit and not without having American values on the ground in those countries.
After sifting through Tillerson’s statements, Merkley, the senator, highlighted his remarks about taxes and royalties, and the fact that they must go to the Treasury. Merkley stressed to Tillerson that in the case of Equatorial Guinea, Exxon was making payments to a private account which was controlled by the President. He was asked if he saw anything wrong with that.
Tillerson said, “I’d have to review from my memory the circumstance you’re talking about. My recollection is that that account was designated as the government’s account and I think that when it was discovered that the account either may or may not be a valid account, it was closed.”
Merkley pointed out that Exxon’s actions raised a moral question. He asked how the company could be engaging Equatorial Guinea in such a manner that it was essentially enriching the leaders without little thought as to how this was going to impact the people there.
Merkley also pointed out that the unfavourable state of Equatorial Guinea is even reported on by the US State Department.
Tillerson said that while he is aware of the circumstances spoken of by the Senator, he maintained that during his time, there were no violations.
THE GUYANA SCENARIO
Even as Kaieteur News and media outlets around the world continue to expose the nature of ExxonMobil and how it treats with oil wealthy nations, two of this country’s most prominent leaders seem to care less about these revelations.
Former President and now Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, for example, has stated that he is not “too” concerned about the worrying track record ExxonMobil has in some parts of the world.
As for President David Granger, he is of the view that a company like ExxonMobil would not risk getting into backdoor deals, as it would risk hurting its corporate reputation.
The Head of State has also said, “For a corporation the size of Exxon, it would not do itself any good to have deals or negotiations which are subject to public scrutiny, international scrutiny which are regarded as unfair, because it will damage its corporate reputation. So I don’t see that happening…”
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