Sackville — A Mount Allison University political science professor says 2 Nigerian politicians were wrong to accept free flights from an oil company. “Politicians everywhere should try to avoid real or perceived conflicts of interest,” said professor Percy Fenwick.
Last month, the mayor and deputy mayor of Lagos, Nigeria accepted free flights on a Shell Nigeria airplane. Mayor Thomas Okanyeye and Deputy Mayor Alice Kanu flew to Abuja with Shell executives to attend President Jonathan Terkaynu’s State of the Nation address. Both politicians say they did nothing wrong.
Okanyeye claimed the deteriorating road conditions in the unseasonably early rainy season meant they had no other way of getting there. “I deliberately did not take the free peanuts and beer offered to me on the plane,” he said. “We’re very grateful for the generosity and kindness of Shell Nigeria. These Canadian academics do not understand how Nigeria works. I reject their criticism.”Okanyeye is rumoured to be seeking the leadership of the opposition All Nigeria People’s Party.
Lagos and Shell are currently trying to iron out a new contract to supply electrical power to the Shell refinery. That contract expired 10 years ago. Shell continues to pay at the 2005 rate.
Kanu says people should just trust her more. She compares last week’s Abuja flight to a situation where someone is getting something from someone else for free, but at the same time does not feel obligated to give in to that person on an outstanding contract dispute. “It’s absurd to even think that the flight could have any effect on the contract,” said Kanu.
Kanu recently lost a federal by-election for the vacant seat of Lagos East. Professor Fenwick says the mayor and his deputy are buried too far inside the broken political system in Nigeria, and that they can’t see how bad it looks to voters.
Last year, Transparency International placed Nigeria at 136 out of 175 nations ranked for perceived corruption.