International - Written by on Wednesday, July 18, 2012 4:54 - 1 Comment

Control Risks – facilitation payments & resisting them: Nigeria

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We recently heard Richard, CEO of Control Risks, speak and he described a powerful experience he’d had at Nigerian immigration, on the receiving end of a particularly nasty dilemma.  Richard has kindly agreed to share it, and others like it, with us.

If you are travelling to a far flung place Richard’s insight of some of the local scams to extract a facilitation payment, which we shall publish, should be required reading.

By Richard Fenning

At Control Risks we work in some of the most challenging jurisdictions in the world.  As a result we are on occasions faced with requests for bribes, including facilitation payments, extortion and other demands.

We resist them.

At Control Risks we have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to such requests.  We have the ‘luxury’ of being well versed in the tactics used by some unscrupulous officials and we have decided to share them.

We hope that if you are unfortunate enough to find yourself in the same position you find knowledge of them and how we dealt with them helpful.

I recently travelled to West Africa as I have done on numerous occasions.  West Africa has a poor reputation for corruption and rightly so.

At immigration I produced my documents which included my passport and a form which confirmed that I have had my yellow fever vaccination.

In summary I refused to pay the amount demanded and told the officer that there was no way they were about to inject me with yellow fever vaccine with the used needle they threatened.

The result?  After the officer decided that there were easier pickings  I was permitted to enter.  I paid no facilitation payment.

Richard Fenning is the Chief Executive Officer of Control Risks. Before becoming CEO, Richard held a number of other roles with Control Risks including Chief Operating Officer, head of the New York office and Business Development Director. He is a regular speaker on how geo-political risk can impact a company’s operations and on the role of the private sector in fragile and post-conflict states. Richard is also a director of emergency medical relief charity, Merlin.

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1 Comment

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Michael Comer
Jul 26, 2012 0:47

What an interesting story. Will Richard Fenning kindly provide more information so that we can learn more? Our experience in cases such as this is that a blunt refusal (along the lines suggested by this incident and by TI) usually fails and that more persuasive techniques (“verbal judo”) are needed. Even then, the chances of success are low. So well done Richard!!

How did the officer first try to extort a payment: ie what precisely did he say? Was the approach direct or veiled?
Was the demand made within the hearing of others?
How did the officer raise the question of the yellow fever certificate? This is not a mandatory requirement for entry into Nigeria?
What was Richard’s response?
How – precisely – was the injection threat raised?
Did the officer actually threaten that the injection would be with an infected needle? If so this is a far more serious crime than simple facilitation extortion
What was the closing exchange that ultimately led to the demand being dropped?
What was the response when Richard later reported the officer (presumably he established his name or badge number) to the British Embassy and his Nigerian contacts?
Was the officer prosecuted or other action taken?

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