US Consulate in Lagos to Receive Help from Convicted Billionaire

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK (IDN) — While most Americans seem troubled by the rising cost of everything, the American government is on a lavish spending spree in Nigeria.

More than half a billion dollars has been budgeted for a new U.S. consulate general in Eko Atlantic, a spit of land reclaimed from the Atlantic Ocean in Lagos that features high-end residential and commercial properties.

The U.S. already has a consulate office in Lagos, in addition to its embassy in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

Mary Beth Leonard, the US ambassador to Nigeria, defended the 10-story construction. The scope of the new consulate campus honours “the vibrant relationship between the United States and Nigeria and communicates the spirit of American democracy, transparency and openness”. The construction project will take approximately five years, with completion expected in 2027.

Supporters of the building claim it will provide an estimated $95 million investment in the Lagos economy and employ approximately 2,500 Nigerians who will learn new technical skills and safety awareness that will boost their capacity in the local labour market.

But disturbing questions are already arising—is the project a blessing for ordinary Nigerians or a boondoggle? Eko Atlantic could adversely affect the coastal environment in Lagos, an area hit hard by a rising sea-level which has regularly washed away thousands of peoples’ homes. Konza City in Kenya made similar promises of 100,000 jobs, but 12 years after the launch, there’s not much more than a building in the midst of a desert. It’s a cautionary tale for how projects can over-promise and fail in Africa.

Further, the project is linked to Gilbert Chagoury, a Nigerian-Lebanese developer and one-time adviser to the late dictator Sani Abacha where he allegedly helped the general loot billions from public coffers. The businessman was found guilty on the charges in a Geneva court and paid $600,000 in fines to the court and refunded $66 million to the Nigerian government.

Stories have already popped up on Frontline, Bloomberg News, the L.A. Times, and Ventures Africa with such headlines as “Mega-Consulate Ties U.S. to Convicted Billionaire in Nigeria” and “Ex-convict building the United States’ largest consulate in Nigeria.”

The tycoon is well-known among people who look into corruption challenges around the world, according to former U.S. State Department expert on Nigeria Matthew T. Page.

“We did not have input into that process, or we would have flagged that,” said Page, the Department’s lead intelligence analyst on Nigeria from 2012 to 2015, referring to the U.S. decision to locate its mega-consulate on Chagoury real estate.

“Either the U.S. government was incompetent and didn’t do due diligence, or did that due diligence, understood who it was dealing with and basically disregarded the obvious concerns,” said Page, now an associate fellow at Chatham House, a London-based international policy institute. [IDN-InDepthNews – 25 May 2022]

Photo credit: U.S. Consulate-General Lagos. Source: Yinksmedia

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