FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog

July 29, 2011

Traffic Drives Nigerian’s Nuts, But a Trip to a Shrink May Go Too Far!

Ed. Note-today we host a posting from our colleague Mary Shaddock Jones.

Note from Mary Jones-There are some days when having the ability to write blogs, is just simply too much fun.  Today is one of those days.  But before you read my article, I must admit that I rarely get feedback from any that I publish, so often times wonder- is anyone reading what I am writing?  Is it helpful?  I would love to hear from you if you have any suggestions for blogs or topics you want to discuss.   So write me!  msjones@msjllc.com.  Let me know what you are interested in reading about.

In any event, getting back to today’s topic- the front page of the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday contained an article titled: Traffic Drives Nigerian’s Nuts, But a Trip to a Shrink May Go Too Far!” “Enforcement of One-Way Rules In Lagos Tests Motorists’ Sanity;  A Lot of Cannabis”.   The article contained the following statements.  “Seeking to stem an epidemic of wrong-way driving, Lagos authorities have ratcheted up the standard $160 fine.  Scofflaws (what is that?) now also face psychiatric evaluations.  Contesting the charges can jack up the fine to $1,600- and you still get sent to a shrink.”  Interesting, but the article continues on with a few of the following statements:  “And ordinary Lagosians routinely bribe security guards to let them cut across parking lots and construction sites. “ “Locals say the mental exams are less about health than wealth, because they give cops leverage to exact bribes”.  … “One morning last summer, Ikechukwu Ozoh , an oil industry engineer, was stopped by the special “Anti-One-Way Squad.  Mr. Ozoh pointed out that the one-way sign was hidden by a tree and the cops agreed, but when Mr. Ozoh refused to pay a bribe on the spot, the police impounded his car and said he couldn’t retrieve it until he passed a psychiatric test.  He hired a lawyer, but gave up and went for his psychiatric evaluation.  He was given a “Certificate of Sanity” and allowed to retrieve his car and drive.

Why write about this article today?  Because it is important to remember how important local laws and local customs are when training on compliance.  I traveled to Lagos to give face to face compliance training to the employees of my former employer. Thankfully I didn’t experience the “Anti-One’Way Squad!”,   However,  we believed then, and still do believe today, that face to face training in the country where employees are located is critical.  As I went around the world, from Lagos, to Luanda, to Mumbai to Brazil etc, I often heard “but Mary- you have no idea what we face in our jobs”.  I would say- “you are correct- I don’t know because I don’t live here and I don’t do your job.  But I do care, and I know that we must stand firm in abiding by the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.  We will not pay bribes.  Period- end of conversation.”   Then I would say- but I need you to tell me what you are facing so that we can address the issues head on”.   I learned so much about my co-employees and some of the issues they faced when I made the effort to reach out to them on their home turf.

So next time you start to devise a training program, remember that in Nigeria, bribes are routinely demanded, and if you don’t pay- you could end up in a psychiatric hospital trying to get a “Certificate of Sanity”.   Your training needs to recognize what is happening in the area and then train your employees how to appropriately respond.  If that means an employee spends a day in the psychiatric hospital for doing the right thing- then so be it.  Let them be a role model to others… We do not pay bribes. Period.

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