Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer resorted to “dirty tricks” in order to avoid paying a settlement to Nigeria, following the disastrous 1996 clinical trial of its antibiotic Trovan in the country’s Kano state.
According to an April 2009 cable obtained and later published by WikiLeaks, the New York-based drug manufacturer came to a tentative $75 million agreement with the Kano state government to settle complaints the latter filed. However, the cable suggested that Pfizer did not want to pay out to settle two cases – one civil and one criminal – filed separately by the federal government in Nigeria’s capital Abuja.
Enrico Liggeri, Pfizer country manager for Nigeria, expressed disagreement with settling the Kano state cases during the April 20, 2009 meeting. He later came to the conclusion that the $75 million figure was reasonable because the suits had been ongoing for many years [and had been] costing Pfizer more than $15 million a year in legal and investigative fees.
The lawsuits against Pfizer arose from a drug trial in children in Kano back in 1996, amid an outbreak of meningitis in the northern Nigerian state. The said trial was later found to have been conducted without consent from the parents. A total of 11 Nigerian children died as a result, which led to both federal and state governments taking the matter to court. (Related: NEVER FORGET: Pfizer sued for $7B over illegal drug trials on kids.)
The cable also touched on an earlier meeting between Liggeri, Pfizer lawyers Joe Petrosinelli and Atiba Adams and officials at the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria. During the meeting, it was suggested that the lawsuits filed by Abuja were dropped due to the involvement of Gen. Yakubu Gowon – former Nigerian head of state from 1969 to 1975.
Gowon interceded on Pfizer’s behalf with Gov. Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, the head of Kano state at that time. The retired general directed that the state’s settlement be reduced from $150 million to $75 million. Shekarau was later appointed as minister of education and elected as a senator in 2019.
Aside from Shekarau, Gowon also met with former Nigerian President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua while the latter was still in office. The cable said Gowon convinced the leader to drop the two cases against Pfizer, which the president did. Yar’Adua passed away in 2010.
Moreover, the cable revealed that Pfizer hired investigators to dig up evidence of corruption against former Justice Minister Michael Aondoakaa – then the federal attorney general (AG) – to persuade him to drop legal action over the Trovan trial. Liggeri admitted to this action during the April 9 meeting, adding that Pfizer’s investigators were passing this information to local media.
“A series of damaging articles detailing Aondoakaa’s ‘alleged’ corruption ties were published in February and March,” the cable stated. “Liggeri contended that Pfizer had much more damaging information on Aondoakaa, and that [the AG’s] cronies were pressuring him to drop the suit for fear of further negative articles.”
Two days before the April 9 meeting and with Petrosinelli and Adams absent, Liggeri enlarged on the covert operation against the federal AG. The Pfizer country manager went on to suggest that the lawsuits against Pfizer “were wholly political in nature.”
Nigerian newspaper Next ran a story in November 2010 that elaborated on Aondoakaa’s “secret deal” with Pfizer that led to Abuja’s lawsuits being dropped.
The story alleged that the terms of the agreement that led to the lawsuits being dropped “remain unknown because of the nature of the [deal] brokered by Aondoakaa.” It continued: “The withdrawal of the case, as well as the terms of settlement, is a highly guarded secret by the parties involved in the negotiation.”
But in reality, it was Gowon – the former head of state – who was involved in the “secret deal,” not the AG.
Aondoakaa expressed astonishment at the claims against him at the time. “I’m very surprised to see I became a subject, which is very shocking to me,” he said. “I was not aware of Pfizer looking into my past. For them to have done that is a very serious thing. I became a target of a multinational [company]. If it is true, maybe I will take legal action.”
BigPharmaNews.com has more stories about Pfizer’s misdeeds.
Watch this video that expounds on how Pfizer targeted and smeared Nigerian Federal AG Michael Aondoakaa.
This video is from the SILVIEW.media channel on Brighteon.com.
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