Back in 1996, amid an outbreak of meningitis in the northern Nigerian state of Kano, Pfizer conducted an unauthorized trial of Trovan involving 200 children. Eleven children died, while many more suffered serious injuries. It was later discovered that the trial was done without the consent of the children's parents.
The Nigerian federal government then filed a criminal and civil lawsuit against Pfizer, demanding $7 billion in damages. Separately, the state government of Kano filed a $2 billion lawsuit. Both lawsuits were dropped and eventually settled out of court, with the state government of Kano agreeing to a $75 million settlement with the drug manufacturer. (Related: NEVER FORGET: Pfizer sued for $7B over illegal drug trials on kids.)
But an April 2009 cable published by WikiLeaks revealed that Enrico Liggeri, Pfizer's country manager for Nigeria, admitted that the company did not want to pay to settle the two lawsuits filed by Abuja. For the Kano lawsuits, however, the company 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 same cable stated that "according to Liggeri, Pfizer had hired investigators to uncover corruption links to then-Federal AG Michael Aondoakaa to expose him and put pressure on him to drop the federal cases." The top Pfizer official continued that investigators hired by the company "were passing this information to local media."
"A series of damaging articles detailing Aondokaa's 'alleged' corruption ties were published in February and March," the WikiLeaks cable indicated. "Liggeri contended that Pfizer had much more damaging information on Aondoakaa and that [the federal AG's] cronies were pressuring him to drop the suit for fear of further negative articles."
The two lawsuits being dropped raised suspicions in the West African nation, given that Aondoakaa served as the legal counsel for the federal government. In November 2010, Nigerian newspaper Next ran a story about the federal AG's supposed "secret deal with Pfizer."
The piece stated that the terms of the "agreement" that caused Abuja to drop its two lawsuits "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.
Meanwhile, the WikiLeaks cable referenced an April 2 meeting between Leggeri, Pfizer lawyers Joe Petrosinelli and Atiba Adams and officials at the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria. During the meeting, the two attorneys mentioned the role of Gen. Yakubu Gowon – the former Nigerian head of state from 1966 to 1975 – in interceding on Pfizer's behalf.
"Petroselli noted that Pfizer has worked closely with Gowon, and that he has played a positive mediation role with Kano state and the federal government. Gowon spoke with Kano Gov. Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, who directed the Kano AG to reduce the settlement demand from $150 million to $75 million. Adams reported that Gowon met with President [Umaru Musa] Yar'Adua and convinced him to drop the two federal high court cases against Pfizer," the WikiLeaks cable stated.
Aondoakaa, formerly the country's justice minister from 2007 until 2010, expressed astonishment at the WikiLeaks cable claims. "I'm very surprised to see I became a subject, which is very shocking to me," he told the Guardian. "I was not aware of Pfizer looking into my past. For them to have done that is a very serious thing.
Pfizer denied the accusations in a statement, claiming that "any notion that the company hired investigators in connection to the former AG is simply preposterous." It added that it "negotiated the settlement with the federal government of Nigeria in good faith, and its conduct in reaching that agreement was proper."
Visit BigPharmaNews.com for more about Pfizer's corruption.
Watch this video that explains how Pfizer targeted former Nigerian Federal AG Michael Aondoakaa.
This video is from the SILVIEW.media channel on Brighteon.com.