A top Dutch diplomat, Hans Smaling, has been sacked from his position after comments about alleged unethical conduct and corruption indulged in by the country’s businesses operating in Nigeria.
Smaling, who was stationed in Nigeria between 2015 and 2018 to lobby for the economic interests of the Netherlands, had repeatedly warned the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs of ‘endemic corruption’ in Nigeria.
According to Smaling, it was impossible to advance Dutch businesses in Nigeria without making dirty hands, NRC, a Dutch online news outlet reported.
“Bringing in assignments in Nigeria without paying a bribe? Impossible. Do Nigerian politicians get excited about Dutch companies without gifts? Impossible. And proclaim this message in The Hague? Just as complicated, unfortunately,” he reportedly said.
He said the country was in Nigeria for itself and his advocacy for Netherlands to work on the investment climate, on building the country, on macroeconomic stability, reforms and regulation did not find favour with authorities at the foreign ministry.
The newspaper report said Smaling’s position was created in 2012 after the Foreign Economic Relations Department was transferred from Economic Affairs to Foreign Affairs Ministry.
The new position was created for ‘promoting the competitive position of the Netherlands’: that of economic envoy/regional business developer. These special envoys were stationed in areas of economic interest to the Netherlands such as Singapore, Dubai, Lima, Copenhagen and Nigeria.
After 34 years of field service, Smaling knows perfectly well how Dutch business operates abroad as well as how to facilitate this as a diplomat and how to keep an appropriate distance from it.
“I wrote a contribution in the weekend folder for the ministers. In it, I addressed endemic corruption in Nigeria. I wrote that I found it strange that the Dutch Government facilitates companies that have to deal with corrupt practices.
“We are not going back to the times of the Governor-General in the former Dutch East Indies, Abraham van Riebeeck, who said: It is immoral but beneficial. I also mentioned Shell. It was clear that no company – not even Shell – escapes gross corruption in Nigeria.”
Smaling also spoke regularly with Mr Petri, the ambassador removed from his post in 2019 after he himself leaked secret information about the criminal investigation on Shell to the oil company.