Updated October 17
A poverty-stricken Nigerian state that is reeling from severe flooding this year is receiving help in Washington from Greenberg Traurig, according to lobbying registration paperwork filed last week with the U.S. Department of Justice.
Greenberg Traurig is contacting members of the U.S. executive and legislative branches seeking business development and humanitarian assistance for Bayelsa State, DOJ Foreign Agents Registration Act documents show. The state is located in the Niger Delta.
Consulting firm Washington Avenue International is paying Greenberg Traurig $6,700 per month for its Bayelsa work. The contract, which Greenberg Traurig executed with Washington Avenue on September 25, is slated to expire on March 31, 2013. But the firms can extend it.
But Barron wrote in the agreement with Washington Avenue that Greenberg Traurig is "very pleased and excited" to help the firm.
"Under Rule 1 of the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct, we have a duty of loyalty to you and in that regard will vigorously represent your interests," Barron wrote.
Washington Avenue President Lester Johnson, who signed the contract with Greenberg Traurig and is advocating for Bayelsa, said he has "a lot of respect" for Barron and his firm. Johnson said the top priority of Greenberg Traurig and Washington Avenue right now is humanitarian assistance for Bayelsa.
"We're completely focused on the flood and whatever we can do to help them," Johnson said.
Flooding since September has displaced 35,126 Bayelsa residents, according to an October 14 news release from Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency. The agency has urged volunteers, community leaders and nongovernmental organizations to donate food, medicine, clothing, toiletries and bedding to camps for the displaced people.
Despite vast oil and natural gas resources in Bayelsa, 47 percent of its residents live in poverty and 23.9 percent are unemployed, according to Nigeria's National Bureau of Statistics. The agency says the state has an "almost non-existent commerce."
Greenberg Traurig and Washington Avenue aren't the first firms in Washington to advocate for Bayelsa, according to DOJ records. Carmen Group in January 2009 signed a one-year, $1.2 million contract with the state to help it attract foreign investment.