Obinna Chima and Dike Onwuamaze
President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, has described as spurious and unfounded an allegation by a group that described itself as concerned staff members of the bank that he violated the code of conduct of the institution.
In a statement he issued yesterday, Adesina said following the publication of the allegation in a foreign magazine, Le Monde, he was overwhelmed by the tremendous show of support and solidarity he had been receiving.
He stated that the bank had a very high reputation for good governance and rated as the fourth most transparent institution in the world by Publish What You Fund.
He noted that he had strong confidence in the governance systems of the bank put in place by its Board of Governors.
According to him, the Ethics Committee of the Board of Directors is following its internal review systems and should be allowed to complete its review and work without interference from anyone or the media.
The bank’s president said: “I am 100 per cent confident that due process and transparency, based on facts and evidence, will indicate that these are all nothing more than spurious and unfounded allegations. I would like all our highly dedicated bank staff, shareholders and partners not to be moved or shaken by any of these blatantly false allegations. I will stay calm and resolute. I will not be distracted. No amount of lies can ever cover up the truth. Soon the truth will come out.”
Adesina promised to continue to discharge his duties and responsibilities “with the highest level of professionalism, dedication and unshaken resolve, to lead and support the bank’s bold mission for Africa’s accelerated development, and to help protect the continent at this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Adesina was elected for his first term as President by the bank’s Board of Governors at its Annual Meetings in Abidjan on May 28, 2015.
He has been endorsed by President Muhammadu Buhari and the African Union for the second term and the election is expected to be held this year.
But in an 18-page petition, largely seen as a political conspiracy to block his second term, obtained by THISDAY yesterday, the concerned staff members listed the alleged cases of breach of code of conduct by Nigeria’s former Agriculture minister to include unethical conduct, private gain, an impediment to efficiency, preferential treatment, involvement in political activity, among other activities they alleged to have adversely affected confidence and integrity of the bank.
They enumerated 20 areas whereby Adesina allegedly violated the code of conduct of AfDB and the efforts made to draw the attention of the Ethics Committee to the issues in line with the bank’s whistle-blowing policy.
For instance, they accused Adesina of non-respect of internal rules and regulations in recruitment (unethical conduct, an impediment to efficiency, political activity, and private gain).
The group said: “Since 2015, the President has taken his responsibility of Chief of the Staff to heart, playing a very active role in the recruitment of all managerial positions, acting as the de facto human resources manager.
“According to our information, for all PL2 positions (manager) and above, the President validates the shortlist of candidates to be interviewed and the list of candidates selected after the interviews.
“He is known to have excluded top-rated candidates from shortlists and to have canceled shortlists drawn up by independent recruitment panels.”
The group cited the appointment of Mrs. Chinelo Anohu-Amazu, a former Director-General of the National Pension Commission, last year as Senior Director in charge of the African Investment Forum (AIF) as one of the wrongdoings of Adesina.
According to the petitions, she was awarded the grade of senior director, which placed her at the same salary level as a vice president “without having the same responsibility level.”
The group also cited the appointment and promotions of Mr. Martin Fregene, describing it also as unethical because it involved preferential treatment.
“A Nigerian-born, Mr. Fregene is alleged to be the President’s brother-in-law (through their wives). He joined the bank in September 2015 as Adviser in the Office of the President, after having already served in his office when he was Minister of Agriculture in Nigeria.
“In 2017, it is reported that at the President’s request, he was appointed lead expert to Mrs. Blanke, VP Agriculture, and then promoted Adviser, both regular positions, both times without competition.
“Mr. Fregene was later promoted again in 2018 to the position of Director of the Agriculture and Agro-industry Department with effect from the 1st of January 2018 when Mr. Ojukwu, the incumbent, was still in place (he retired on the 31st of January).”
In addition, the group also alleged the mismanagement of the Technologies for African Agriculture Transformation (TAAT), a $120 million programme that was designed to speed up the adoption of agricultural technologies.
It accused Adesina of unethical conduct in the appointments and promotions of Mrs. Maria Mulindi, a Kenyan, who has professional ties with him as she was already working for him when he was Minister of Agriculture.
Adesina was also accused of directly contracting and appointing Mr. Victor Oladokun, whom they described as Adesina’s childhood friend, in violation of the bank’s code of conduct.