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- Obasanjo rallies former African leaders
Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja
The federal government has intervened to checkmate a plot by the United States and other non-African shareholders of the African Development Bank (AfDB) to deny the multilateral agency’s President, Mr. Adesina Akinwunmi, a tenure renewal.
Nigeria rejected the US’ call, already supported by Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland, for an independent panel to probe allegations of wrongdoing against Adesina by some bank staff, after AfDB president had been cleared by the bank’s authorities.
Nigeria’s former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, also weighed in on the issue, urging former African heads of government to intervene to save Adesina’s job.
The board of the bank has also clarified that Adesina has not been asked to step aside and dismissed reports of a governance crisis in AfDB.
In a letter addressed to the Chair of the Board of Governors of AfDB, Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, said the fresh investigation being demanded by the US and its allies was outside the laid-down rules, procedures and governing system of the bank and its Articles as they relate to the Code of Conduct on Ethics for the president.
In the letter entitled: “Re: Ethics Committee report and decision of the Chair of the Board of Governor on whistleblowers allegations against the president of the bank,” Ahmed said Nigeria had been closely following the matter, including the conclusion and submission of the formal report of the Ethics Committee and the decision of the Chair of the Board of Governors, Minister Kaba Niale of Côte d’Ivoire.
According to her, the federal government welcomes the conclusion of the Ethics Committee and the decision of the Chair of the Board of Governors that cleared Akinwunmi.
Ahmed said: “The Ethics Committee has conducted and completed its work following the rules, laws, procedures and guidelines as laid down by the Resolution of the Board of Governors. That resolution calls for the Ethics Committee to submit its report, and supporting documents, to the Chair of the Board of Governors.
“The Chair of the Board of Governors followed the laid-down rules, procedures, guidelines, and the governing laws of the bank, and ruled appropriately that she concurred with the report and conclusion of the Ethics Committee that dismissed all allegations against the president.”
She added that the call for an “independent investigation” of Adesina is outside the laid-down rules, procedures and governing system of the bank and its articles as they relate to the Code of Conduct on Ethics for the president.
“As Board of Governors, we must uphold the rule of law and respect the governance systems of the bank and if there is any governance issues that need improvement, these can be considered and amendments proposed for adoption in line with laid down procedures,” she said in the letter to the board chair.
The federal government noted that the re-election of Adesina as AfDB president originally planned to be held on May 28, 2020, has now been postponed to 25-27 August 2020, adding that Adesina is the sole candidate for the election.
According to the minister, Adesina has delivered impactful programmes and impressive results at the bank.
Reeling off Adesina’s achievements in the last five years as AfDB president, the federal government said one of his major accomplishments was securing a general capital increase of $115 billion, the largest ever in the history of the bank.
“To fight the Coronavirus pandemic, he led the bank to develop a $10 billion Crisis Response Facility for Africa. Dr. Adesina also led the bank to launch a $3 billion ‘Fight COVID-19’ social bond, the largest US dollar-denominated social bond ever in world history.
“The African Union has endorsed his candidacy for re-election, following his endorsement by the ECOWAS Heads of State and Governments,” the Nigerian minister stated even as she commended the action taken by the Chair of the bank’s board, who is also the Minister of Finance of Cote d’Ivoire.
Nigeria urged that the bank’s process be followed “to protect and preserve our bank.”
In his intervention, Obasanjo, in a letter to former African leaders proposed a joint press statement to support the laid-down procedures embarked upon to evaluate the allegations against Adesina.
Obasanjo said: “I, therefore, propose that we all collectively issue a press statement to support the laid-down procedures embarked upon to evaluate the allegations against the president of the bank and to recommend that the Board of Governors, as well as the Ethics Committee of the bank, should firmly stand by their process and its outcome.
“We should speak against the introduction of alien practices being recommended by some parties given that such recommendation falls outside the laid-down procedure, laws, rules and regulations of the bank. It is also critical that we emphasise the need for the AfDB to remain an Africa-focused development bank rather than one which serves interests outside Africa.”
The letter was sent to former Presidents Boni Yayi of Benin, Festus Mogae of Botswana, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, Joyce Banda of Malawi, Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, Tandja Mamadou of Niger Republic, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania, Kgalema Motlanthe of South Africa, John Kufour of Ghana, Jakaya KIkwete of Tanzania, Mohamed Marzouki of Tunisia and Hailemariam Desalegn, former Prime Minister of Ethiopia.
Obasanjo noted that Adesina had performed well in his position over the past five years and had taken the bank to great heights.