Adesina Akinwunmi, President, AFDB

By OBINNA EZUGWU

Amid growing controversy over the future of president of African Development Bank (AFDB), Akinwunmi Adesina, the Nigerian government and former president Olusegun Obasanjo have risen in his defence.

Adesina who is seeking a second term of five years at the continent’s apex bank, has been embroiled in controversy over alleged corruption and ethics violations levelled against him by whistle-blowers in the Bank.

The AFDB president was however, investigate by the Bank’s Ethics Committee of the Board of Directors, which, upon conducting an independent investigation into the allegations, dismissed them as baseless.

But the verdict of the Committee was rejected by the United States government which in a letter by its Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin to the Bank’s Board of Directors, queried the investigation of the Ethics Committee, arguing that it did not do a proper preliminary investigation. Other foreign governments such as Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland supported the U.S treasury’s stand on the matter.

The Bank’s Board subsequently bowed to the US pressure and decided to go for an independent probe Adesina.

However, the former Nigerian president, Obasanjo as well as the country’s federal government has risen in the embattled AFDB boss’ defence.

Obasanjo in a letter dated May 27 and addressed to various African leaders, said it was unacceptable for the US to fault the findings of the Ethnics Committee, calling it unprecedented in the bank’s history.

The former Nigerian president who listed the achievements of Adesina in the bank, called on the African leaders to rise up and resist the move by the US as failing to do so would be to risk losing the Bank.

Referring to Adesina’s accomplishments at the bank, Obasanjo regretted that, “Despite all these achievements and impressive leadership for the bank and passion for Africa’s faster-paced development, and his clear endorsement by all African countries for reelection for his second term, there are some attempts, led by some non-regional member countries of the bank to frustrate his reelection.”

Obasanjo said, “At issue are some allegations made by some whistle-blowers that alleged that Dr. Adesina violated Code of Ethics as President. Dr. Adesina strongly denied the allegations as fabrications and misinformation to disparage and discredit him. The laid down due process at the bank, the Ethics Committee of the Board of Directors, Chaired by the Executive Director from Japan and with members who represent shareholder member countries evaluated the allegations over a period of 3 months. The Ethics Committee of the Board of Directors, after examination of each of the 16 allegations of the whistle-blowers had dismissed each and all of the allegations as baseless and without any substantiation. The Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Bank following review of the Ethics Committee report exonerating Dr. Adesina concurred with the conclusions and exonerated Dr. Adesina of all the allegations. The Ethics Committee and the Chairman of the Board of Governors had performed their duties as laid down in the Rules and regulations of the Bank.

“Unfortunately, the US Government, through the US Treasury Secretary, has written a public letter (that was distributed to the Press globally) to disagree with the conclusions of the Ethics Committee of the Board of Directors and the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Bank. Instead of accepting the exoneration of the President of the Bank, they called for an “independent investigation”. This is outside of the rules, laws, procedures and governance systems of the Bank. The US Treasury Secretary disparaged the Bank and ridiculed the entire governance system of the Bank, which has been in place since 1964. This is unprecedented in the annals of the African Development Bank Group. If we do not rise up and defend the African Development Bank, this might mean the end of the African Development Bank, as it’s governance will be hijacked away from Africa.”

Similarly, the Federal government through a letter by the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed addressed to To Honourable Mrs. Kaba NIALE, Chairman of Board of Governors, African Development Bank Group, said it welcomes the findings of the Ethics Committee.

“The Nigerian Government has been following very closely the above matter, subsequent to the conclusion and submission of the formal report of the Ethics Committee and the decision of the Chair of the Board of Governors, Honourable Minister of Kaba NIALE of Cote d’Ivoire,” Ahmed wrote in the letter dated May 28.

“The Ethics Committee, following the three months of work to examine the whistle-blowers’ allegations made against the President, dismissed each and every one of the allegations of the whistle-blowers against the President as unsubstantiated and baseless.

“The Nigerian Government welcomes this conclusion of the Ethics Committee and the decision of the Chair of the Board of Governors.

“The Ethics Committee in carrying out its work, as clearly stated in their report, called on oversight organs of the Bank (Anti Corruption, Auditor General, Human Resources) to answer questions and provide any relevant information related to the allegations. They did so and these were clearly stated in the Ethics Committee report. The Committee also called on the whistle-blowers to submit any additional evidence, facts and documents to buttress their allegations but they did not.”