Akin Adesina vs The US: An Explainer

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In response to pressure mounted on the Ethics committee of African Development Bank, AfDB by the United States, a statement signed by the Chairperson of Board of Governors, Ms. Niale Kaba read “On Tuesday, May 26, the office of the Board of Governors of the African Development Bank Group held a meeting to examine the matter arising from a complaint from the board of directors of the bank, and about that which I received from some shareholders expressing different points of view. The bureau, which I chair, wishes to assure the public that it is seized with the matter and it is treating it with utmost seriousness which it deserves. Further, the bureau informs the public that it has not taken any decision as falsely conveyed in some publications. I must emphasize that there is no governance or constitutional crisis at the African Development Bank Group. It is indeed false that the president of the Bank Group has been or is being asked to step down from his position.”

What exactly happened?

A group of anonymous staff members within the bank sent a petition in January 2020 against Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, the President of the bank on various issues in conformity with the bank’s “Whistleblowing and Complaints Handling Policy” of January 2007. The petition raised allegations such as the appointment of Mrs. Chinelo Anohu-Amazu proving he had more interest in Nigerians, appointments of Mr. Martin Fregene who was said to be his brother-in-law, mismanagement of the TAAT program, appointments and promotions of Mrs. Maria Lumundi, direct contracting and appointment of Victor Oladokun, contraction of Kapil Kapoor and many others totaling 16 in number which he refuted saying, “I maintain my innocence with regard to trumped-up allegations that unjustly seek to impugn my honor and integrity, as well as the reputation of the African Development Bank. I am confident that fair, transparent and just processes that respect the rules, procedures and governance systems of the bank, and rule of law, will ultimately prove that I have not violated the code of ethics of this extraordinary institution,”

Adesina whose 5 year tenure is due to lapse in three months, and is seeking re-election is having it tough. The Former Minister for Agriculture took up the position in AfBD in 2015 as the first Nigerian in that position. Under him, the African Investment Forum formed in 2018 attracted over $80 billion infrastructure returns and an unprecedented increase in capitalization from $93 billion to $208 billion. Also, the Bank connected 16 million people to electricity, provided 70 million people with improved agricultural technologies to achieve food security, gave 9 million people access to finance from private sector companies, provided 55 million people access to improved transport, and 31 million people with water and sanitation. In the face of Covid-19, he took a bold step in securing board approval for a $10 Billion crisis response facility to support African countries and a $3 Billion “Fight Covid-19” social impact bond on the international market secured at 0.75% interest rate. This is the largest US dollar bond ever denominated in history and is now listed on the London Stock Exchange.

Although the Ethics Committee exonerated him from all the charges, US Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, in a letter dated 22 May addressed to the Chairperson of AfDB’s Governors wrote, “We have deep reservations about the integrity of the committee’s process. Instead, we urge you to initiate an in-depth investigation of the allegations using the services of an independent outside investigator of high professional standing.”

What does US want an independent investigation and danger involved? 

Following Mnuchin’s letter,  there has been a plurality of reactions. It has been posited that the investigation is not in favor of America’s expectations and not in sync with the  “America First” agenda. There’s also a threat that the US as the largest non-regional shareholder state could wield the big stick and pull out, as it recently did with the World Health Organization. It has also been suggested that the allegations were made by American representative, Stephen Dowd.

Who’s supporting Adesina? 

Adesina is backed by Nigeria’s Federal Government, the bank’s regional largest shareholder, and the Heads of State and Governments of the ECOWAS region. At the African Union summit in February 2020, all 55 countries endorsed him for reelection as their sole candidate. He is also backed by a former President, Olusegun Obasanjo who rallied support for him in 2015, got 15 former African Presidents to back him up for a second term.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo in a letter sent to former Presidents said, ” Instead of accepting the decision of the Ethics Committee, they called for an “independent investigation”. This is outside the rules, laws, procedures and governance of systems of the bank. If we do not rise and defend the African Development Bank, this might mean the end of the African Development as its governance will be hijacked away from Africa. I, therefore, propose that we all collectively issue a press statement to support the laid down procedures embarked upon to evaluate the decisions made 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”.

Written by Damilola Akintola



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