Former president Olusegun Obasanjo and Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, have both criticised the United States of America over what they described as the belittling of the African Development Bank (AfdB) regarding the fate of Akinwunmi Adesina, the bank’s president.
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Adesina, a former minister of agriculture, was accused of favouritism and the US, one of the bank’s shareholders, has demanded that an independent investigation be instituted by the AfDB board of governors to probe the allegations.
The US request comes despite the AfDB’s ethics committee exonerating Adesina, the sole candidate for the bank’s presidential election, of any wrongdoing.
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But Obasanjo and Ahmed in separate letters insisted that the request of the US for an independent investigation is outside the procedures of the AfDB and should, therefore, not be entertained.
In her letter, dated 28 May, and addressed to Kaba Niale, Chairman of the AfDB board of governors, Ahmed noted that the bank’s ethics committee had dismissed all allegations against the bank’s president as unsubstantiated and baseless.
The Finance Minister stated that the independent investigation is alien to the bank’s governing system, warning that the rule of law and due process must be followed.
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The letter read: “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, Honorable Minister Kaba Niale of Cote d’ Ivoire.
“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.
“The call for an independent investigation of the president is outside of the laid down rules, procedures and governing system of the bank and its articles as it relates 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.”
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Obasanjo, in his letter, dated 26 May, and copied to 13 former presidents of African countries, said Steve Mnuchin, the US Treasury Secretary, belittled the AfDB and its governance system by calling for an independent investigation.
The former Nigerian president stated that the AfDB under Adesina’s leadership has been placed in a strategic position to fast track Africa’s development.
He warned that the AfDB could be taken away from Africa by some non-regional members if Africans do not rise to protect the governance system of the bank.
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The letter read: “Unfortunately, the US government, through the US treasury secretary, has written a public letter (that was also 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 its governance will be hijacked away from Africa.”
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Niale in a statement on Thursday said the AfDB board of governors are still deliberating on the case and insisted that no decision has been made on the fate of Adesina.
The AfDB election is scheduled to hold in August.