Omodele Adigun and Uche Usim (Abuja) (with agency report)
The coast is getting clearer for embattled African Development Bank (AfDB) President, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, to get a second term as an independent panel of experts, headed by former Irish president, Mary Robinson, has cleared him of corruption, according to a report obtained by AFP.
In a similar vein, a former British Prime Minister, Mr. Gordon Brown, has endorsed former Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, for the World Trade Organisation (WTO) top job, saying she has a track record of delivering results in “the toughest of jobs”.
Adesina, who has had a brilliant public service, was jolted in April by a 15-page report from a whistle-blower who alleged that he had veered off course in running the bank. The report alleged that Adesina had dipped his hands in fraudulent activities, resulting in poor governance, impunity, personal enrichment and clannishness.
However, the Board of Governors of the bank instituted an internal probe in line with its disciplinary blueprint, but Adesina came out unscathed. Thereafter, 15 African Heads of State and African Union threw their weight behind his second term project.
However, the United States, one of the major shareholders of the bank, insisted on an independent probe. The independent panel of three experts, led by MsRobinson, alongside Gambia’s Chief Justice Hassan Jallow and the World Bank’s integrity Vice President Leonard McCarthy, commenced their assignment early July.
The panel has now cleared Adesina of all charges alleged by the whistleblowers.
“The Panel concurs with the Committee in its findings in respect of all the allegations against the President and finds that they were properly considered and dismissed by the Committee,” Monday’s report concluded
Adesina emerged the sole candidate seeking to head the regional bank earlier this year, but his re-election project has been hit by ferocious headwinds, which many thought may crash it.
Experts say it is most likely Adesina will be re-elected in August as the US initiated probe was perceived as the last battle, which he has now won.
The independent panel head, Robinson, who led Ireland from 1990 to 1997 before serving as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights until 2002 — dismissed the 16 whistleblower’s allegations against Adesina. The former Nigerian Agriculture Minister had always stated he was totally innocent of the charges, saying they were trumped up.
He said: “The 16 allegations raised against him were trumped up, “and without facts, evidence, and documents, as required by the rules and regulations of the bank.”
He added that the Ethics Committee of the bank cleared him of all the allegations, and calls for fresh investigation by the United States of America, were against the rules.
On June 2, he visited President Muhammadu Buhari, who said: “I’ll stand by you”. The President pledged that Nigeria would work with all other leaders and stakeholders in AfDB to ensure Adesina’s re-election for a second term.
Endorsing Mrs Okonjo-Iweal, Brown claimed that she would make an “outstanding success” of running the Swiss-based regulator, which is facing an existential crisis, while searching for its next director-general amid global economic disruption caused by Covid-19.
By backing Okonjo-Iweala and insisting she is respected “across the whole of the world”, Brown, a former Labour leader and chancellor, has passed over Liam Fox, the former Conservative trade secretary, whom Britain has nominated for the job.
Reacting to Brown’s endorsement , an excited Okonjo-Iweala took to her Twitter handle, saying: “Grateful to @OfficeGSBrown for this wonderful endorsement.”
Brown’s endorsement is the latest of such high profile backing for the Nigerian nominee, coming after that by respected Patrick Lumumba, director of Kenya’s Law School who also served as the director of Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission. Lumumba, who is from the same country as Amina Mohamed, who is also contesting for the WTO job, said Okonjo-Iweala is the better candidate based on credentials.