The Federal Government on Thursday opposed the decision of the board of the African Development Bank (AfDB) to conduct an independent investigation into allegations against the bank’s President, Dr Akinwumi Adesina.
The Federal Government said the move was not in line with laid-down procedures, and insisted that due process must be followed to “protect and preserve the bank.”
A former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, also kicked against the development, which followed intense pressure mounted on the bank’s board by the United States.
The AfDB ethics committee had cleared Adesina of the allegations of corruption and favouritism levelled against him by some whistleblowers.
Specifically, he was accused of giving contracts to acquaintances, appointing relatives and friends to strategic positions, and giving preferential treatment to Nigeria and Nigerians.
The Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, stated the Federal Government’s position on the matter in a letter she personally signed and addressed to Mrs Kaba Niale, chairman of the board of governors.
Ahmed said, “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 system of the bank.
“If there are any governance issues that need improvement, these can be considered and amendments proposed for adoption in line with the laid-down rules,” the minister said in the letter.”
Noting that the Nigerian government had followed the matter “very closely”, Ahmed stressed that the ethics committee had dismissed the allegations by the whistleblowers.
She revealed that the Federal Government welcomed the conclusion reached by the ethics committee, which, according to her, called on all oversight organs of the bank to answer relevant questions and provide information relating to the allegations.
“The ethics committee also called on the whistleblowers to submit any additional evidence, facts and documents to buttress their allegations but they did not,” she observed.
Ahmed further stated that the ethics committee followed the rules, laws, procedures and guidelines in conducting and completing its work, adding that the chair of the board also followed due process when she concurred with the committee’s report, which dismissed the allegations.
Pointing out that Adesina’s reelection, initially scheduled for May 28, has now been postponed to 25-27 August, the minister stressed that he “delivered impactful programmes and impressive results at the bank”.
She listed Adesina’s achievements to include securing a general capital increase of $115bn, the largest ever in the history of the bank.
Adesina also developed a $10bn Crisis Response Facility to fight coronavirus in Africa, and also led the bank to launch a $3bn ‘Fight COVID-19’ social bond, the largest US dollar-denominated social bond in world history.
Ahmed noted that the African Union had endorsed Adesina for reelection, following his endorsement by the ECOWAS Heads of State and Governments.
She commended the chair of the AfDB board for endorsing the ethics committee’s report.
Obasanjo, while also faulting the independent investigation, said the allegations were part of an attempt by some non-regional member countries of the bank to frustrate Adesina’s reelection for a second term.
Obasanjo spoke in a letter he personally addressed to former presidents of some African countries.
Obasanjo also aligned with the Federal Government’s position that an independent investigation was not in line with laid-down procedures.
According to him, the ethics committee and the chair of the board acted in accordance with the laid-down procedures in dismissing the allegations.
He condemned the role played by the US, which championed the calls for the independent investigation.
Obasanjo accused the US of disparaging the bank and ridiculing its entire governance system, which had been in place since 1964.
Urging the African leaders to rise up and defend the bank, Obasanjo said, “If we do not rise up and defend the AfDB Group, this might mean the end of the bank, as its governance will be hijacked away from Africa.”
He urged the presidents to collectively issue a press statement to support the laid- down procedures followed in evaluating the allegations.
Meanwhile, the Bureau of the Boards of Governors of the bank on Thursday denied asking Adesina to step down for the independent probe.
The chairman of the bureau, Niale Kaba, in a statement said reports that Adesina was directed to step down were false.
The statement said there was no governance crisis at the AfDB.
Noting that the board had not taken any decision, Kaba said the matter was being given serious attention.