PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has finally waded into the controversy surrounding US attempts to oust the president of the African Development bank (AfDB) Akinwunmi Adesina by lobbying his West African colleagues to oppose the move.
Over the last week, the US government has sought to get Mr Adesina, Nigeria’s former agriculture minister removed, asking the AfDB board to suspend him. In a letter written to the bank’s board of directors, the Americans said they were convinced that its ethics committee did not do a proper preliminary investigation on allegations of mismanagement against Mr Adesina, in line with standard practices in the other international multilateral financial institutions and the bank’s own rules and procedures.
As a result, the AfDB decided to go for an independent probe after the US treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, openly rejected the decision of the bank’s ethics committee to clear Me Adesina of all the allegations brought against him by some whistleblowers. AfDB is Africa’s largest multilateral development financial institution and Mr Mnuchin raised concerns that the wholesale dismissal of all the allegations without an appropriate investigation might tarnish the bank’s reputation, presenting it as one that does not uphold high standards of ethics and governance.
America is the AfDB’s second largest shareholder after Nigeria and it is asking that the board suspend Mr Adesina while the probe lasts. However, Nigeria has thrown its weight behind its former agriculture minister, seeing the US demand as a witch-hunt, with former president Chief Olusegun Obasanjo writing to several former African leaders, asking them to oppose the US plans.
Among the accusations against Mr Adesina include claims of giving contracts to acquaintances, appointing relatives and friends to strategic positions and giving preferential treatment to Nigeria. However, in his letter to 12 former African presidents, Chief Obasanjo said the continent must stand up and not allow its institutions to be unduly controlled by non-African countries.
Chief Obasanjo said that the AfDB has witnessed tremendous growth under Mr Adesina’s leadership, doubling its capital base since he took over. His stance has now been supported by President Buhari, who has asked the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) to support Mr Adesina.
President Buhari has communicated his backing to Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama, who is the current Ecowas chairperson. In his letter, President Buhari said that his support of Mr Adesina’s candidacy was not just because he was Nigerian.
He added that Mr. Adesina had years of experience of working in Francophone and Anglophone countries and a passion to help eradicate poverty in Africa by reducing unemployment and inequality among African youth. Mr Adesina is also an agricultural development expert with 24 years of experience in developing and managing successful agricultural programmes across Africa.