The House of Representatives has urged the Board of African Development Bank (AfDB) to halt further harassment of the bank’s President, Dr Akinwumi Adesina. The call was sequel to a unanimous adoption of a motion of Matter of Public Urgent Importance by the Minority Leader of the house, Ndudi Elumelu (PDP-Delta) at plenary on Tuesday.
Earlier, Elumelu recalled that at a conference of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) in Khartoum, Sudan, in August ,1963, an agreement was reached for the establishment of AfDB. He said the agreement was co-signed by 23 African Governments, including Nigeria which birthed the bank.
Elumelu said that in 1964 the agreement came into force with a mission of fighting poverty and improving standard of living on the African continent. He said the bank was also saddled with the responsibility of promoting the investment of public and private capital, through the implementation of projects and programmes that contributed to the economic and social development of Africa. According to the lawmaker, on May 8, 2015, a distinguished Nigerian and one time Minister of Agriculture, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, was elected the presumptive President of the bank, being the first Nigeria to hold the office.
Elumelu said that the AfDB under the leadership of Adesina had been very remarkable in steering the organisation as its presence was highly visible and that it impacted much in less than five years. “Recently a group of whistleblowers petitioned Dr Adesina, accusing him of 16 breaches of the bank’s code of conduct, some of which include private gains, impediments to efficiency, preferential treatment and involvement in political activities, which he has continued to deny.
“On investigation by the ethics committee of the board of directors, the allegations were found to be frivolous, unsubstantiated, lacking merit and Dr Adesina was exonerated of all the 16 allegations. “The chairman of board of governors being satisfied that the committee had done a thorough job, haven followed all known rules and procedures of the bank in handling such cases, declared Adesina exonerated,” he said.
Elumelu, however, expressed worry that though the ethics committee had cleared Adesina, the United States Treasury Secretary, Mr Steven Mnuchin, rejected the verdict. The lawmaker said Mnuchin called for an independent investigation into the allegations against Adesina, whose tenure was due for renewal, given the fact that he was the only contender to the office.
According to Elumelu, the interference portends a grave danger to the independence and laws governing the establishment of the bank and if not addressed, will be tantamount to undermining its hard earned reputation. Elumelu said the action may be an attempt to discredit Adesina and prevent him from seeking another term at the helm of Africa’s largest multilateral lender.
He said that 11 former African Heads of State led by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, in their wisdom, issued a statement showing the grave danger it portended to disregard the laws governing an institution such as the AFDB. The lawmaker said that the African leaders stated in clear terms that no nation no matter how powerful had a veto power over the AfDB.
“If this sort of witch hunt and unnecessary harassment is not put to check and discouraged, it may become a recurring decimal thereby destabilising the stability the bank has enjoyed for decades and the intended results on a steady decrease,” he said. Rep. Olufemi Fakeye (APC-Osun) said that he was at the first inauguration of Adesina as AfDB president and that he had not lost sight and focus on his mandate.
The lawmaker said that Adesina had remained Afrocentric and had insisted on the independence of the bank. He said that the bank’s president had repositioned the bank to move Africa to the next level as he had set the continent on the path of industrialisation.
According to him, soon, Africa will begin to produce locally most of all she imports and this is not going down well with many Western powers. Fakeye said that under Adesina’s watch, 10 billion dollars was made available to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Rep. Nicholas Ossai (PDP-Delta) said that there was no true African that did not support how Adesina had run the bank in the last four years.
He, however, cautioned the house to get more facts before making recommendations so that its position would be fact-based. Ossai described the ongoing call for investigation into the bank as “international politics,” saying that there was need for the house to be more careful.
The lawmaker said that he was part of the committee that cleared Adesina for the office of the Minister of Agriculture and that he had no doubt about the integrity of the AfDB president. The house urged the Federal Government to call on all African leaders to intervene in the matter with a view to protecting the independence of the bank.
In his ruling, the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, mandated the Committees on ECOWAS Parliament and Pan African Parliament to investigate, resolve the matter and report to the house within reasonable time.