Thursday, June 4, 2020 4:20 am
The meddlesomeness of the United States in African Development Bank affairs would not have happened if African leaders took to the advice of Shehu Shagari of Nigeria when the bank was established in 1964
By Jethro Ibileke
Call it a trial or persecution, you might not be far from the truth. Until recently, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, the Nigerian President of the African Development Bank, AfDB, was lauded all over the world and described as the best thing to have happened to the 54-member nation bank, and for good reasons.
All of a sudden, a petition surfaced for which Adesina was investigated and found clean. Yet, the United States insisted that an independent investigation must follow. This, to many analysts, is targeted at Adesina’s bid for second term.
What concerns the US with AfDB which ought to be an African affair? The situation started in 1964 when the bank was established by African leaders. In his book, “Beckoned To Serve,” Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Nigeria’s former President, narrated the reasons behind the establishment of the bank and how foreign investors attempted to take it over.
According to Shagari, concerned about the problem of over-dependence of African countries on the apron-strings of industrialized nations of Europe and America for financing most of their development projects,” the then OAU and ECA co-sponsored the AfDB, “as a first step towards the realization of economic independence of African states after political independence was achieved,” with its headquarters in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
“Alongside the AfDB, is the African Development Fund (ADF), to which African and non African countries are contributors. Over the years, these non African contributors, who were mostly the industrialized western nations, wanted to dominate the AfDB and the Fund by pressing for full membership status of both bodies through increased equity participation.
“Unfortunately, the AfDB and some of the poorer members wanted to succumb to the temptation to allow the outsiders provide more funds and thereby take over the control of these organizations.
“Nigeria, Algeria and Libya strongly opposed these move, which, they argued would have totally defeated the very objectives for which the Bank and the Fund were created in the first place.
“On several occasions in the past, I strongly advocated the independence of our continental organizations from being interfered with and meddled in by extra African interests. My position on this issue was well-known long before I became Nigeria’s President.”
The former President further narrated how, as Nigeria’s Federal Commissioner for Finance in General Gowon’s government in the early 70s, he “initiated the Nigeria Trust Fund within the ADF with an initial sum of N50 million (later increased to N100 million). The fund was initiated in order to assist poorer African countries finance some of their development projects through soft loans to be administered by the AfDB. One of the conditions Nigeria attached before providing this facility to the AfDB was that under no circumstance “should the bank’s equity be offered to non-Africans in the future.”
Shagari said it was therefore surprising when in 1981 the bank turned round to seek its Board of Governors’ approval of non-African equity participation. It is also more surprising that all the member countries, except Nigeria, supported the proposal as the bank was hard-pressed and no other African member country was willing to come to its aid financially.
“When Nigeria used her voting power to veto the proposition on my instruction to the Nigerian delegation, many African Heads of State pleaded with me to change my mind. The President of the Bank, Mr. Mogamba of Zambia, even threatened to resign if Nigeria persisted on her position. The pressure from all sides of action mounted on me; even members of my own cabinet, who had been lobbied, began to talk to me in the hope that is would agree to this request.
“After holding out for two years, I realized that Nigeria’s stand, though most sensible, might in the end result in the collapse of the AfDB since many of the member states were not even able or willing to pay their annual contributions. Unfortunately, Nigeria could not single-handedly rescue the bank from its acute financial dilemma.
“I therefore had to eventually, reluctantly, accept the painful situation and agree with the others that non-African equity participation was the only available option.
“This particular incident nearly sagged my morale in the struggle for the liberation of Africa from the European economic domination and exploitation. It quickly dawned on me that many African leaders who shout at roof-tops international gatherings, were not really ready or willing enough to make the necessary sacrifices or, at least, there is a limit to the kind of sacrifices that they and their countries could or would make.
“It is sad and disappointing to note that in almost all the regional and sub-regional organizations in Africa, a great number of member states do not pay their dues. It is almost always these defaulters who talk loudest on the need to liberate Africa from “imperialist exploitation and domination”, he related.
“The same group of the so-called revolutionaries and radicals who individually pressurized me and Nigeria to allow the ADB equity participation of the “exploiters” in order to save the bank from collapse,” Shagari said.
Founded in 1964, AfDB which is the outcome of Pan-African diplomacy in the earlier years of political independence from colonialism, was structured to be the continent’s economic development engine room. Nigeria is the overall largest shareholder.
Besides the core 54 African nations, there are 27 non-regional members of the AfDB, with the US being the second largest shareholder.
During the last five years when he heads, Dr. Adesina expanded the scope and capital base of the continental financial institution, bridging financial assistance and development to more member-nations than ever.
However, when he was due to be re-elected for a second term in office, something happened. Like a thunderbolt, a whistle-blower came from nowhere to accuse Adesina of misconduct. Some disgruntled members of staff of the bank had in a petition written in January this year, accused Adesina of infractions on various issues in conformity with the bank’s “Whistle blowing and Complaints Handling Policy” of January 2007.
The 20-point allegations of “impunity and bad governance” from unnamed workers have uncovered a rift between Mr Adesina and abnormal workers. They claimed that Adesina has used the financial institution’s sources for self-promotion and private achieve whereas additionally paying out large however undeserved severance packages to workers who resigned mysteriously, and favouring his fellow Nigerians.
While this could be seen as normal in the conduct of corporate governance in any organisation, the disturbing part is that a disassociation note allegedly sent in by one of the petitioners on March 9, 2020 stated that they were instigated by the U.S. representative on the Board of Directors, to make the petition.
Following Adesina’s response to the petition, the Ethics Committee of the bank found the petition to be “frivolous, baseless and without merit or evidence.” It thus cleared him of every single allegation.
Ordinarily, that should have laid the matter to rest. But, the rejection of the outcome of the internal investigation by the U.S. and its call for an independent external investigation appears to be a vote of no confidence in the internal crisis resolution mechanism of the bank and a slap in the face of the bank’s regional members.
The US Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin personally signed a letter to the board rejecting an inside investigation that cleared Adesina.
Barbara Barungi, AfDB’s former lead economist on Nigeria, noted: “Mnuchin’s move is significant because it has now cast a limelight on governance issues and on [the] importance of an independent investigation to uphold the integrity of the AfDB. There are very few people that were willing to stick their necks out.”
To many, the intent of the US is to take over control of AfDB, and Adesina seems to be standing on their way to achieve their goal. It is quite disturbing.
This is not the first attempt to hijack the running of AfDB by foreign interests. Many analysts are of the opinion that the United States’ plan is either to control this Pan-African development finance institution, or to discredit it, pull out its shareholding and then provide its Development Finance Corporation alternative, which will enable it to fully establish its hold on Africa, and boost its global economic muscle-flexing with China.
That not being the case, why would the whistle-blower come off with frivolous allegations at the time he was due for a re-election? Why would the U.S. Treasury Department expresse displeasure that Adesina has not publicly criticised China’s growing influence in Africa.
Another suspicious angle to the issue is the interference exhibited by a recent comment by the World Bank President, that the AfDB is quick to give out loans to African countries.
The good news however is that many African leaders are no longer blinded to the hidden agenda of foreign power brokers. President Muhammadu Buhari during a recent visit to his office, assured Adesina of his support for him in his bid to get re-elected as President AfDB.
The President spoke at State House, Abuja, Tuesday, 2 June, 2020, while hosting Dr Adesina on a courtesy visit. This was contained in a press statement signed by Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to the President (Media and Publicity).
“In 2015, when you were to be elected for the first term, I wrote to all African leaders, recommending you for the position. I didn’t say because you were a People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Minister, and I belonged to the All Progressives Congress (APC), so I would withhold my support. I’ll remain consistent with you, because no one has faulted the step I took on behalf of Nigeria,” said President Buhari.
The President pledged that Nigeria would work with all other leaders and stakeholders in AfDB to ensure that Dr Adesina was elected for a second term built on the record of his achievements during his first term.
The African Union had already endorsed the incumbent AfDB President as sole candidate for the continent, but some other stakeholders are trying to ensure that Dr Adesina is re-investigated on some allegations, and rendered ineligible to run.
Giving a background to what was happening in the bank, Dr Adesina, a former Nigerian Minister for Agriculture, 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.
“My defense ran into 250 pages, and not a single line was faulted or questioned. The law says that report of the Ethics Committee should be transmitted to the Chairman of Governors of the bank. It was done, and the governors upheld the recommendations. That was the end of the matter, according to the rules. It was only if I was culpable that a fresh investigation could be launched. I was exonerated, and any other investigation would amount to bending the rules of the bank, to arrive at a predetermined conclusion,” Dr Adesina said.
Stressing that the motive was to soil his name, and that of the bank, the AfDB President said he was proud to be Nigerian, and thanked President Buhari for his unflinching support.
“You helped me to get elected in the first place, and you have supported me robustly all along, and the African Union unanimously endorsed my re-election” he declared.
While commiserating with President Buhari on the death of the former Chief of Staff, Mallam Abba Kyari, Dr Adesina described Professor Ibrahim Gambari, new Chief of Staff as “a man of integrity, and of global standing.”
Past Nigerian rulers have also thrown their weight behind him. Other eminent Africans and leaders have also come out stoutly to fully express their support for due process in addressing the crisis.
The truth is: should African leaders and the Ethics Committee of the Bank allow these foreign invaders to have their way, a wrong precedent would again be set in handling similar issues that may arise in future, which, in turn, could further damage the credibility of the bank and deter it from fulfilling the dreams of its founding fathers. It would also lead to the collapse of the bank.
Like the lyrics of a song by the Ozzidi King of blessed memory, Sony Okosuns, Africa must be ruled by Africans. Adesina is doing a great job at the AfDB, and so, he deserves a re-election for another five-year term as President of the the bank. What is more, the Ethics Committee has cleared him of any infractions. The re-election process should and must be handled by the bank’s board of governors, with strict adherence to the rules and regulations of AfDB.
Adesina has come to stay!