African Development Bank (AfDB) president Akinwumi Adesina. File photo
African Development Bank (AfDB) president Akinwumi Adesina. File photo

AfDB to review probe into president after U.S.-Nigeria spat

By Leanne de Bassompierre and Katarina Hoije Time of article published Jun 8, 2020

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INTERNATIONAL - The African Development Bank agreed to an external review of an investigation that found no evidence of wrongdoing by its president, Akinwumi Adesina, after a shareholder dispute over the probe split the lender’s board.

The decision follows lobbying by the 60-year-old bank chief that took him to the capitals of countries including Ghana, Senegal and his home nation Nigeria. In those meetings, Adesina urged the respective presidents to block calls from shareholders including the U.S., the U.K. and Nordic countries for a fresh independent inquiry into allegations by unidentified whistleblowers that he awarded contracts to friends and relatives.

In the end, a compromise was reached, with the AfDB’s board on Thursday announcing a reassessment of the findings by the bank’s ethics committee, which must be completed within the next four weeks.

“The independent review shall be conducted by a neutral, high-caliber individual with unquestionable experience, high international reputation and integrity,” the AfDB’s Bureau of the Boards of Governors said in a statement. It was done to ensure all governors agree on how to resolve differing views on the matter, the board said..

Presidential Jet

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari sent his presidential jet to collect Adesina in Ivory Coast and flew him to his villa in Abuja for a meeting on June 3. There, Adesina told Buhari the ethics committee had taken three months to probe 16 allegations for which there was no evidence, while he had presented 250 pages of documents in his defense, the president’s spokesman wrote in the Lagos-based Business Day newspaper on June 5.

Adesina said the accusations were lies aimed at blocking his unopposed bid for a second term at the helm of the bank, the spokesman was cited as saying.

During the meeting, Buhari recalled backing Adesina’s election in 2015, and then assured the AfDB head that the continent’s most-populous country will mobilize support from more African countries against the “onslaught led by America,” the spokesman said.

That was a reference to a letter sent by U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to the AfDB two weeks ago in which he rejected the findings by the bank’s ethics committee, expressing “deep reservations” about the integrity of the process.

As part of the review of the committee’s investigation, the AfDB will also assess its whistle-blower and complaint policies to “avoid situations of this nature in the future,” the lender said Thursday.

The external inquiry comes as the continent’s largest multilateral lender helps to source $100 billion needed to stabilize economies that have been hobbled by the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. has a 6.5% stake in the AfDB, the largest shareholding after Nigeria, which held 9.1%, as of November. The 56-year-old institution allowed non-regional countries to join in 1982, and now has 54 shareholders from Africa and 27 from the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Members in October pledged to provide funding that will more than double the AfDB’s capital base to $208 billion.

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