The Federal Government, through the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, 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, Akinwumi Adesina.
Adesina is a former minister of agriculture in Nigeria.
Mrs Ahmed, in a letter she personally signed and addressed to chairman of the board of governors, Kaba Niale, 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.”
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, in a letter he personally addressed to former presidents of some African countries, also expressed his disapproval of the development.
The board’s move to conduct independent investigation came after pressure from the United States.
Adesina was accused of giving contracts to acquaintances, appointing relatives and friends to strategic positions, and giving preferential treatment to Nigeria and Nigerians among other claims.
But the AfDB ethics committee cleared him of the allegations raised by whistleblowers.
In the letter, the minister 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.”
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 said.
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.
With no known opposition, Adesina is due for re-election in August.
In his letter, however, Obasanjo also faulted the independent investigation, saying the allegations were part of an attempt by some non-regional member countries of the bank to frustrate Adesina’s re-election for a second term.
He condemned the role played by the US, saying it ridiculed the bank’s 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.