Former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo has reacted a demand by the United States Treasury to probe the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Akinwunmi Adesina, who had earlier been cleared of all allegations by an investigative body.
The United States is pressing for an independent probe into allegations by whistleblowers of alleged embezzlement and favouritism under Adesina, who is bidding for a second five-year term at the bank.
AfDB’s ethics committee had totally exonerated Adesina, saying the whistleblowers’ 15-page complaint “rested on no objective, solid facts”.
Adesina himself had previously dismissed the allegations as “spurious and unfounded” and “blatantly false.”
However, on May 22, US Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, sent the bank’s board a letter expressing “deep reservations” about the outcome of an internal inquiry clearing Adesina, and urged the appointment of “an independent outside investigator of high professional standing.”
“We fear that wholesale dismissal of all allegations without appropriate investigation will tarnish the reputation of this institution as one that does not uphold high standards of ethics and governance,” he wrote.
The move have been generally criticized by a lot of African leaders including the former Nigerian president, Obasanjo, who faulted the demand by the United States Treasury to probe Adesina again.
In a letter written to 12 former African Presidents including President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and John Kufour of Ghana, Obasanjo said Africa must stand up and not allow its institutions to be unduly controlled by non-African countries.
Obasanjo said after allegations of unethical practices were levelled against Adesina, the ethics committee of the board of directors chaired by the executive director from Japan and with members who represent shareholder member countries, evaluated the allegations for three months and the 16 allegations were found to be false.
The former President said after Adesina was exonerated, the US government insisted that there must be a fresh investigation by an independent body, a demand which is inconsistent with the rules of the bank.
“Instead of accepting the exoneration of the President of the bank, they (US treasury) called for an independent investigation. This is outside of the rules, laws, procedures and governance systems of the bank. The US treasury secretary disparaged the bank and the ridiculed the entire governance system of the bank which has been in place since 1964.
“If we do not rise up and defend the African Development Bank, this might mean the end of the AfDB as its governance will be hijacked away from Africa.
“I therefore propose that we all collectively issue a press statement to support the laid down procedures embarked upon to evaluate the allegations against the President of the bank and recommend that the board of governors and ethics committee of the bank should firmly stand by their processes and outcome,” the letter partly reads.
Obasanjo said under Adesina, the AFDB had witnessed unprecedented growth and doubled its capital base from $93bn when he took over in 2015, to $208bn today.
The former President said Adesina, who is the first Nigerian to be in charge of the AfDB, had also ensured that the bank maintained its AAA credit rating.
He noted that amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Adesina exhibited leadership traits by swiftly putting together a $10bn intervention for African countries.
Obasanjo said Adesina’s achievements prompted ECOWAS nations as well as all 55 African Union member states to endorse him for a second term which was set for late May, but has been postponed until August because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The African Development Bank has 80 state shareholders, 54 of which are African, while others are from the Americas, Asia and Europe. The biggest shareholder is Nigeria, with nine percent.