Despite the growing demand for his probe and speculation of his stepping aside, Nigeria’s former minister of Agriculture and current president of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Mr Akinwumi Adesina, has maintained his innocence insisting that the bank was committed to overcoming Africa’s challenges.
President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Mr Akinwumi Adesina, has restated his innocence in the face of allegations made against him by a group of “concerned staff” at the institution.
The AfDB president has also denied ever stepping down from office following the allegation of fraud amidst negative media reports to allow for investigation.
Adesina, in a statement, said “the bank’s institutional framework is solid and efficient and he stands by it.”
The statement reads: “In recent weeks and over the last few days especially, I have been overwhelmed by the tremendous support received from around the world. I have absolute confidence in the integrity of the Bank that I lead and its governance systems, rules and procedures.
“In spite of unprecedented attempts by some to tarnish my reputation and prejudice the Bank’s governance procedures, I maintain my innocence with regard to trumped up allegations that unjustly seek to impugn my honor and integrity, as well as the reputation of the African Development Bank.
“At this time, I remain confident that ultimately and as one collective, the Bank will emerge stronger than before and continue to support Africa’s development drive. I draw great inspiration from my heroes, Nelson Mandela and Kofi Annan, whose lives have shown that through pain we grow. As Martin Luther King Jnr. once said, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.
“I will therefore continue to work with each and every one of our shareholders to ensure that the African Development Bank maintains its hard earned global reputation; and that our credible and well-functioning institutional and governance systems are reinforced, as we collectively press on to fulfill the mission of our founders to accelerate and transform Africa’s development.”
We learnt that the bank’s Board of Governors cleared Adesina of the allegations after its ethics committee looked into the matter.
Informed sources indicated that the news first carried by Bloomberg to the effect that the AfDB president had stepped aside for so-called ‘independent investigation” was false.
“The Bank’s Board of Governors has not conceded to America’s demands” the source stated, adding that to do so would be to concede to the implied position that the Bank’s internal structures are compromised.
“The full course of the Bank’s internal framework was resorted to with the United States in tow, and the Whistleblowers’ allegations against Adesina were declared to be spurious.
“Now the three American officials involved in this show of shame have resorted to thuggery and fake news as their medium for besmearing an otherwise respected institution.”
The whole saga started with a whistle-blowers’ complaint filed in January against the AfDB president accusing him of breaching 20 of the institution’s code of conduct. The breaches, according to the group, included “unethical conduct, private gain, an impediment to efficiency, preferential treatment, and involvement in political activities.”
The unidentified staff members also alleged that Adesina handed contracts to acquaintances and appointed relatives to strategic positions in the institution.
On May 5, the Ethics Committee of the bank headed by Takuji Yano, dismissed the allegations as “spurious and unfounded,” adding that Adesina was not guilty on all counts.
However, the US Department of Treasury, in a letter credited to its secretary, Steve Mnuchin, disagreed with the Bank’s Ethics Committee’s decision to “totally exonerate” Adesina.
In the letter dated May 22 and directed at the chairwoman of the AfDB’s Board of Governors, Niale Kaba, the US rejected the dismissal of the allegations, and called for further investigation.
“We have deep reservations about the integrity of the Committee’s process. Instead, we urge you (AfDB) to initiate an in-depth investigation of the allegations using the services of an independent outside investigator of high professional standing,” Mnuchin wrote.
He further stated that “undertaking an independent evaluation of facts, at any stage, is not at odds with a presumption of innocence”.
However, Adesina in the new statement said he was confident that the bank “ultimately and as one collective” would emerge stronger than before and continue to support Africa’s development drive.
He said, ‘I am confident that fair, transparent and just processes that respect the rules, procedures and governance systems of the Bank, and the rule of law, will ultimately prove that I have not violated the Code of Ethics of this extraordinary institution.”
Mr Adesina accused the petitioners of violating Section 6.7.2 of the Whistle Blowing Policy of the bank by breaching the confidentiality of the proceedings of the matter by making public disclosure of the matter beyond submission to the ethics committee.
He accused the petitioners of disclosing their allegations beyond the committee by acting in concert with others outside the AfDB system.
“The point about others acting in concert with the whistle-blowers is not speculation. A group of independent Bank staff members apparently wrote a “Disassociation Note” on March 9, 2020, in which they explained that they had been members of a group called “Group of Concerned Staff Members,” namely the whistle-blowers behind the Disclosure, but that they had been “manipulated by a group of non-regional executive directors behind Mr (Steven) Dowd, not for the good governance of the African Bank of Development, but to discredit the candidacy of the current president for his re-election,” Mr Adesina said in his memo to the committee.
“Certainly if the Disassociation Note is to be believed, and there is no reason not to believe it, the whistle-blowers’ complaint cannot be considered to be in good faith, because it was not designed to expose fraud, corruption or other misconduct. Instead it had another ulterior motive,” he added.
Meanwhile, reacting to the whistleblower complaint, the chairman of the Board of Governors at the AfDB and minister of Planning and Development of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire, Mme Niale Kaba, said on Tuesday, 26 May, the office of the Board of Governors of the African Development Bank Group held a meeting to examine the matter arising from a complaint from the Board of Directors of the Bank, and about that which “I received from some shareholders expressing different points of view.
“Following this meeting, several publications in the international press were brought to my attention concerning the content of the deliberations of said meeting. This leads me to make clarifications to avoid any misunderstanding.
“The Office which I chair wishes to reassure the public that it has taken up the matter and is treating it with the greatest rigour and with all the seriousness that it deserves. However, the Office informs the public that no decision has been made as falsely conveyed in some publications.
“I must emphasise that there is no institutional crisis within the African Development Bank Group. Above all, in no case has the President of the Bank Group been asked to resign.
“Everyone must allow the Office to do its work and let the process of examining this case take its course. The opinion of all the governors will be sought for its successful outcome.”
The United States is one of the Group of seven nations holding 28 per cent investment grade equity in AfDB.
The others include Germany and Japan. About 41 per cent of their Group’s shareholding is held by non-regionals and multilateral development finance institutions.
The AfDB Group comprises three entities: the African Development Bank (AfDB), the African Development Fund (ADF) and the Nigeria Trust Fund (NTF).
The United States has been a member of the ADF since 1976 as well as the AfDB since 1983.
The U.S. is the second largest shareholder of the AfDB with a 6.5 per cent stake behind Nigeria, Adesina’s home country, which has a nine per cent stake.
In 2008, the U.S. government, through a bilateral cooperation spelled out in the Memorandum of Understanding with the Bank signed with United State Agency for International Development (USAID), launched a five-year partnership.
The pact was in support of African small and medium-sized enterprises to accelerate investment in Africa.
The agreement also provided co-financing arrangements for a shared contribution of 40 per cent for the bank, 10 per cent for USAID and 50 per cent for other partnering banks.
Another Memorandum of Understanding was concluded in May 2016 with the Millennium Challenge Corporation that provides for sharing information and data, particularly in the power sector, focusing on mobilising private investment.
In addition to developing financial assistance, the U.S. government also provides support for productive investment and local development in the member countries of the AfDB.
Besides, USAID and the AfDB are cooperating on to establish a Multi-Donor Trust Fund for the agriculture sector, among others.
Under the arrangement, the USAID has committed about $11 million to the Multi-Donor Agriculture Fast Track Fund to facilitate project preparation in the agriculture sector in partnership with the African Legal Support Facility and the Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa.
Adesina, who is contesting for a second term as the continental bank’s president, restated his commitment to work with all stakeholders of the Bank to ensure that it continues to maintain its hard-earned global reputation.
The former Nigerian minister of Agriculture and Rural Development is the only candidate for AfDB’s election scheduled to hold in August.
Adesina, who has also brought about several innovations in the financial power, has already been endorsed by African leaders for a second term due in September.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) at its 56th ordinary session of Heads of States endorsed the re-election of Adesina as President of the African Development Bank (AfDB). The ECOWAS nod was followed shortly after by an endorsement by the African Union (AU).
According to the ECOWAS leaders, “In recognition of the sterling performance of Akinwumi Adesina during his first term of office as President of the African Development Bank, the Authority endorses his candidacy for a second term.”
The ECOWAS and African Union endorsements are connected to the increased prominence Adesina has brought to the bank and Africa’s development and infrastructure needs.
Adesina took over the helm of Africa’s premier development finance institution in 2015.
In 2017, he was awarded the World Food Prize (an award that has been dubbed the Nobel Prize of Agriculture) for his accomplishments in spearheading a transformation of Nigeria’s agriculture sector.
The World Food Prize Foundation lauded Adesina’s qualitative leadership and his visionary roles over the past two decades in promoting Agriculture with the Rockefeller Foundation, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), and as Minister of Agriculture of Nigeria.
In 2019, Adesina was awarded the prestigious Sunhak Peace Prize.
During his tenure, the bank has seen its fortunes rise on several fronts, including the largest general capital increase in its history with a capital base of $208 billion dollars.
In the 2018, Aid Transparency Index Report, released by ‘Publish What You Fund’, the African Development Bank was ranked 4th among 45 development organisations around the world.