It has been an interesting 48 hours for the African Development Bank (AfDB). Many continue to back its President, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, even as the United States Government continues its push to pluck him off his position.
The Chair of the Bureau of the Boards of Governors and Ivorian Minister of Finance, Madam Nialé Kaba, said Thursday, as part of efforts to douse tension and re-state the Bureau’s backing of Adesina: “The Bureau of the Boards of Governors of the African Development Bank met on Tuesday, 26 May to consider the matter arising from a whistleblowers’ complaint against the President of the Bank, which was dealt with by the Ethics Committee of Board of Directors of the Bank and for which I received letters from some shareholders expressing various views.
“Following the meeting, my attention has been drawn to several publications in the national and international press regarding the content of the deliberations of the said meeting, and I am compelled to make clarifications in order to avoid any misunderstanding.
“The Bureau, which I chair, wishes to reassure the public that it is seized with the matter and that it is treating it with the utmost seriousness that it deserves.
“Further, the Bureau informs the public that it has not taken any decision as falsely conveyed in some publications.
“I must emphasise that there is no governance or constitutional crisis at the African Development Bank Group. It is indeed false that the President of the Bank Group has been or is being asked to step down from his position.
“Everyone must allow the Bureau to do its work and allow due process to reign. All the Governors will be carried along in resolving the issue.”
Elsewhere, a former General Counsel of the AfDB, has lined up behind Adesina, and has more or less told the other shareholders to call the bluff of the United States.
In a trending piece on social media, he wrote: “As a former General Counsel of the AfDB and one who is familiar with the facts, processes, rules and policies of the institution, allow me to offer a few clarifications.
“First, AfDB has 78 shareholders, 55 African countries and 33 Non-African countries, including all of the G7 countries.
“The largest shareholder is Nigeria. Although the US is the largest non-African shareholder, I believe it is currently the 3rd largest shareholder after Nigeria and Egypt. Of course, it is the biggest economic power in the World, for now.
“Allegations were made against the AfDB President. Let us leave aside for now the fact that he is a Nigerian or African.
“The allegations surfaced after it became clear he was going to be the sole candidate for the election this year, and it was inevitable he would be re-elected for a 2nd term.
“There are internal processes for reviewing such allegations, independent of the President.
“The Ethics Committee, which I established as General Counsel, is a committee composed exclusively of Board members.
“The General Counsel serves as Secretary to the Ethics Committee. The purpose of the Committee is to review allegations of ethical misconduct by Executive Directors (Board members) and the President.
“It has powers to make recommendations in the case of the President to the Chairman of the Board of Governors of AfDB.
“The Board of Governors is the highest decision-making organ of the AfDB. If after reviewing allegations, the Ethics Committee finds that the allegations are frivolous, it recommends that they are dismissed. If it finds that they are not, it recommends to the Chairperson of the Board of Governors that they should be investigated.
“In this case, the Ethics Committee’s recommendation was that the allegations were frivolous and should be dismissed, because they were not substantiated by the “whistleblowers” and some were patently ridiculous.
“The Chairperson of the Board of Governors, who sits in a quasi appellate position in this process reviews the report of the Ethics Committee and decides to uphold the recommendation.
“Now, the Ethics Committee has 3 African Executive Directors and 2 Non-African Executive Directors (all representatives of shareholders or member states).
“It is chaired by a Japanese ED and the US ED is a member.
“Please tell me why from a corporate governance perspective one shareholder out of 78 shareholders should dictate a position different from that taken by independent oversight organs, simply because they do not agree with the conclusions of these independent oversight bodies?
“We all know that the current administration in the US has a track record of intolerance for multilateral organisations and has sought to bully other nation states into accepting its position on issues in these organisations.
“The most recent example being the WHO. Recently, the WTO Director General also had to resign, because of harassment by the current US administration.
“As a former General Counsel and an international lawyer, as well as a believer in the rule of law, I strongly take exception to the US position.
“I hope that the institution will resist this bully tactic and protect the AfDB from an unnecessary and potentially destructive corporate governance crisis.
“Africa needs AfDB. We should stand up for what is legal, fair and just.”
And former President Olusegun Obasanjo, wrote in a letter to 13 former African heads of state:
“I hope that you are keeping well in the midst of the current COVID 19 pandemic that we are all going through in Africa and all over the world. I am writing to you in respect of developments at the African Development Bank.
“As you may be aware the President of the Bank, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina has performed very well in this position over the past five years. He has taken the Bank to great heights. In 2020, he led the Bank to achieve a historic general capital increase, raising the capital of the Bank from $93 billion to $208 billion, an increase of $155 billion, the highest in the history of the Bank since its establishment in 1964.
“I have been made to understand that the Bank also successfully raised funds from donor countries of over $7 billion for the African Development Fund 15th replenishment for low-income countries, an increase of 35%.
“Under his leadership the Bank launched the Africa Investment Forum (AIF) to mobilize massive flows of capital to Africa. The inaugural launch of the AIF held in Johannesburg, South Africa, secured 38.7 Billion of investment interests within less than 72 hours. The AIF event held in 2019 went even further and secured $40.1 Billion of investment interest in less than 72 hours. Africa has never seen these kinds of financial and investment interests.
“The Bank has been effectively positioned as an effective global institution, ranked 4th globally in terms of transparency among 45 multilateral and bilateral institutions by Publish What You Fund, an outfit that consists of 19 developed economies. Dr. Adesina led the Bank to successfully launch at the G7 Summit in Biarritz, France, the Affirmative Finance Action for Women (AFAWA) to mobilize $3 Billion for women businesses and entrepreneurs in Africa, with strong support and resources from G7 leaders and nations.
“The Bank has also substantially aligned its financing and operations to help accelerate Agenda 2063 and the High 5 agenda of the Bank (Light Up and Power Africa; Feed Africa; Industrialize Africa; Integrate Africa; and Improve the Quality of Life of the People of Africa) are achieving good results. Over the past four years, it is estimated that 18 million people were provided with access to electricity, through “Light Up and Power Africa”; 141 million people gained access to improved agricultural technologies for food security, through “Feed Africa”; 13 million people benefited from access to finance from private sector investment projects, through “Industrialize Africa”; 101 million people benefitted from access to better transport through “integrate Africa”; 60 million people benefit from improved access to water and sanitation under “Improved quality of life for the people of Africa. In summary: in less than five years under Dr. Adesina’s leadership, the Bank’s investments have benefitted and impacted a total of 333 million Africans.
“You will agree with me that these achievements are commendable and the Bank has been placed in a strategic position to fast track Africa’s development. Finally, under Dr. Adesina’s leadership of the Bank, it has continued to maintain its Triple A (AAA) rating by all global rating agencies over the past five years.
“As Africa faces COVID-19, Dr. Adesina again took bold measures to ensure the Bank can respond proactively to support African countries and got its Board of Directors to approve a $10 Billion crisis response facility to support African countries. In addition, the Bank successfully launched a $3 billion “Fight COVID-19” social impact bond on the international capital market, secured at 0.75% interest rate.
“The social bond is the largest US dollar denominated bond ever in world history. The bond is now listed on the London Stock Exchange where it has been oversubscribed at $4.6 billion.
“Given these great achievements, Dr. Adesina was unanimously endorsed for re-election for a second term as President of the Bank by all Heads of State and Governments of the ECOWAS region. At the Africa Union
Summit in February of 2020, all 55 African countries endorsed him for reelection for his second term, as the sole candidate as President of the African Development Bank.
“Despite these achievements and impressive leadership for the Bank and passion for Africa’s faster-paced development, and his clear endorsement by all of African countries for re-election for his second term, there are some attempts, led by some non-regional member countries of the Bank to frustrate his re-eleetion. At issue are some allegations made by some whistleblowers that alleged that Dr. Adesina violated Code of Ethics as President. Dr. Adesina strongly denied the allegations as fabrications and misinformation to disparage and discredit him.
“The laid down due process at the Bank, 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 over a period of 3 months. The Ethics Committee of the Board of Directors, after examination of each of the 16 allegations of the whistleblowers had dismissed each and all of the allegations as baseless and without any substantiation. The Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Bank following review of the Ethics Committee report exonerating Dr. Adesina concurred with the conclusions and exonerated Dr. Adesina of all the allegations. The Ethics Committee and the Chairman of the Board of Governors had performed their duties as laid down in the Rules and regulations of the Bank.
“Unfortunately, the US Government, through the US Treasury Secretary, has written a public letter (that was also distributed to the Press globally) to disagree with the conclusions of the Ethics Committee of the Board of Directors and the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Bank. Instead of accepting the exoneration of the President of the Bank, they 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 ridiculed the entire governance system of the Bank, which has been in place since 1964. This is unprecedented in the annals of the African Development Bank Group. If we do not rise up and defend the African Development Bank, this might mean the end of the African Development Bank, 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 to recommend that the Board of Governors as well as the Ethics Committee of the Bank should firmly stand by their process and its outcome. We should speak against the introduction of alien practices being recommended by some parties given that such recommendation falls outside the laid down procedure, laws, rules and regulations of the Bank. It is also critical that we emphasize the need for the ADB to remain an Africa-focused development Bank rather than one which serves interests outside Africa.
“I have taken the liberty to offer a draft of the proposed joint statement for your kind review, input and/or endorsement. My aide, Atom Lim, will share the draft statement and collate your respective responses for me. He is reachable via email@example.com.
“Please accept, Your Excellencies, the assurances of my highest esteem and consideration.”
Dr. Victor Oladokun, Former Director of Communication & External Relations, African Development Bank at African Development Bank Group, one of those mentioned in the petition against Adesina, was livid at publications that flew the kite of his former boss stepping down.
He exploded: “The information is blatantly false and fits a deliberate campaign of calumny and misinformation. #AkinwumiAdesina has NOT stepped down and is still President of the African Development Bank’s Africa’s premier development institution. #africandevelopmentbank #Afdb #africanunion #fakenews
To his post on Twitter, Arunma Oteh, a scholar in a British University and former Director General (DG) of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in Nigeria wrote: “Thanks @ Dr. Victor Oladokun for alerting us to this fake news. God will not permit #fakenews to be used as a weapon to tarnish the hard earned integrity of Dr Akinwumi Adesina. These are very challenging times globally because of #covid19 and it is a pity that a few aggrieved people are trying to distract #AkinAdesina and African Development Bank Group who are leading #war against this #coronavirus and #locust19. They should focus on the important work that #Africa needs them to continue doing and not be deterred. It is impossible no matter how had they try to tarnish the hard earned integrity of #AkinAdesina. #integrity I am glad that African leaders will not remain silent in the face of injustice. The founding Father of the #AfricanDevelopmentBank, late #RomeoHurton and former #CentralBankGovernor of #Liberia said his motivation for the idea of the #AfDB was to have an institution where Africans have a say. I understand he and #MartinLutherKing were classmates at #MoreHouseCollege”.
Ms. Oteh should know how the system works having been at the ADB for 17 years, occupying positions that included Group Vice President, Corporate Services (2006 to 2009) and Group Treasurer (2001 to 2006).
After her stint as DG of SEC, she became Treasurer at the World Bank in September 2015.
Oteh left her position at the World Bank in late 2018 to join St Antony’s College, Oxford University, as an academic scholar and an executive-in-residence at Saïd Business School.
Recall that Nigeria online newspaper, Premium Times, last Wednesday published the allegations levelled against Adesina and his response to them.
In the report, the newspaper said Akinwumi told the bank’s ethics committee that allegations of impropriety and fraud against him were “frivolous and not based on objective and solid facts”.
The report reads further:
On January 19, 2020, a group within the bank petitioned the committee, headed by Takuji Yano, the institution’s Japan Executive Director, to demand investigations into 16 allegations against Mr Adesina.
In the petition, the group which has not revealed the identity of its members, alleged “breaches of the Code of Conduct of Elected Officers of the Bank” by Mr Adesina.
On February 7, the committee formally dispatched a copy of the petition to Mr Adesina and demanded his official response.
On February 10 and March 10, Mr Adesina’s legal counsel sent letters to the Committee on the matter but their contents were not acted upon.
The Committee said the AfDB president did not inform them the lawyer was acting on his behalf over the matter.
On April 8, Mr Adesina sent a memorandum that highlighted his responses to all the allegations.
He said the document provided “specific facts” to show the allegations did not meet the standards to merit as a ‘whistle-blower complaint under the terms spelt out in the Bank’s Whistleblowing and Complaints Handling Policy of January 2007.’
Mr Adesina said the petitioners were not acting in good faith, as a group of independent Bank staff members who confessed to being former members of the “Group of Concerned Staff Members,” wrote a “Disassociation Note” on March 9, 2020.
The AfDB President told the committee “the former group members said they were being manipulated by a group of non-regional Executive Directors behind Steven Dowd,” to discredit his (Adesina) candidacy for his re-election. Mr Dowd represents the U.S. at the bank.
He told the committee the confession of the former Group members was “sufficient evidence the petition was not to expose fraud, corruption or other misconduct, but for other ulterior motives”.
Reproduced below is Mr Adesina’s response to the allegations:
Allegation No. 2: Appointment of Mrs Chinelo ANOHU-AMAZU
ADESINA: Ms Chinelo Anohu-AMAZU was recruited through a globally advertised, open and competitive recruitment process. The search process was carried out by a top notch external recruitment firm, Russell Reynolds of the UK. She was one of two top candidates (both women) recommended to me as President to consider for appointment by the panel. But, I can state categorically that the allegations made against her are untrue and defamatory.
Allegation No 3: Appointment and promotions of Martin FREGENE
ADESINA: Mr Fregene is NOT my brother-in-law. There is no evidence he is. Second, Mr Fregene is a world-class geneticist, internationally renowned for his work on plant genetics of cassava, and who worked earlier at CIAT, Colombia, one of the CGIAR centres, and subsequently as Director at the Danforth Plant Science Centre (probably the second largest private agricultural research centres in the United States).
He returned from the diaspora to Nigeria to work as Chief Technical Advisor when I was Minister of Agriculture in Nigeria. He was hired as a consultant by the Bank Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development, Jennifer Blake, to support her in the development of the Bank’s Feed Africa strategy. I approved the recommended hire which was entirely within my power to do.
Allegation No. 4: Mismanagement of the TAAT programme
ADESINA: Allegations against me concerning the TAAT are belied by objective and solid facts demonstrating no violation by me of the Code of Conduct.
TAAT is an initiative of the Bank developed to help take agricultural technologies to the scale of millions of farmers across Africa.
Although some staff made some mistakes in the procurement process, this is being investigated by the Bank and no findings have been made yet. There was no impropriety.
The president does not get involved in contractual issues in the Bank, except in cases involving matters that may affect the image, reputation and interests of the Bank.
Allegation No. 5: Appointments and promotions of Mrs Maria MULUNDI
ADESINA: Ms Maria Mulindi worked with me prior to joining the Bank. She was part of my transition management team as I prepared to take office at the Bank following my election as President, and she very ably led all engagements with the Bank with my transition team. All Presidents of the Bank are allowed to bring in and appoint their own Chief of Staff and advisers, to help them to implement their mandate.
Allegation No 6: Direct contracting and appointment of Victor OLADOKUN
ADESINA: We went to the university together and have been very close friends since then. There is nothing in the Bank rules that says that being a friend of anyone in the Bank who gets recruited at the Bank is against Bank rules.
Allegation No. 7: Contracting of Kapil KAPOOR
ADESINA: The African Development Bank, under my chairmanship of the Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) Heads, was tasked to help further develop my proposal to the group on how we can work collectively to leverage global institutional investors to invest in infrastructure and other sectors.
Kapil Kapoor, who was previously the Director of Strategy and Policies of the Bank, prior to his appointment as the Director General for Southern Africa, had been leading this work working closely with all other MDBs.
Kapil was essentially doing this work on top of his regular work as Director General. He retired from the Bank at the end of August 2019.
Allegation No. 8: Appointment of Emmanuel EZINWA:
ADESINA: The allegation that “A Nigerian, Mr EZINWA was found guilty of sexually harassing a colleague during his probation period; and despite his misconduct, (I) requested that Mr. EZINWA’s contract be confirmed, thus forcing the HR Director, Mrs Frauke HARNISCHFEGER resign is false.
The truth is that I do not know Mr EZINWA and have never met him in the Bank. The President does not get involved in any staff appraisals except for Vice Presidents and direct reports.
The then HR Director, Mr. David Ssegawa, evaluated the staff and there was nothing about sexual harassment.
Mrs Frauke HARNISCHFEGER was not the HR Director in 2018. The HR Director in 2018 was Mr David Ssegawa, who evaluated the staff and recommended the staff, as per the standard procedures of the Bank, to the President. Ms HARNISCHFEGER joined the Bank in 2019, one year after a confirmation recommendation made by the predecessor HR Director.
Allegation No 9: Preferential treatment for Nigeria and Nigerians
ADESINA: I did not introduce an organisational chart with a Nigeria Country Directorate. The decision to open a Nigeria Country Directorate was taken by the Board of Directors under my predecessor, the former President of the Bank, Donald Kaberuka.
Allegation No 10: Awards received by the President and costs borne by the Bank
ADESINA: I received the World Food Prize ($250,000) and the Sunhak Peace Prize ($500,000) in recognition of a life of accomplishments in the field of agriculture. Although they were individual prizes, they brought great credit and prestige to the AfDB.
I brought further credit to myself and the Bank by donating these two cash awards for the establishment of the World Hunger Fighters Foundation, a foundation that has garnered contributions from others and now funds the Borlaug Adesina Fellows Fellowship for young African Agribusiness Innovators.
The expenses of the World Food Prize event, including musical entertainment (musical groups from Nigeria and the Glee Club from Purdue University (my alma mater) were defrayed by the World Food Prize Foundation.
Allegation 11: Settlements for staff separations
ADESINA: The allegation that somehow the former Chief Economist, Mr Celestine Monga, departed the Bank with improper payments is false. The Chief Economist was not dismissed. Contract non-renewal is not dismissal of staff.
Allegation 12: Resignation of Mr David SSEGAWA
ADESINA: Mr Ssegawa was the HR Director. It is not true that I, as President, allowed him to resign when there was an investigation. There was absolutely no investigation of David Ssegawa when he resigned, nor was one contemplated.
Allegation No 13: Resignation of Mr Michel-Cyr DJIENA-WEMBOU
ADESINA: The allegation that I allowed the country manager to resign when he was under investigation for corruption is false. The President does not run country offices. They are under a Director General and overall oversight of a Vice President.
Allegation No. 14: Appointment of Mr Charles LUFUMPA as acting VP and Chief Economist
ADESINA: The allegations against me over the appointment of Charles Lufumpa as Acting Vice President and Chief Economist are patently false. My conclusion after careful review of the case of Charles Lufumpa is that the investigations conducted were very faulty and cannot prove the allegations made against him. My review also showed a well-orchestrated effort to make Mr Lufumpa a scapegoat for failures of others to do their job.
Allegation No. 15: Disregard of rules concerning leave of absence of VPs or travel of management.
ADESINA: The President does not monitor or manage time off for staff as that’s done by the Human Resources. The truth is the Vice President had personal medical issues that he had to get attended to (his private life must be respected) that required him to be away for extended periods, as needed, and he travelled with full knowledge of the department of health of the Bank which was monitoring him while away on medical reasons.
Allegation No 16: Political lobbying of Heads of State
ADESINA: It is alleged that as President I basically bribed and corrupted the 16 African Heads of State and governments in the ECOWAS region to support my candidacy for re-election.
The allegation essentially impugns the integrity, leadership and honesty of 16 African presidents and ECOWAS. This is a fanciful and baseless allegation.
In summary, every single one of the 16 allegations against me in the Disclosure remains unsubstantiated. I have not violated the Code of Conduct. The Ethics Committee should so find and dismiss the matter.