I am Innocent: AfDB President, Adesina Responds to Trumped-Up Allegations

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SWITZERLAND, MAY 28 – The president of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Akinwumi Adesina pledged to continue working as he fought back against allegations of corruption and favouritism leveled against him.

Anonymous whistleblowers had accused Adesina of embezzlement, preferential treatment of Nigerians in senior appointments and promoting people accused or found guilty of fraud and corruption.

Adesina issued a press statement on Wednesday in which he strongly criticised what he termed “unprecedented attempts” to taint his reputation with accusations which have shaken the institution.

“I maintain my innocence with regard to trumped up allegations that unjustly seek to impugn my honour and integrity, as well as the reputation of the African Development Bank,” Adesina said.

“I am confident that fair, transparent and just processes that respect the rules, procedures and governance systems of the Bank, and rule of law, will ultimately prove that I have not violated the Code of Ethics of this extraordinary institution.”

Adesina’s response comes after the US Treasury Department wrote a letter urging the AfDB to carry out an independent investigation into the alleged ethics breaches by Adesina.

However, an internal inquiry by the Bank’s Ethics Committee cleared Adesina of all charges prompting whistle-blowers to demand an independent inquiry after their complaint did not appear to gain momentum.

Mnuchin said that a complete dismissal of allegations against Adesina without adequate investigation would taint the AfDB’s reputation at a critical point in time. He added that further inquiry was necessary to ensure the AfDB’s President had “broad support, confidence, and a clear mandate” from shareholders.

Today’s Echo gathers that the AfDB bowed to US pressure on Wednesday and agreed to a fresh probe of Adesina.

The 60-year-old has previously denied the allegations labeling them as an attempt to discredit him from seeking another term at the helm of Africa’s largest multilateral lender.

In a memo, quoted by media sources, 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.

Mr Dowd is the U.S. government representative at the bank.

Adesina, formerly Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, was elected as the 8th President of the AfDB in 2015. He is the sole candidate in this year’s race at an annual general meeting scheduled for August.

The United States is the second largest shareholder of the AfDB with a 6.5 percent stake behind Nigeria, Adesina’s home country, which has a nine percent stake. However, 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.

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 of the African Legal Support Facility and the Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa.

Many people in Africa believe Adesina is a victim of Western domineering influence on African politics. The former Nigerian Minister of Agriculture has received support from across the continent as he battles to clear his name.

Former director-general of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Arunma Oteh, took to Twitter to declare her support for Akinwunmi Adesina.

“President @AfDB_Group is a man of integrity & a great leader. He remains the best man 2lead Africa’s great institution 4the next 5 years. I was #AfDB Staff17 years – loan officer 4North & West Africa -Treasurer and Group VP [and I know this],” she wrote.

Also declaring his support and praying for things to be resolved amicably was Minister of Finance, Economy and Planning of Equatorial Guinea, Cesar Mba Abogo, who said: “…as a testimony of my support for Dr. Adesina and all the Bank executives who have personally and adversely [been] affected by this situation and unfounded allegations, a few verses penned by John Donne (and popularised by Hemingway) come to mind.

“’No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee’.”

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