Akinwumi Adesina, African Development Bank president, has denied violating any process of the bank.
Adesina, in a statement, said “the bank’s institutional framework was solid and efficient” and he stood by it. He insisted that he was innocent of allegations levelled against him. The AfDB boss also said he would continue working as the head of the organisation.
Adesina spoke out after the AfDB board ordered “a new and independent probe” of his activities in the bank. The bank’s board is believed to have succumbed to pressure from the United States, which had demanded an independent probe of the allegations.
Adesina has been accused of corruption and favouritism by some anonymous whistleblowers, and although the AfDB’s ethics committee cleared him of wrongdoing, the US pressed for an independent probe into the charges.
Specifically, he was accused of giving contracts to acquaintances, appointing relatives and friends to strategic positions, and giving preferential treatment to Nigeria and Nigerians.
The independent probe ordered by the AfDB board is coming barely three months to the bank’s Annual General Meeting, where Adesina is expected to get the nod for a second term. Currently, the Nigerian is the sole presidential candidate.
It is believed that the US is bent on removing Adesina as president of the bank, having initially opposed his nomination and election as the AfDB president in 2015.
In a statement he personally signed, the AfDB president described his travails as “unprecedented attempts by some” to tarnish his reputation and “prejudice the bank’s governance procedures”.
“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,” he said.
Adesina, the first Nigerian to head the financial institution, said he had received ‘tremendous support’ across the world.
He equally expressed appreciation for the support of the bank’s shareholders.
The AfDB boss said, “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 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.”
Vowing to continue as the AfDB President, he said, “I will therefore continue to work with each and every one of our shareholders to ensure that the AfDB 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 fulfil the mission of our founders to accelerate and transform Africa’s development.”
Nigeria is a major shareholder of the AfDB, Africa’s largest multilateral development financial institution, and the Federal Government had backed Adesina for a second term as the bank’s president.
The US Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, had spearheaded the push for an independent probe after openly rejecting the decision of the bank’s ethics committee to clear Adesina of the allegations. Mnuchin’s position was supported by Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland, which are all stakeholders in the bank.
In demanding an independent probe, the US noted that the ethics committee did not conduct proper investigation into the allegations, and did not follow international standards and the bank’s rules and procedures in arriving at its decision.
The US claimed that Adesina and several top officials of the bank sabotaged the activities of the ethics committee. The allegations by the ‘whistleblowers’, alleged to be the US representative in the bank – Mr Stephen Dowd – were levelled against Adesina on January 16, 2020.