The president of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina, hit back on Wednesday at accusations of corruption, favouritism and vowed to continue working. In a statement, he personally signed and emailed to Daily Trust, Adesina slammed ‘unprecedented attempts by some to tarnish my reputation and prejudice the Bank’s governance procedures”.
The former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development stressed that he has not violated the code of ethics of the bank. “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.
The United States is pressing for an independent probe into charges by whistleblowers — declared as unfounded by an internal inquiry — of alleged embezzlement and favouritism under Adesina, a Nigerian seeking a second five-year term at the helm. “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,” he added.
Daily Trust had reported that the chances of Dr. Adesina getting a second term as president of the bank are being threatened following allegations of corruption and favouritism levelled against him. Election to the coveted seat of the AfDB president is fast approaching while pressure from different quarters is increasing by the day for the Nigerian-born development banker not to get a second chance at the continental financial institution. Beyond the African continent, world leaders have vested interests in how the affairs of AfDB are run.
Adesina’s travails began when a group of anonymous concerned staff of the bank, riding on the whistle-blowing policy, had in an 18-page petition titled ‘Communication relating to alleged breach of the Code of Ethics by the President of the African Development Bank Group,’ addressed to the Board of Governors of the AfDB, accused Adesina of breaching the code of ethics of the development finance institution. In the petition written in April 2020, the complainants said they had previously filed a complaint on January 19, regarding cases of alleged breach of the said code of ethics by the AfDB president.
The complaint was filed with the ethics committee of the board of directors through the chair of the committee, ED Yano (Japan), the chair of the audit committee, ED Dowd (USA), and the director for the integrity and anti-corruption department, Mr. Bacarese. They stated: “We feel it has become our duty to alert you directly about the very serious situation that the bank faces, which could in the short term threaten its very existence if no action is taken.
“Our complaint illustrates various cases of alleged breaches of the code of conduct: unethical conduct, private gain, impediment to efficiency, preferential treatment adversely affecting confidence in the integrity of the bank and involvement in political activity,” the petitioners added.
The group further alleged that the ethics committee failed to act within reasonable time hence the need to escalate it to the governors of the bank. “On March 3rd, six weeks after our initial complaint, we came to the conclusion that the ethics committee was unable or unwilling to proceed with their preliminary examination of the complaint and that we should not have trusted it. “The committee could not give us reassurances of any progress, on the contrary, attempts were made to uncover our identities, which should have been protected under the whistle-blowing policy,” they alleged.
The petitioners also claimed that they “fear that if a stronger scrutiny is not placed by the board of directors and the board of governors on these two aspects, and that if politics or scare tactics prevent staff, executive directors and governors from requesting accountability and integrity from the top or if they allow for double standards, the bank might not survive as staff will leave, trust in the institution will deteriorate, shareholders will question their support.”
Even though Adesina had reportedly “cleared” the allegations levelled against him and therefore to certain extent improved his chances of getting a second term, the United States’ Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, unequivocally objected the purported “in-house” exoneration of the embattled Adesina by the AfDB board. Analysts believed this might not be unconnected with the position of the whistle-blowers who insisted for the urgent commission of an independent investigation into the alleged excesses of Adesina.