Sunday, 31 May 2020

The US and the African Development Bank have fallen out over allegations of corruption against the bank's Nigerian head, writes former BBC Africa Business editor Larry Madowo.

Akinwumi Adesina is a sharp dresser known for his expensive tailored suits, immaculate white shirts and an endless supply of colourful bow ties.

But the clean public persona of the 60-year-old president of the African Development Bank (AfDB) is now being questioned after a string of corruption and abuse of office allegations from his own staff spilled into the open. Mr Adesina has denied all the allegations.

The board of governors of the 55-year-old institution met on Tuesday to discuss whether to bring in an outside investigator into the allegations concerning the Nigerian's conduct just days after the US rejected an initial inquiry that cleared him.

The prospects of an independent probe comes only three months before he was expected to be re-elected unopposed at its annual general meeting in August.

US at odds with Africa

The 20-point allegations of "impunity and bad governance" from unnamed employees have exposed a rift between Mr Adesina and ordinary staff.

The "Group of Concerned Staff Members of the AfDB" claimed that Mr Adesina has used the bank's resources for self-promotion and personal gain while also paying out huge but undeserved severance packages to staff who resigned mysteriously, and favouring his fellow Nigerians.

US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin personally signed a letter to the board rejecting an internal investigation that cleared Mr Adesina.

"Mnuchin's move is significant because it has now cast a limelight on governance issues and on [the] importance of an independent investigation to uphold the integrity of the AfDB," said Barbara Barungi, the bank's former lead economist on Nigeria. "There are very few people that were willing to stick their necks out."

Besides the core 54 African countries, the US is one of the 27 non-regional members of the AfDB and its second largest shareholder.

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AfDB's 10 biggest shareholders:

  • Nigeria: 9.1%; US: 6.5%; Egypt: 5.5%; Japan:5.4%;
  • South Africa: 4.9% Algeria: 4.1%; Germany: 4%;
  • Canada: 3.8%; Ivory Coast: 3.7%; France: 3.6%
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"I think AfDB is Africa's most valuable institution," said one insider who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"But what you have now is the biggest paymaster, the US, in a stand-off against the Africans. If you read Mnuchin's letter carefully, it has put the bank on notice."

The BBC has obtained the original whistleblowers' email from January 2020, sent to two executive directors of the bank, Yano Takuji (Japanese) and Steven Dowd (American), and the British director for its Integrity and Anti-Corruption Department Alan Bacarese.

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In an April update circulated to a wider pool of senior managers, the whistleblowers said the Ethics Committee headed by Mr Takuji failed to examine their concerns.

The committee later carried out an investigation and declared that Mr Adesina was "totally exonerated of all allegations made against him" and recommended that the board of governors adopt its conclusions.

In early May, the board's chair - Ivorian Planning Minister Nialé Kaba - wrote to shareholders that the African finance ministers who supervise the bank's management intended to clear Mr Adesina.

"We fear that the wholesale dismissal of all allegations without appropriate investigation will tarnish the reputation of this institution as one that does not uphold high standards of ethics and governance," Mr Mnuchin wrote back.

"Therefore, the United States cannot support dismissing the allegations at this stage," he added.

Mr Kaba said in a statement that a decision had not been made about Mr Adesina and he remained in office.

"The bureau, which I chair, wishes to reassure the public that it is seized with the matter and it is treating it with the utmost seriousness that it deserves," he said.

'Trumped up allegations'

The whistleblowers have accused Mr Adesina of major conflicts of interest in his dealings with current and former employees, unethical conduct and preferential treatment.

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Eight things about Akinwumi Adesina:

Akinwumi Adesina (R) and Donald TrumpImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
  • First Nigerian to lead AfDB
  • Elected for five-year term in September 2015
  • Was Nigeria's agriculture minister from 2011 until his move
  • Named Forbes Africa Person of the Year in 2013 for his "bold reforms" in farming sector
  • Was told by an academic in Nigeria he would never get into Purdue University as his maths was poor
  • Proved him wrong by getting into the prestigious US institution
  • Cancelled his admission to UK's respected Cambridge University
  • Got his PhD in agricultural economics in 2008

Sources: AfDB; Forbes magazine

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Mr Adesina, who holds a PhD in agricultural economics from Purdue University in the US, did not respond to BBC requests for comment but released a statement.

"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 honour and integrity," he wrote.

"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."

The AfDB board meeting is said to have agreed to an independent investigation into the allegations concerning Mr Adesina's conduct after Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland supported the US position, Bloomberg news agency first reported.

"Should it surprise the world that we're getting a second investigation backed by no African country? What does that say about the other countries that have lined up behind the US?" wonders Debisi Araba, a friend of Mr Adesina's.

"He's due to run unopposed but you want to muddy the waters with this stain of corruption. I believe he will be vindicated."

A woman leaves a supermarket  in Harare, Zimbabwe
Reuters
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Mr Araba worked for Mr Adesina in the Nigerian government and was also an intern at the bank while doing his PhD in 2009.

He says the bank has always had a culture of salacious rumour and gossip but faults the US for formalizing the "crass, bargain basement reasoning" into a complaint.

This was denied by a US Treasury spokesperson, who told the BBC: "The United States continues to value the AfDB and its efforts to promote development, reduce poverty, and address the current health and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on the African continent."

Chinese 'shopping spree in Africa'

Some policy analysts at think-tanks in Washington, DC, worry about the timing of the American pushback and its longer-term consequences in Africa.

"A prolonged battle will be a distraction for the AfDB when its resources are more desperately needed than ever for its borrowers," Nancy Birdsall, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development told the BBC.

She said it was not good for the AfDB if Mr Mnuchin was unhappy and suggested that "the US Treasury should look for some form of quiet compromise in which no-one loses face".

Ms Birdsall also reiterated a recommendation she made in a 2018 paper for the leadership of the AfDB to open up its shareholding, including to China and oil-rich economies.

Man waving a red flag during the launch of the first batch of Standard Gauge Railway freight locomotives at Mombasa Port - January 11, 2017Image copyrightAFP
Image captionChina has played a key role in improving infrastructure in Africa

But Daniel F Runde, senior vice-president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, disagreed.

He said the Abidjan-based bank that lends exclusively to African governments represented one of the few non-China-led and western-funded approaches to development on the continent.

"If Adesina is cleared, the US may need to mend fences with the management because China will probably go on a shopping spree in Africa after Covid-19, and we will need every non-Chinese tool to respond," he said.

Mr Runde saw Mr Mnuchin's letter as "disruption" and called it a good tactic but a poor strategy.

"Now that the Trump administration has caused disruption and perhaps made a point, they have to decide when this plays out," he said.

Emmanuel Cleaver
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Last October, the 81 shareholders of the bank pledged extra funds to more than double its capital to $208bn (£170bn).

Missouri Congressman Emmanuel Cleaver, who sponsored a bill backing the capital increase in the US House of Representatives, came out in support of the new inquiry.

"Independent accountability measures strengthen institutions and reinforce their legitimacy - both domestically and internationally. I am pleased the African Development Bank's Board agreed to take this important step," the Democrat told the BBC in a statement.

Mr Adesina is an eloquent advocate for Africa and the bank and a good fundraiser, but his detractors say he promises more than he delivers.

"His administration hasn't always been fantastic and perhaps he has run roughshod over some people. Maybe the practices haven't always been what they should be, and the feeling is that the board just whitewashed the investigation," the insider said.

Accused of favouring Nigerians

The whistleblowers also accused Mr Adesina of preferential treatment for Nigeria and Nigerians.

"I don't think we should trivialise the issues and reduce them to anti-Nigerian sentiment," said Ms Barungi, the Ugandan-born, Lagos-based former bank employee.

"It's really more about governance concerns that require attention and the investigation to help clear the air," she added.

Mr Araba, a Nigerian, said talk of the "Nigerianisation of the bank" was false as the country was under-represented in employee numbers despite being the largest shareholder.

Larry Madowo
BBC
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As the crisis at the bank escalates, employees, consultants and government officials in African capitals, as well as American foreign policy nerds, wonder how this impasse will end.

But at the Treasury building right next to the White House, Mr Mnuchin and his advisors are doubling down.

"Undertaking an independent evaluation of facts is not at odds with a presumption of innocence, and by promoting transparency and good governance, it can only strengthen the AfDB's capacity to deliver results to people across Africa," the spokesman told the BBC.

Mr Adesina's carefully curated career could crumble if a new investigation criticises his reign at the AfDB. His style is solid, but the substance is now under scrutiny.

Published in Business and Economy
  • Safety key to reopening

  • PTF, religious leaders meet in Abuja

  • No date yet for classes to start

Frank Ikpefan, Abuja/ The Nation

THE process to reopen schools and worship centres in the country has begun.

The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 has met with Christian and Islamic leaders to fine-tune the conditions for reopening churches and mosques, it was learnt.

Also on Wednesday, the PTF urged states, local governments and private proprietors to begin to take steps towards the return of pupils and students.

Ensuring the kids go to school safe is the critical issue before the reopening, Minister of State, Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, said at the daily briefing by the PTF in Abuja.

Schools, from primary to tertiary were closed nationwide by the government in March at the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic spread.

Since then, pupils and students have been at home. Some schools have been organising virtual lessons and lectures.

PTF Chairman Boss Mustapha using the advantage of the Children’s Day celebration, assured “them and their parents that all hands are on deck to reopen schools at a safe time.”

Listing some of the conditions, the minister, who denied that the government had given a June 8 date, said: “Those who are listening to us here should begin to listen to these plans. We don’t want to keep saying we are not ready. It is a forewarning to private and state governments that the only condition for which we are going to be reopening anywhere is that these places become ready to receive students and bring them home safely.”

The minister added that the reopening of schools may be staggered between students in junior and secondary levels to allow for social and physical distancing.

He said the government would consider introducing afternoon classes to ease crowdedness.

“We will do the same thing for primary school children where we may limit the number of children per class.

“What this may mean also is that we may have classes in the mornings, and then, have classes in the afternoons. So, whichever is convenient for you will now be divided. So that the whole of the infrastructure we have provided can serve us at different times.

“I am not sure whether there will be classes at night. We can do with morning and afternoon at the moment.”

The minister said that the ministry would also look at the sanitary condition of the schools before reopening, noting that schools must be ready to display manually-made hand sanitisers’ machine and be ready to receive the students by providing all the needed materials to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Nwajiuba explained that for tertiary institutions, there would be need to have a semester within a semester for the students.

He added that while some courses would do their semester first, others would follow suit in a bid to maintain social distancing measure.

He urged lecturers in tertiary institutions to use the period to upgrade themselves.

“Period like this should not be wasted and tertiary institutions must be functioning.’’

For secondary school students, the minister said that those in senior secondary might resume before their junior counterparts.

He said the plan was that the children should resume by the time schools had achieved the physical distancing measure.

He said: “For our secondary schools, we expect those who run them; our school based management committee (SBMC) should be able to look at what they need to do to manage them (schools) so that when we say that we are ready, there will be some readiness alongside everybody.

“We are going to publish a specification as to what we expect Covid -19 or post-covid-19 to look like. We are not talking about coping with COVID -19. There is a difference. We have come to understand that Covid -19 May not necessarily go away. So, we expect that we will adapt in the presence of Covid-19 what to do not in the absence of it. This is in spite of Covid-19 we will still have to work.

Published in News & Stories

Oziegbe Okoeki/ The Nation

LAGOS State Government will from July introduce what it describes as First Mile and Last Mile (FMLM) mobility solution to replace banned Okada and tricycle.

Transportation Commissioner Frederick Oladeinde, speaking yesterday at the 2020 ministerial press briefing at the JJT Park, Alausa, Ikeja, said: “Following the restriction of motorcycles and tricycles for commuter operations in some areas in the metropolis, the government is working on implementing a First Mile and Last Mile (FMLM) mobility solution.”

He explained that Okada and tricycle are not part of the state’s transport architecture, adding that they are constituting nuisance on the roads and responsible for the high rate of accidents and crimes.

“We have identified 285 last mile routes within the seven bus reform initiative zones across Lagos. We have developed bus specifications and shared same with potential bus manufacturers. We expect these to be rolled out in the next two months,” Oladeinde said.’

Lagos State Government has inaugurated 37 roads and carried out repairs and rehabilitation of more than 354 others.

It said that ongoing and uncompleted projects inherited from past administrations would be completed to improve the living standard of Lagosians.

The Special Adviser to the Governor on Works and Infrastructures, Aramide Adeyoye, who spoke yesterday at the 2020 ministerial press briefing at the JJT Park, Alausa, Ikeja said that one of the major projects inherited by the administration, which would be completed, was the Agege Pen Cinema flyover bridge designed to reduce travel time for residents of Ifako-Ijaiye, Agege and Alimosho local governments.

She said the Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu administration will make the 4th Mainland Bridge a reality, adding that the administration plans to expand the Agege-Berger Road to reduce travel time.

Published in Headliners

By Abankula/ PM News

A former director-general of the Imo Broadcasting Corporation (IBC), Mr Theophilus Okere, stabbed his wife to death early on Monday and he did not seem to know he had committed murder.

When asked about his wife after the murder, he replied: ‘My wife is sleeping”.

The murder happened at Imerinwe community in the Ngor-Okpala Local Government Area.

According to reports, the police have arrested the man.

Okere’s wife, Beatrice was described as a retiree of the Imo State Polytechnic, Umuagwo.

The couple had been married for 50 years. She was in her 70s.

Some reports said Okere ran away from home after the killing.

But the police arrested him following a tip off.

A source in Imerienwe said the 85-year-old former IBC boss had been suffering from dementia.

According to the source, Okere most times is not aware of his actions.

The source disclosed that the family had been managing Okere’s dementia for some time.

”Okere has been down with dementia and the family has been managing the problem.

”Even today that he stabbed his wife to death, when he was asked why he did it, he responded that his wife was still sleeping.

”The other Sunday, Okere went to church and said that his car was missing when in fact the car was parked in his compound,” the source said.

The spokesman of the Imo State Police Command, Mr Orlando Ikeokwu, who confirmed the incident, told NAN that the police had commenced investigation into the matter.

“It is true that the former director-general of the state-owned broadcasting corporation, Mr T.C. Okere, about 85-years, allegedly stabbed his wife to death this morning.

”The command has commenced investigation into the matter,” Ikeokwu said.

Imo state Commissioner of Police Isaac Akinmoyede also said investigation is ongoing to ascertain if the man committed the heinous crime.

Published in Headliners
Ayo Oluokun/Abuja/ PM News

The Kogi Governorship Election Tribunal has dismissed the case filed by Musa Wada, the PDP candidate against the election of Governor Yahaya Bello.

The three man panel of judges, led by Justice Ibrahim Kaigama gave its delayed ruling in Abuja on Saturday.

In a split judgement, the tribunal dismissed the petition of Musa Wada for lack of merit.

In addition, the tribunal asked him to pay N500,000 as costs to Bello, APC and INEC for his frivolous claims.

Musa Wada scored 189,704 votes to emerge the first runner-up of the November 16 election.

He challenged the victory of Yahaya Bello, who polled 406,222 votes.

Bello got the affirmation of two judges, while the minority judge, Ohimai Ovbiagele asked for fresh poll in 7 LGAs.

She said Wada was able to prove massive irregularities in the areas.

Meanwhile, the PDP candidate has vowed to challenge the judgment at the court of Appeal to seek for justice and reclaim what he termed as “stolen mandate”.

Before today’s ruling, the tribunal had also dismissed two other petitions against Bello.

Published in Business and Economy

Yunusa Dahiru, who abducted Ese Oruru, took her to Kano and forced her into marriage, has been sentenced to 26 years imprisonment.

Dahiru was sentenced on Thursday by a Federal High Court sitting in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State.

Justice Jane Inyang sentenced Dahiru to 26 years in prison in a judgment she delivered on Thursday.

Inyang acquitted Dahiru on Count one but jailed him five years (count two), seven years (count three) seven years (count four) and seven years, count five.

The sentences, according to the judge. would run concurrently.

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Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari has approved the sack of Prof. Charles Uwakwe as the Registrar and Chief Executive of the National Examinations Council, NECO.

A letter dated May 11 and signed by the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Education, Sonny Echono, on behalf of the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, said Buhari approved the sack.

Also sacked by the president were four members of the Management for various offences bordering on financial impropriety.

In the letter, Uwakwe was accused of violating the Public Procurement Act (2007) and pursuant to PSR 030402 and Part 1 schedule 4 (i) of NECO Establishment Act.

He had been suspended since May 2018 by the Federal Ministry of Education, the parent ministry of the agency over alleged financial mismanagement and abuse of office.

It was alleged that Uwakwe and some top officials of the council allegedly awarded contracts in the council to the tune of N25 billion without following due process.

NECO, in a release on Wednesday by its Head of Information and Public Relations Division, Mr. Azeez Sani, confirmed that the suspended registrar had been relieved of his appointment by the President, while four members of the management had also been dismissed.

“After due consideration of the investigative panel on the allegation of unsatisfactory conduct levelled against you and some management staff of the council, Mr. President in exercise of his powers, has approved your removal as the Registrar and Chief Executive Officer of National Examinations Council with effect from the date of your suspension from duty.”

The former Registrar was also directed to hand over all the government property in his custody to the acting Registrar, Mr. Abubakar Gana, The Nation reports.

Published in Business and Economy

A popular US Pastor who disobeyed President Donald Trump’s order on religious gatherings and held a Mother’s Day Church service has tested positive for coronavirus.

Redwood Valley Assembly of God Church pastor Jack McMilin in California tested positive for coronavirus and was taken to the hospital after developing pneumonia resulting from coronavirus.

The pastor’s wife, Sharon disclosed McMilin’s diagnosis on Facebook.

Her post read: “I was going to post something in place of pastor sermon today but I’ve been on phone with so many people and health department that I didn’t get it done

“Just remember God is a big and mighty God, and he’s got us covered, remember Pastor Jack in the hospital with pneumonia from the COVID-19 virus. Thank you for all the prayers!”

On May 10, McMilin held a Mother’s Day service at Redwood Valley Assembly of God church.

He also shared a Facebook post of a woman holding a placard that reads: “Why can we go to Walmart but not Church!?”

McMilin had captioned the photo: “We need to start asking this more often and with greater volume.”

Published in Business and Economy

By Kazeem Ugbodaga/ The Nation

Nigeria has announced 226 new cases of the deadly Coronavirus pandemic, with total confirmed infections now put at 6,401.

Lagos led the pack with a huge 131 fresh cases, while Ogun came a distance second with 25 and Plateau, with 15 cases.

In the figures released by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, late Tuesday night, Edo recorded 11 new cases of the virus; Kaduna, seven; Oyo, six, FCT, five, while Jigawa, Ebonyi and Borno have four cases each.

Others are: Nasarawa three cases; Bauchi and Gombe, two cases, while Enugu and Bayelsa recorded one case each.

A total of 1,734 Coronavirus patients who recovered from the disease were discharged, while only one death was recorded on Tuesday.

How States Stand

Published in News & Stories

By David Adenuga, Bauchi/ THE NATION

An unidentified doctor in Bauchi State was said to have infected 10 members of his family including his last child, a nine year-old son, after testing positive for coronavirus.

Chairman, State Primary Health Care Development Agency (BSPHCDA), Dr. Rilwanu Muhammed, who disclosed this in Bauchi, the state capital yesterday, said though nine of the family have been discharged, his son remained in isolation.

Dr. Mohammed further disclosed that the doctor may have contracted the virus while treating Covid-19 patients but he refused to allow himself to be treated, thereby exposing his family members to the deadly virus.

”The doctor and nine of his family members were recently discharged but the last child, the 9 year-old son is still in isolation. When the doctor got infected, instead of allowing other doctors to take care of him, he went home with it. He ought to have placed himself on a sick roll and allow others to treat him, you’re a doctor doesn’t mean you can treat yourself of COVID-19,” he warned.

Mohammed however, advised infected health workers to submit themselves for treatment adding that no fewer than 24 health workers have tested positive so far for the novel virus, with 17 from Azare community in Katagum Local Government Area while 7 were infected in Bauchi Local Government.

Mohammed, who doubles as the Chairman, Contact Tracing Committee on COVID-19 in the state also identified denials by infected patients as one of the challenges health workers are facing in the state.

According to him, health workers most times may have had contact with an infected patient before knowing his or her Covid-19 status.

He therefore advised infected patients to always succumb to treatment saying denial posed a greater risk to the society.

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