Updated: February 26, 2021
The Donald Trump administration has written the African Development Bank, urging the continent’s biggest multilateral lender to reopen an investigation into serious allegations of nepotism and favoritism against its embattled President Nigerian Akinwumi Adesina.
According to the AfDB’s website, the U.S. has a 6.5% stake in the lender, the largest shareholding after Adesina’s home country of Nigeria as of November 2019, noted Bloomberg.
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In a letter dated May 22 and addressed to Niale Kaba, chairwoman of the bank’s board of governors, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin called for an independent probe into allegations against Adesina, after the Bank’s board announced on May 5 that he had been “totally exonerated” from the serious allegations against him.
Mnuchin said the Treasury disagrees with findings by the bank’s ethics committee that “totally exonerated” Adesina.
A group of unidentified whistleblowers have accused Adesina of handing contracts to acquaintances and appointing relatives to strategic positions at the Abidjan-based lender.
The Bank’s board investigated the allegations and “totally exonerated” Adesina, and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari celebrated the ‘exoneration’ in a statement on May 7.
Mr. Buhari quoted a report dated May 5, 2020, signed by Niale Kaba, Chairman of the Bureau of the Board of Governors, that reportedly “indicated that Dr Adesina had been exonerated of allegations against him by whistleblowers.”
Mr. Buhari quoted the report as saying that the allegations against the Nigerian man “were thoroughly investigated by the Ethics Committee of the Board of Directors, and a recommendation made to Governors of the African Development Bank, and African Development Fund.
President Buhari said Dr Adesina has “served the African continent well, and has made his motherland proud.”
“He wishes him greater successes in the position of responsibility he occupies,” a statement by Femi Adesina, a spokesman from President Buhari said of Akinwumi Adesina on May 7.
But in his letter two weeks after on May 22, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin rejected the results of those investigations, indicating that they were not independent.
“We have deep reservations about the integrity of the committee’s process,” Mnuchin said. “Instead, we urge you to initiate an in-depth investigation of the allegations using the services of an independent outside investigator of high professional standing.”
“Considering the scope, seriousness, and detail of these allegations against the sole candidate for bank leadership over the next five years, we believe that further inquiry is necessary to ensure that the AfDB’s president has broad support, confidence, and a clear mandate from shareholders,” Mnuchin added.
Adesina, 60, has refuted allegations against him. He is the only candidate up for election as president at an annual general meeting scheduled for August.
Bloomberg reported that the AfDB “is Africa’s biggest multilateral lender and has an AAA rating from Fitch Ratings, Moody’s Investors Service and S&P Global Ratings. Its shareholders are Africa’s 54 nations and 27 countries in the Americas, Europe, Middle East and Asia.”
“In March, the lender issued a $3 billion social bond to help African countries deal with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Bids for the securities on the London money market exceeded $4.6 billion. The bank also launched a $10 billion crisis-response facility for African nations,” the publication added.