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African leaders back Adesina, say no nation has veto power over AfDB

At least 15 African leaders Friday said they were “concerned” by the allegations against the president of African Development Bank Akinwunmi Adesina and insisted that no nation would be allowed to control the 56-year-old institution.

Those who signed the statement included former Nigerian presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan, whom Adesina served as agriculture minister, Ghana’s John Kuffour, former Malawian President Joyce Banda and former Liberian leader Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

Tunisia’s Mohamed Marzouki, Tanzania’s Benjamin Mkapa and former Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn also signed the statement.

“No nation, regardless of how powerful, has a veto power over the African Development Bank, and no nation should have such power,” the African leaders said.

Adesina was accused by whistleblowers in a 15-page document earlier this year of violating some rules of the bank, including personal enrichment and favouritism.

After AfDB’s internal enquiry cleared him of any wrongdoing, the United States, the second-largest shareholder of the bank, said it did not trust the integrity of the process that exonerated the former Nigerian agriculture minister. It called for an independent investigation of the allegations.

“We fear that 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,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a May 22 letter to the bank’s board.

Adesina said in a statement earlier in the week that he did nothing wrong and vowed to continue to work with all the shareholders of the bank.

He insisted that he would come out clean even if there is an independent investigation. He chalked down this current troubles to the “pain” needed for growth.

” I draw great inspiration from my heroes, Nelson Mandela and Kofi Annan, whose lives have shown that through pain we grow,” he said in the statement.

Although the bank’s board chair Niale Kaba said on Thursday that there was no decision yet on carrying out an independent investigation, Adesina’s home country which holds the largest share (9.281%) and the 15 African leaders have publicly backed the AfDB boss, who is the only candidate running for the bank’s president in the 2020 election.

Information of the bank’s website said elections would take place on May 28 during the 2020 annual meeting of the Board of Governors., scheduled to take place in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. But it did not hold.

Maintenance of Innocence
In his Wednesday statement, Adesina said he has received “tremendous” support from all over the world since the allegations against him came to light.

He said the “trumped up” allegations were deliberately targeted at him to “tarnish” his reputation and to “prejudice the Bank’s governance procedures.”

The bank chief can count the leaders of his continent among his backers.

The leaders, all former presidents or prime ministers of their countries, said in a joint statement that the insistence by some shareholders on an independent investigation is a distraction.

“The African Development Bank is a pride for all of Africa, and its President, Dr. Adesina, has taken the Bank to enviable heights. At this critical time that Africa is battling with COVID-19, the Bank and its President should not be distracted,” the African leaders said in the statement.

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