Independent investigative experts clear Adesina of wrongdoing

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A three-man independent investigative panel set up to review the report of the Ethics Committee of the African Development Bank, AfDB, has exonerated President Akinwunmi Adesina, dismissing allegations of whistleblowers.

The unanimous report of the panellists stated that they “considered the President’s submissions on their face and finds them consistent with his innocence and to be persuasive.”

The panellists did not pass judgement on the president’s evidence but bore in mind that “the whistle-blowers’ complaints were wrongly publicized and that fairness required that the President be heard.”

The result of the investigation entitled: “Report of Panel of High-Level Independent Experts Reviewing Report of Ethics Committee of African Development Bank and Response of President Thereto”, it stated that panellists were mindful of the fact that “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. At the same time, it appears to us to be an undue burden to expect a holder of high office in an international organization, to prove a negative, in the absence of sufficient grounds.

“An attorney writing on behalf of the President, also argues quite correctly in our view, that a distinction should be drawn between alleged institutional failure at the Bank and the conduct of the president. We have not attached any value to the Dissociation Note in our deliberations,” adding that “The President has also as part of his detailed submission enclosed 18 annexes, which he believed might be relevant and necessary to make his case and assert his right to due process.”

The panel which divided its report into two parts considered first “the complaints provided to the Ethics Committee by the whistle-blowers and found that they had been properly considered and dismissed by the Committee.”

In the second part, “it considered, in the interests of due process, the responses of the President. It stated that “While the Committee was not required to consider and did not, in fact, consider, the President’s responses, it was in the interests of fairness and of due process that the Panel be required to do so, bearing in mind that “the whistle-blowers’ complaints were wrongly publicized and that fairness required that the President be heard. It has considered the President’s submissions on their face and finds them consistent with his innocence and to be persuasive.”

Both the Ethics Committee of AFDB and the Bureau of the Board of Governors of the bank had exonerated Adesina of any wrongdoing as alleged by the whistleblowers. But the United States government, one of the shareholders of the bank, insisted on an independent investigation.

Nigeria, the majority shareholder of the bank objected with President Mohammed Buhari, Former President Olusegun Obasanjo and former President Goodluck Jonathan supporting Adesina.

Other past African presidents and leaders also threw their weight behind Adesina, who is the sole candidate for the re-election as the president of AfDB.

It was in a bid to carry everybody along that chairperson of the Bureau of the Board of Governors of the AfDB, Naile Kaba on June 4, issued a communiqué stating that the board had agreed to authorise an Independent Review of the Report of the Ethics Committee of the Board of Directors dated 26 April 2020, relative to allegations made against the president of the Bank Group.

Kaba on July 1, announced the selection of a high-level panel of independent experts to conduct that Review.

The members are Mary Robinson, Chairperson, Justice Hassan Jallow and Leonard McCarthy.

The task of the panel was to conduct an assessment or review of the report dated April 26, 2020 of the Ethics Committee of the Board of Directors regarding allegations against the President of the Bank that the Committee received from anonymous whistle-blowers on 19 January 2020, how the Committee considered those allegations and its findings as well the submissions made by the President of the Bank in response to those allegations.

With this development and barring any other stud from his traducers, the coast now appears clear for Akinwumi to emerge as the new president of the bank for a second term.

He is the only contender for the post of president of AFDB, which has been consistently rated AA and stable by rating global agencies such. He was also on Monday named as one of the 100 Most reputable Africans in 2020 by Reputation Poll International.

It will be recalled that the African Development Bank was established by an Agreement signed on 4 August 1963, which entered into force on September 10, 1964.

It was thereafter amended on a number of occasions, as its membership was expanded.

The purpose of the Bank is to “contribute to the sustainable economic development and social progress of the regional members individually and jointly.” Pursuant to Article 29 (1) of the Agreement., the powers of the Bank are vested in the Board of Governors. The Board shall have the sole power to elect, suspend or remove the President from office.

Adesina is the president and chairman of the Board of Directors of the Bank. One of the functions of the Bank (and by extension the Board of Governors), is to “undertake such other activities and provide such other services as may advance its purpose.”

The Bureau of the Board of Governors has, as an ancillary power that of selecting a panel to undertake an independent review, as in the present matter. The decision of the Bureau of the Board of 4 June 2020 is, as stated, “in the interest of the Bank Group to find a solution that would carry every Governor along in resolving the matter, as well as to preserve the integrity of the Bank Group and its governance mechanisms.”