President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, yesterday maintained his innocence over allegations of fraud and breach of code of ethics of the bank levelled against him by whistle-blowers.
Adesina, in a statement, said he remained confident that ultimately, and as one collective entity, the bank would emerge stronger than before and continue to support Africa’s development drive.
Despite being cleared of the allegations by AfDB Ethics Committee, the United States Treasury Secretary, Mr. Steven Mnuchin, a few days ago, called for an independent investigation into the same allegations.
AfDB Board has bowed to pressure from the United States, the third largest shareholder after Nigeria and Egypt, and agreed to an independent probe of Adesina.
The US had rejected an internal investigation that cleared him of allegations of wrongdoing.
Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland are among countries that wrote to AfDB to back the US demands for professional outsiders to look into the allegations, according to Bloomberg.
But AfDB has described the allegations as unprecedented attempts by some to tarnish Adesina’s reputation and prejudice the bank’s governance procedures.
Adesina said he was being inspired by the lives of the duo of the late South African President, Mr. Nelson Mandela, and the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan.
He said: “In recent weeks and over the last few days, I have been overwhelmed by the tremendous support received from around the world. I have absolute confidence in the integrity of the bank that I lead and its governance systems, rules and procedures.
“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, as well as the reputation of the African Development Bank.
“I sincerely appreciate the support of the bank’s shareholders.
“At this time, I remain confident that ultimately and as a 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.’
He expressed his confidence that fair, transparent and just process that respects the rules, procedures and governance systems of the bank and the rule of law would ultimately prove that he had not violated the code of ethics of the bank.
“I will, therefore, continue to work with each and everyone of our shareholders to ensure that the African Development Bank maintains its hard-earned global reputation; and that credible and well-functioning institutional and governance systems are reinforced, as we collectively press on to fulfill the mission of our founders to accelerate and transform Africa’s development,” he added.
Bowing to pressure from the US, AfDB, however, has agreed to set up an independent panel to consider the allegations against Adesina.
Bloomberg, in a report, citing two sources familiar with deliberations on the matter said Adesina may have to step aside until the probe is completed.
The unidentified whistleblowers had accused Adesina, who is angling for a second term in office, of handing contracts to acquaintances and appointing relatives to strategic positions, allegations which AfDB has denied.
The proposed investigation comes three months before the bank’s annual meeting, at which Adesina is the sole candidate to extend his five-year term.
The AAA-rated lender’s 80 shareholders in October pledged to provide funding that would help to more than double its capital base to $208 billion.
Mnuchin last week had written to AfDB to express “deep reservations” about the integrity of the lender’s ethics committee after it exonerated Adesina.