Nigeria ‘probes AU seat loss’, suspects sabotage by own officials

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The Federal Government has instituted a panel of inquiry to investigate Nigeria’s failure to clinch the post of Commissioner for Peace and Security at the African Union (AU), the News Agency of Nigeria has reported.

African Union
African Union

Nigeria contested for the position of the post at the AU meeting in Addis Ababa on January 30 and lost the election to the incumbent, Algeria.

Citing presidential sources, NAN said the constitution of the panel was informed by the reported acts of sabotage leveled against some staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The source said already a senior staff of the ministry had been identified as the brain behind the plot against Nigeria before and during the election.

“A serving Director and two retired Permanent Secretaries with reported ties to one of the candidates from a friendly country that vied for the same position of Commissioner, Peace and Security, were said to be behind the illegal, fraudulent and highly unpatriotic issuance of these infamous Notes.

“The serving director had since been issued with a query.

“This, certainly, is another case of suspected fraud and corruption which, by the way, is also endemic in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in its more than 100 missions abroad.”

According to the source, the official single-handedly wrote a letter to express Nigeria’s support for the Algerian candidate despite a Nigerian, Fatima Kyari, running for the same position.

“Clearly, therefore, Nigeria’s failure to clinch the post can only be attributed to other factors and not the quality of the its candidate.

“In this kind of elections, countries base their voting pattern more on political and other considerations than on the substantive quality (competence, skills, experience) of candidates.

“This pattern is clearly reflected in the elections of all the other categories, including that of the Chairperson and the Deputy Chairperson of the AU Commission.

“”Most worrisome and unfortunate is the issue of the so-called Note Verbal issued by our embassies in Addis Ababa and Algiers, conveying a decision by the Federal Government of Nigeria to withdraw from the race in favour of Algeria. The truth is that there was no such decision by the government,’’ he said.

The source said Nigeria deserved to be commended for the way it reacted to the outcome of the election.

“If anything, the Government deserves commendation for keeping calm and abstaining to raise dust, despite initial indication of an external influence in the issuance of these highly embarrassing Notes,” the source said.

The presidential source also disclosed that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, chaired the selection process where prospective candidates were shortlisted.

Mr. Onyeama, he said, also chaired the interview panel which graded and recommended names of candidates for the consideration of Mr. President.

He said Fatima Kyari was graded as second best candidate along with another female candidate even though all the other candidates were also found to be competent.

“However, only one candidate was to be selected. While only Mr. President and possibly those who were privy to the final selection process could say why Fatima and not any of the other three highest rated candidates was approved, the AU rule regarding gender parity, might have been a determining factor in favour of a female candidate.

“”The rule requires that the two Commissioners from each of the five regions must be a male and a female.

“”While Nigeria was still on the selection process – as always we were running late – , Senegal and Ghana had already put forward candidates for the two top most posts of Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson respectively.’’

He maintained that Ms. Kyari’s proficiency in French language, among other set of skills, also stood in her favour.

The source also dismissed the insinuation that Ms. Kyari was “inexperience” and “incompetent” for the seat.

He noted that the AU contracted an independent consulting firm that evaluated, assessed and cleared those who were adjudged to have the requisite skills, experience and competence to hold the positions they wanted to compete for.

He said that Ms. Kyari went through this process as all other candidates did, and was duly cleared otherwise she would not have been allowed to run.

“It, therefore, amounts to ignorance, malice and/or mischief to label the candidate as inexperienced and incompetent to serve as Commissioner at the AUC.

“The candidate is indeed highly qualified not only by the assessment of the AU consultants, but also by the testimonies of many other African and non-African personalities, bodies and organisations.

“She is skilful, competent and experienced to do the job very well and indeed add value into the job with new and pragmatic ideas.”

The source recalled that Fatimah was selected, along with 12 other African mid-career leaders, for the 2016 Africa Program of the Eisenhower Fellowship in the United States, but could not participate because it coincided with the preparations for the AUC election.

He also dismissed the report claiming that Fatima Kyari is the daughter of Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari.

“The assertion, including in some major media, that Fatima is the daughter of the Chief of Staff to the President is utterly callous and malicious, clearly made with the intention to generate bad feelings against not only the Chief of Staff but the President, and to also denigrate the candidate by associating her to nepotism.

“This is much so because it does not take anything to crosscheck her lineage, if no malice was intended and if professionalism was a motivating, and guiding factor.’’

According to him, the Chief of Staff met her for the first time ever after she became Nigeria’s candidate.(NAN)

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