·         Asks AU to Defend Bank

Any attack on the African Development (AfDB) is a direct assault on the African Union (AU), Comrade Isa Aremu, former General Secretary of Nigeria’s Textile Union, and current Vice President of IndustrALL Global Union, has stated.

Comrade Aremu, who made the comment in a press statement made available to National Record on Tuesday, also said the open supervision of the internal governance structures of the bank, as orchestrated by the United States of America, is clearly unacceptable.

“Any external attack on AfDB should be seen as an assault on AU, which marks its 57th anniversary of its twin legacy institutions. The open subversion of the internal governance structures of the Bank is clearly unacceptable. United States would certainly not allow an African country subscriber to the shares of North American Development Bank (NADB), a North American regional financial institution not to talk of an African country questioning the outcomes of its internal rules and regulations. What is good for NADB, is even better for AFDB,” Comrade Aremu said, while also commending some both current and former African leaders for rallying round the AfDB to assert its independence.

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“It is commendable that some African leaders such as President Muhammadu Buhari and former President Obasanjo rallied timely support for AfDB’s independence and integrity. However there is the urgent need for a categorical position by Africa Union (AU) on the unfolding development within the AfDB.

“It is now an open knowledge that United States of America cynically still insists on “a further probe despite the clean bill of health given to Mr Adesina by the Board of Directors of the bank over sundry allegations.” The U.S. Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, audaciously did an open letter disagreeing with the conclusions of the ethics committee of the board of directors of AfDB,” Said Comrade Aremu. 

“It is surprising that while the bank’s African shareholders are satisfied with the findings of the Ethics Committee, the United States, a non-African with 6.5 per cent of the shares is insisting on a further probe despite the clean bill of health given to Mr Adesina by the board of directors of the bank. Coming on the eve of the re-election bid of Mr Adeshina it is self-evident that America wanted to get him out of the Bank even when notable African shareholders “made up of all the heads of state and governments of ECOWAS region had endorsed  him for a second term, Aremu stated.

Comrade Aremu asserted that the AfDB must maintain its African character in line with its original designs upon founding in 1964 and operated as such up to 1982 when it opened its doors to non-African countries such as United States. “At 57, AU should revisit the unthinking wholesale financial liberalization which allowed for non-African countries to join the bank and even dictate the terms of discipline.

“Africans should ensure the sanctity of the tested rules, laws, procedures and governance systems of the bank against the provocative attack of the U.S. Treasury Secretary.

“Importantly, AU should reaffirm the objective of the Bank, which is to finance Africa’s development. The American ridicule and disparage of the Bank is unacceptably brazen and provocative. According to the World Bank President, David Malpass, who is an American nominee of Trump administration, AfDB “lends too quickly”, thus aggravating the countries’ debt problems, the allegation the Bank had dismissed as “Untrue and unfounded,”.

“The American criticism of the AfDB is directed against the Bank’s exposure in two leading economies, namely Nigeria and South Africa. Any statement that goes “against the spirit of multilateralism” should be rejected.

“The pan-African institution should maintain an African character as it is derived from African geography and ownership structure. It exclusively covers Africa,” Aremu stated.

“Importantly, AU should reaffirm the objective of the Bank, which is to finance Africa’s development. The American ridicule and disparage of the Bank is unacceptably brazen and provocative. According to the World Bank President, David Malpass, who is an American nominee of Trump administration, AfDB “lends too quickly”, thus aggravating the countries’ debt problems, the allegation the Bank had dismissed as “Untrue and unfounded,”.

Aremu argued that in the cherished tradition of trade unions, the processes of accountability that had been carried out by the bank is desirable for shareholder confidence. He said while Africans must always insist on accountability from those who manage the bank by upholding the best corporate governance culture of probity, incorruptibility and impartiality, however, the motives behind US insistence on a second probe must be properly interrogated.

“It is surprising that while the bank’s African shareholders are satisfied with the findings of the Ethics Committee, the United States, a non-African with 6.5 per cent of the shares is insisting on a further probe despite the clean bill of health given to Mr Adesina by the board of directors of the bank. Coming on the eve of the re-election bid of Mr Adeshina it is self-evident that America wanted to get him out of the Bank even when notable African shareholders “made up of all the heads of state and governments of ECOWAS region had endorsed  him for a second term, Aremu stated.

Aremu contended that the AfDB has made appreciable impact under the leadership of current President, Mr Akinwunmi Adeshina, by mobilising and allocating huge resources for investment. “Certainly Africa still suffers from huge financial deficits to meet its enormous development challenges. However there is no doubt that under then current activist Bank leadership, the Bank has been mobilizing and allocating resources for investment and offering policy advice and technical assistance to support development efforts.

“Through the Africa Investment Forum, the AfDB in 2018 and 2019 attracted more than $80 billion in infrastructure investment interests. This has rightly refocused the African perspective from Aid dependency to domestic investment. Notwithstanding the resistance from abroad especially the United States, the Bank spearheads an increase of the Bank’s shareholder general capital from $93 billion to $208 billion.

“Adeshina is passionate about value addition and beneficiation to the abundant Africa’s agricultural raw materials in particular. Last year, for the first time in its 56 years of formation, Industrial Global Union entangled with the Bank on financing value addition in mining sector in South Africa. Certainly, the multiple awards winning President of the Bank is an asset to the Bank and Africa,” Comrade Aremu stressed.

Below is the full statement:

TEXT OF PRESS STATEMENT BY COMRADE ISSA AREMU, MEMBER OF THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE (mni) AND VICE PRESIDENT INDUSTRIALL GLOBAL UNION ON MONDAY JUNE 1ST 2020

CONCERN 

As African trade unionists in Industriall Global Union, we are constrained to express concern about the current unacceptable development at the Pan-African institution, African Development Bank (AfDB). 

HISTORY 

Founded in 1964, African Development Bank Group (AfDB) or Banque Africaine de Développement (BAD) is a Pan African multilateral development finance institution. After centuries of slavery and colonialism, the  then independent (23) twenty-three African nations initiated  two draft charters which led  to the  establishment of Organization of Africa Unity (OAU) in 1963  and a regional development bank, African Development Bank (AfDB) in August 1964, in Khartoum, Sudan.

AfDB: RECORD ACHIEVEMENTS

The AfDB headquartered in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire is a financial provider to African governments’ development projects in the regional member countries (RMC). Since its founding, AfDB has financed 2,885 operations, for a total of $47.5 billion. It has consistently received an AAA rating from the major financial rating agencies such as Standard & Poor’s (S&P), Moody’s, and Fitch Group. It has capital base of $32.043 billion. In November 2019, the bank’s capital was reported as $208 billion. Nigeria is the AfDB’s largest shareholder, with a little over 9% of its total capital. The overarching objective of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group is to spur sustainable economic development and social progress in its regional member countries (RMCs), thus contributing to poverty reduction.

CURENT CRISIS 

We have been following the controversies around the long list of accountability, due process and human resource allegations against the management of the Bank under its current President Mr. Akinwunmi Adeshina. 

ACCOUNTABILITY

Accountability is one of the abiding principles trade unions cherish and demand for while struggling for the rights of workers and development of Africa. We therefore insist that corporate institutions such as AfDB must be accountable to its shareholders. As Africans we are Stakeholders in AfDB project. We therefore   insist that those who manage the affairs of the pan-African institution must uphold the best corporate governance culture of probity, incorruptibility and impartiality. 

HAIL AfDB CORPORATE GOVERNANCE STRUCTURE

We are therefore impressed that the Bank through its internal Office of Integrity and Anti-Corruption (PIAC) and the Ethics Committee and Audit and Finance Committee promptly looked into the long list of the grievances of whistle-blowers at the Bank. 

CLEAN REPORT FOR ADESHINA 

After convening five meetings between 27 February and 9 April, Ethics Committee Chairman, Takuji Yano, a Japanese national, produced an eight-page report on 26 April which concludes that the complaint against the Bank’s management received on 19 January “was not based on any objective and solid fact” and therefore gave the Bank management under Adeshina a clean report of exoneration. Indeed the Ethics Committee reportedly criticized the whistle-blowers for not having provided any supporting evidence for their claims which were deemed “baseless”, “unsubstantiated” or “unproven”. 

STOP AMERICAN DICTATORSHIP 

It is surprising that while the bank’s African shareholders are satisfied with the findings of the Ethics Committee, the United States, a non-African with 6.5 per cent of the shares is insisting on a further probe despite the clean bill of health given to Mr Adesina by the board of directors of the bank. Coming on the eve of the re-election bid of Mr Adeshina it is self-evident that America  wanted to get him out of the Bank even when notable African shareholders “made up of all the heads of state and governments of ECOWAS region had endorsed  him for second term.

WHO IS OPPOSED TO ADESHINA’s RE-ELECTION AND WHY?

The attacks on the leadership of the Bank are coming against background of the bid for re-election of the incumbent President. In 2015, Adeshina was elected as the President of the Bank, the first Nigerian to hold the post. He had a remarkable carrier like other successful Africans. As the former Vice President (policy and partnerships) of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), he led several bold policy and innovative finance initiatives that leveraged over $4 billion in bank finance commitments towards Africa’s agriculture sector. During his tenure as Minister of Agriculture, he reformed the agricultural system by introducing more transparency into the fertilizer supply chain and bringing up innovative ideas such as giving farmers mobile phones. As a result, Nigeria ended 40 years of corruption in the fertilizer sector by developing and implementing an innovative electronic wallet system, which directly benefited 14.5 million farmers within the first years of its implementation. He also attracted $5.6 billion in private sector investment commitments by changing the  view of Nigerian farmers from subsistence farming to commercial farming.

AfDB RECORD ACHIEVEMENTS 

Certainly Africa still suffers from huge financial deficits to meet its enormous development challenges. However there is no doubt that under then current activist Bank leadership, the Bank has been mobilizing and allocating resources for investment and offering policy advice and technical assistance to support development efforts. Through the Africa Investment Forum, the AfDB in 2018 and 2019 attracted more than $80 billion in infrastructure investment interests. This has rightly refocused the African perspective from Aid dependency to domestic investment. Notwithstanding the resistance from abroad especially the United States, the Bank spearheads an increase of the Bank’s shareholder general capital from $93 billion to $208 billion.

Adeshina is passionate about value addition and beneficiation to the abundant Africa’s agricultural raw materials in particular. Last year, for the first time in its 56 years of formation, Industrial Global Union entangled with the Bank on financing value addition in mining sector in South Africa. Certainly, the multiple award winning President of the Bank is an asset to the Bank and Africa.

ERADICATE POVERTY 

The overriding objective of the AfDB is to improve living conditions on the continent through various initiatives. Africa has the lowest water resources development level, with only 4% of its annual resources invested in water. Nearly 40% of the cultivated areas are irrigated and the energy potential is virtually untapped. The management and development of water resources are among the most crucial issues facing Africa. AfDB needs stability and continuity to make its vision a reality in these areas especially in agriculture and rural development which the AfDB’s priorities.

AU MUST SPEAK UP FOR AfDB

It is commendable that some African leaders such as President Muhammadu Buhari and former President Obasanjo rallied timely support for AfDB’s independence and integrity. However there is the urgent need for a categorical position by Africa Union (AU) on the unfolding development within the African Development Bank AfDB. It is now an open knowledge that United States of America cynically still insists on “a further probe despite the clean bill of health given to Mr Adesina by the board of directors of the bank over sundry allegations.” The U.S. Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin audaciously did an open letter disagreeing with the conclusions of the ethics committee of the board of directors of AfDB. 

AN ATTACK ON AfDB, ATTACK ON AU

Any external attack on AfDB should be seen as an assault on AU, (which marks its 57th anniversary it’s twin legacy institution. The open subversion of the internal governance structures of the Bank is clearly unacceptable. United States would certainly not allow an African country subscriber to the shares of North American Development Bank (NADB), a North American regional financial institution not to talk of an African country questioning the outcomes of its internal rules and regulations. What is good for NADB is even better for AFDB.

AFDB MUST MANTAIN ITS AFRICAN CHARACTER

Originally, only African countries were able to join the bank. However in 1982 the Bank allowed for the entry of non-African countries, such as United States.

At 57, AU should revisit the unthinking wholesale financial liberalization which allowed for non-African countries to join the bank and even dictate the terms of discipline.

Africans should ensure the sanctity of the tested rules, laws, procedures and governance systems of the bank against the provocative attack of the U.S. Treasury Secretary. Importantly AU should reaffirm the objective of the Bank which is to finance Africa’s Development. The American ridicule and disparage of the Bank is unacceptably brazen and provocative. According to the World Bank President David Malpass, who is an American nominee of Trump administration, AfDB “lends too quickly”, thus aggravating the countries’ debt problems, the allegation the Bank had dismissed as “Untrue and unfounded,”. The American criticism of the AfDB is directed against the Bank’s exposure in two leading economies, namely Nigeria and South Africa. Any statement that goes “against the spirit of multilateralism” should be rejected.

The pan-African institution should maintain an African character as it is derived from African geography and ownership structure. It exclusively covers Africa. 

AFDB AT TIMES OF COVID-19

The capacity of the Bank should be strengthened not weak at this critical times of direct threats to lives and livelihoods in Africa due to the pandemic. Three African countries have been negatively impacted. Nigeria: 10,162 cases/287 deaths, South Africa: 32,683 cases/683 deaths and Ghana: 8,070 cases/36 deaths.

With the disruptions of global supply chain, AFDB must rise to promote agricultural and industrial revolution in the continent. Global resources must be allocated for real economy rather than bailing out financial institutions. Investment in manufacturing must be encouraged and facilitated. All financial institutions including AFDB must place employment and decent work at the centre of macro-economic policies alongside emergency debt relief to enable developing countries to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and facilitate a sustainable recovery from the crisis. Financial institutions must immediately cancel or suspend debt payments by the least developed countries. This must constitute the immediate tasks of the Bank within the context of AU Vision 2063 and UN sustainable Development Goals of 2030.

NEED FOR SUSTAINED DIALOGUE BETWEEN GOVERNMENT AND LABOUR IN KADUNA STATE  

There is no doubt that Governor el-Rufai of Kaduna State had offered leadership in the fight against the pandemic. This has made the spread controlled at 8 deaths, 258 confirmed cases and 157 recoveries. History will hail Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State for making his positive status known. By that act he had shown the citizens that COVID 19 was real. He also commendably went through the treatment and happily recovered after what he called “nearly four weeks of observing a strict medical regime” during which his deputy commendably was in charge of the affairs of the state.

Unfortunately the remarkable achievements of the state are being undermined by the unnecessary 25% salary deduction which also led to avoidable one week warning strike. I suggest that the two parties should use the occasion to engage in meaningful dialogue towards a sustainable agreement. As a member of the National Wages and Salaries Commission, I advise that during the pandemic, governors and any employer should NOT cut salaries. All workers and indeed health workers need special motivation through improved pay and allowances. All governors must emulate President Muhammadu Buhari who had maintained that all workers must be paid with their jobs protected. No governor should also use threat of job losses to impose unilateral wage cuts. Workers are free human beings not slaves with full right to work and freely associate and right to strike against unfair treatment.

HAIL THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ON JOB CREATION  

All employers must emulate the President who is creating almost 1 million jobs. The federal government has unveiled the details of its plan to employ at least 1,000 persons from each of the 774 local government areas in the country. The initiative starts on October 1. Each beneficiary will be paid N20,000 monthly to carry out public works announced by the minister of state for labour and employment, Mr Keyamo who provided more details of the programme. All states government must compliment the Federal initiative on Special Public Works in the Rural Areas.

AFRICA UNION MUST SPEAK OUT: LIVES OF AFRICANS MATTER IN USA 

It was commendable that Africa Union recently condemned the maltreatment of Africans in China. All Africans leaders must also rise to condemn serial murder of Africans in USA by white police officers. African leaders must also hold President Donald Trump accountable on human right violations and official xenophobia promoted by his administration. All African civil society must demand for justice in the recent case in which white police officers in the U.S. city of Minneapolis murderously  kneeled on the neck of a handcuffed African American man George Floyd, 46, who eventually died in custody after pleading that he be allowed to breathe.

Given the poor management of lives and livelihoods during COVID 19 pandemic, America under Donald Trump is clearly a failed state. 

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