The President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina, hit back on Wednesday at accusations of corruption and vowed to continue working.
Adesina slammed “unprecedented attempts by some to tarnish my reputation” and declared “I will… continue to work with each and every one of our shareholders.”
The United States is pressing for an independent probe into charges by whistleblowers — declared as unfounded by an internal inquiry — of alleged embezzlement and favouritism under Adesina, who is bidding for a second five-year term at the helm.
“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,” Adesina said.
He cited “my heroes, Nelson Mandela and Kofi Annan, whose lives have shown that through pain we grow.”
“I am confident that fair, transparent and just processes that respect the rules, procedures and governance systems of the Bank, and rule of law, will ultimately prove that I have not violated the Code of Ethics of this extraordinary institution,” he said.
Adesina is the first Nigerian to be in charge of the AfDB, one of the world’s five largest multilateral development banks.
The former Nigerian agriculture minister is known for his bow ties and flamboyant manner, but also for a managerial style that critics say is authoritarian.
The bank was shaken by a string of high-level departures soon after his arrival.
The 60-year-old is the only candidate in an election which was set for late May but which has been postponed until August because of the coronavirus pandemic.
His bid has received the backing of the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
On May 22, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin sent the bank’s board a letter expressing “deep reservations” about the outcome of an internal inquiry clearing Adesina, and urged the appointment of “an independent outside investigator of high professional standing.”
“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,” he wrote.
The bank’s ethics committee had totally exonerated Adesina, saying the whistleblowers’ 15-page complaint “rested on no objective, solid facts”.
Adesina himself has previously dismissed the allegations as “spurious and unfounded” and “blatantly false.”
In October 2019, the AfDB raised $115 billion (105 billion euros) in fresh capital, an operation deemed a personal success for Adesina.
The bank has 80 state shareholders, 54 of which are African. The others are from the Americas, Asia and Europe.
The biggest shareholder is Nigeria, with nine per cent.