Abidjan (AFP)

Candidate for his re-election in May, the president of the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Nigerian Akinwumi Adesina, is the subject of embarrassing accusations by "whistleblowers", according to a document received Monday by AFP , originally unveiled by Le Monde.

"Unethical behavior, personal enrichment, obstacle to efficiency, favoritism, (activities) affecting confidence in the integrity of the bank and engagement in political activities": this is a real indictment raised against them President, in this document of about fifteen pages, these anonymous "whistleblowers" posing as "concerned employees of the AfDB", the first development finance institution in Africa, based in Abidjan.

In a statement released Monday following the article published in Le Monde, Mr. Adesina, 60, refuted the accusations altogether, which he called "false and unfounded allegations". He also indicated that internal investigations were under way.

Elected in 2015 for a five-year term, Mr. Adesina, former Minister of Agriculture of Nigeria, appeared so far without rival to obtain a second term, after having received the support of the African Union and the Community economy of West African states.

In their letter dated "April 2020" sent to the governors of the AfDB, the whistleblowers accuse Mr. Adesina of favoritism in numerous appointments of senior officials, in particular of Nigerian compatriots, and of having appointed or promoted people suspected or found guilty of fraud or corruption, or of having granted them comfortable severance packages without penalizing them.

Between 2016 and 2018, during "the major recruitment campaign that accompanied the restructuring launched by President Adesina", "about 25% of the new managers recruited were Nigerians", while they represented 9% of hires until then, which corresponded to Nigeria's share in the AfDB's shareholding, denounce the whistleblowers.

Among those recruited or promoted to senior positions are a brother-in-law and a childhood friend of Mr. Adesina, or former collaborators when he was minister in Nigeria, according to whistleblowers.

- sabotage -

They also wonder about a possible "personal enrichment" of Mr. Adesina. Rewarded in 2017 and 2019 with two international prizes totaling 750,000 dollars (nearly 700,000 euros), Mr. Adesina attended the awards ceremonies, in the United States and in South Korea, accompanied by delegations counting "dozens of people" , at the expense of the ADB. But did he give the amount of his prizes to the Bank, they wonder?

Whistleblowers also criticize Mr. Adesina for "using the Bank's resources for his promotion and personal enrichment". Indeed Mr. Adesina obtained the intellectual property and receives the copyright of his biography, ordered and paid by the AfDB to an author.

The whistleblowers said that they had initially addressed the AfDB ethics committee in January, but then realized that "employees close to the president sabotaged all attempts by the ethics committee to fulfill its functions". They also denounce "attempts to discover their identities".

An economist specializing in development and agriculture, a charismatic character with a good international image, Akinwumi Adesina, who always wears a brightly colored bow tie in public, vigorously denied these accusations, which arise less than two months before the designation AfDB's next president, scheduled for May 28.

"I am fully convinced that on the basis of facts and evidence, due process and transparency will reveal that these are all false and baseless allegations," he said.

"The Ethics Committee of the Board of Directors is currently carrying out its action within the framework of its internal investigation systems. Let the Committee complete its investigation and work without interference from anyone or any media whatsoever," adds he.

The AfDB, one of the five main multilateral development banks in the world, had carried out in October 2019 a giant capital increase of 115 billion dollars, considered as a personal success for its president.

The AfDB has 80 shareholder countries (54 African countries, 26 non-African countries, Europe, America and Asia).

Mr. Adesina is the first Nigerian to chair the AfDB, the largest shareholder of which is Nigeria with 9%. A stir followed by numerous departures of executives, complaining of his "authoritarianism", had agitated the Bank after his arrival.

When questioned by AFP, the AfDB did not specify whether the appointment process was delayed due to the coronavirus epidemic.

© 2020 AFP