An American magazine The Economist reveals that the former World Bank’s vice-president for Africa “let politicians and their cronies fill their pockets with impunity” when she was Nigeria’s Finance Minister. Many wonder how she would implement the reform agenda in WTO, with so many questions about her integrity.
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala held the strategic post of Finance and Economic Co-ordination Minister; which has been described as corrupt by numerous observers. The Economist stated that corruption flourished under her watch as she “let politicians and their cronies fill their pockets with impunity”. Up to €20 billion was alleged to have gone missing. She was at the heart of this Ministry.
Some specific allegations were leveled at Okonjo -Iweala in 2015 for her alleged role in the diversion of the proceeds of looted funds in security spending – up to €2bn was transferred to the National Security Advisor with little oversight and accountability. She had argued that she was innocent and had advised the President of the need for accountability in the spending of the funds, but civil society groups have claimed that there was no accountability. However, given her job as Finance and Economic Co-ordination Minister: more questions have arisen. Such as, could she have done more to prevent others from doing it?
In May 2016 the Federal High Court in Lagos ordered Dr. Okonjo- Iweala to account for N30 trillion which was some of the accruable income to the Federal Government during the last four years of the administration of former President Goodluck Johnathan. The Court case was taken by a civil society Group – the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project – SERAP which had sought information from Dr. Okonjo -Iweala and the Federal Government under Freedom of Information legislation. She resisted the application but the Court held in favor of SERAP – the executive director of SERAP said that the judgment shows the important role that the Nigerian Courts will play in efforts to promote transparency in Government and combat corruption. “It also confirms that high ranking government officials can no longer escape accountability for their actions which in office.”
In 2007, Dr. Okonjo- Iweala had been ordered by the Federal Appeal Court in Abuja to refund an illegal dollar salary that she was paid when she was hired from the World Bank to be appointed Finance Minister. When appointed she had sought payment in foreign currency but following pressure was forced to accept the currency in local Nigerian currency – the Naira. Following the ruling, she was expected to refund between $300,000 to $400,000 to the Nigerian Government deemed to be excess of salaries drawn while holding office.
In addition to Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s corruption charges, are dual nationality charges. Dr.Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala hid the fact that in 2019 she was sworn in as a US citizen. Every new US citizen swears an oath giving up allegiance and loyalty to any other country. In all her documents submitted to the WTO submitted in July 2020, including her very detailed CV, there is no mention of her being a US citizen. Bloomberg news disclosed this in September 2020. Is she a USA candidate or a Nigerian candidate?
Today one wonders how a country can support a candidate for the head of the World Trade Organization (WTO) when the lack of integrity. How can a person with serious corruption allegations and integrity issues be considered to lead the WTO to reform and making the multilateral trading system work?
Transparency is emerging as the key to the recovery of the WTO. How can a candidate who lacks transparency succeed?
With her underperformance at the World Bank as the Vice President for Africa Region, Ngozi Okonjo-Olwala, is the Nigerian and “American” candidate poised to implement the reform agenda in WTO?