President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the reconstitution of the Board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), after the expiration of the term of the board members appointed in 2016.
Members of the new Board are: Mohammed Lawal (North West), Tajudeen Umar (North East), Adamu Mahmood Attah (North Central), Senator Magnus Abe (South South), Dr Stephen Dike (South East), and Chief Pius Akinyelure (South West).
The new board will be in place for three years.
Zenith Bank Plc, one of Nigeria’s leading financial institutions, has emerged as the ‘Best Bank in Nigeria’ in the recently released Global Finance Magazine World’s Best Banks Awards 2020.
A statement at the weekend said the awards, which was published in the May 2020 edition of the Global Finance Magazine, was based on the performances of the banks that were chosen in their respective regions and countries over the period from January 1 to December 31, 2019.
Commenting on the recognition, the Group Managing Director/Chief Executive of Zenith Bank, Mr. Ebenezer Onyeagwu, said: “This award is a clear demonstration of the bank’s market leadership, occasioned by our superior product offerings, best-in-class service and top-of-the-range technology which create value for our teeming customers.”
Zenith Bank has clearly distinguished itself in the Nigerian financial services industry through superior service quality, unique customer experience and sound financial indices. The bank, with a knack for setting the pace and raising benchmarks, is a clear leader in the digital space with several firsts in the deployment of innovative products, solutions and an assortment of alternative channels that ensure convenience, speed and safety of transactions.
As a testament to its resilience and market leadership, Zenith Bank announced an impressive result for the year ended December 31, 2019, with profit after tax (PAT) of N208.8 billion, achieving the feat as the first Nigerian Bank to cross the N200 billion mark.
In the recently released Q1 2020 unaudited financial results, the bank also recorded an improved result over the corresponding period in 2019, with gross earnings rising by six per cent to N166.8 billion and profit before tax (PAT) growing to N58.8 billion.
Consistent with this superlative performance and in recognition of its track record of exceptional performance, Zenith Bank was ranked as the Best Commercial Bank in Nigeria 2019 by the World Finance and the Best Digital Bank in Nigeria 2019 by Agusto & Co.
The bank was also voted as Bank of the Year and Best Bank in Retail Banking at the 2019 BusinessDay Banks and other Financial Institutions (BAFI) Awards. Most recently, the bank was recognised as the Most Valuable Banking Brand in Nigeria, for the third consecutive year, in the Banker Magazine “Top 500 Banking Brands 2020” and the Bank of the Decade (People’s Choice) at the THISDAY Awards 2020.
Global Finance’s “World’s Best Banks Awards” are recognised amongst the world’s most influential banking/finance and corporate professionals as the most coveted and credible awards in the banking industry, with winners chosen in more than 150 countries across Africa, Asia-Pacific, Central & Eastern Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, North America and Western Europe.
Manchester United extends Ighalo’s deal until January 2021
Manchester United have agreed to extend Odion Ighalo’s loan spell from parent club Shanghai Shenhua for another seven months, reports mirror.co.uk. Ighalo seemed destined to return to the Chinese Super League at the expiry of his loan at the end of May – but a new deal until January 2021 was agreed at the 11th hour.
Shanghai Shenhua were previously reluctant to let the former Watford man stay with his boyhood club and were holding out for their £20 million price tag to be met as part of a permanent deal. But United agreed to pay a revised loan fee to get the deal over the line on the day Ighalo’s contract was due to expire.
The Nigerian’s agent, Atta Aneke, hinted that a deal was close earlier yesterday, telling Norwegian outlet Nettavisien: “We are nearing agreement with Manchester United on an extended loan. The agreement will mean that Ighalo will remain with them until January 2021.” The Daily Mail reported that the loan fee United would pay proved to be a sticking point, with the club locked in talks with Shanghai Shenhua for many days.
But the Red Devils finally agreed to a revised fee to secure the services of Ighalo for another seven months. The deal means he will miss much of the Chinese Super League season, which is due to start in July. But Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has made no secret of his desire to see Ighalo stay at Old Trafford.
The 30-year-old impressed the United boss by scoring four goals in eight appearances – after being loaned in the January window as cover for injured star Marcus Rashford.
Last week, United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was hopeful of Ighalo staying to “finish what he started. We’re in dialogue. They’ve been great towards us, his club, and allowed him to play for his dream club,” Solskjaer told MUTV. “It’s been a dream for him and hopefully he can finish off what he started, hopefully with a trophy for us. At the moment, nothing has been agreed. Their league is going to get started soon so we’re just waiting to see.”
In The Spotlight
"I don’t know any city in America which does not have issues of police brutality or overaggressive policing against black people; who reflexively say their last prayers whenever they encounter white police officers; afraid they might not be alive after the encounter. Why do I have to feel this way? Why can't I just be black in America?" This statement by a Black Lives Matter activist encapsulates the black predicament in America. In this era of social distancing amid the Coronavirus pandemic, police fired tear gas, rubber bullets and sprayed chemical irritants to disperse demonstrators in Minneapolis, Minnesota, who were protesting the gruesome murder of George Floyd by four white police officers. Video of the incident showing white police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd's neck as the 46-year-old black man gasped for air, saying he couldn't breathe prompted the firing of Chauvin, and three other officers amid a national outcry and global shame. How many black deaths will it take until the racial profiling and undervaluing of black lives by white police officers finally ends in America?
Although the long anti-racism protests that trailed several other killings of blacks by white police officers seemed to have abated in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, these protests have unearthed deep-seated racial animosity that raises fundamental questions about all that America stands for. To the global black community, old scars of yesteryear’s atrocities against the Black-American community have resurfaced as fresh wounds, thereby imposing on Nigeria (the world’s most populous black nation) a burden of being the black man’s rallying platform. Nigeria cannot afford to be aloof to the predicament of blacks in America and elsewhere in the world. Nigeria must, therefore, rise and put its house in order because the black man’s burden has now become Nigeria’s burden.
As the world reacts to the gruesome murder in broad daylight of George Floyd, it is worth noting that similar killings of the Michael Browns, the Eric Garners, and others, betrays a curious hypocrisy on the part of white America which has seldom thought deeply about how the disturbing systemic racism underlies the social justice machinery of the fabled God’s Own Country, and how it affects the black community. It is hard to find a black man in America who doesn’t have a story to tell after encountering white police officers. However, racism is not restricted to black-white discrimination alone. The influx of Latin Americans into the US is expanding the latitude of racial discrimination. Although unreported by mainstream media, race relations between police officers and Latinos have also festered for decades.
Today’s America, as New York mayor Bill De Blasio, himself married to a black woman, and father of a bi-racial son, has publicly acknowledged; is a parenting challenge for bi-racial families. Speaking on ABC This Week by George Stephanopoulos, De Blasio courted police indignation when he said: “We have to retrain police force in how to work with communities differently. We have to work on things like body cameras that would provide different levels of transparency and accountability. This is something systemic. And we bluntly have to talk about the historic racial dynamics that underlie this.” In a country where the police have become an effective instrument of domestic terror, blacks and bi-racial people still need to grapple with the fact of whether or not they enjoy the same sense of inclusiveness in the American social system. It is indeed unfortunate that President Donald Trump’s tacit endorsement of white supremacists and his toxic brand of white grievance politics have further opened racial fault lines.
That one is white, black or brown does not make one less of a human being. Man’s intrinsic worth as being endowed with reason and freedom is not fundamentally devalued by being classified under one race or another, except a warped sense of ontology does so. And it is this dubious elevation of artificial boundaries to an immutable truth that the American dream proposed to negate, when the founding fathers of that nation evolved a land of the free.
By its own constitution, America is a bastion of freedom, where the infinite refinement of reason entrenches our common humanity through justice and equality. However, it is unfortunate and rather ominous that this symbol of mankind’s humanity is now pandering to the social cankerworm its founding fathers swore to eliminate. It is also hypocritical that the same prejudice, which the American government and people denounce with the blood and treasure lives of its young citizens in fighting Islamic terrorism and defending freedom in distant lands far from its shores, has become the unwritten code of its social and criminal justice system. This is disturbing and condemnable.
Whatever the boundaries created around humanity’s existential space and the constructs spelt out to represent them, the human community is fundamentally one. No group of people become superior by virtue of the nomenclature ascribed to their being. If race is a description of our facticity, that is, an existential situation we cannot change, it is by that fact a pointer to the diversity that makes our world beautiful. The United States of America, by its motto, E Pluribus Unum, (Out of many one) gives credence to this diversity by transcending narrow mundanities and stereotyping which racism promotes.
Theorists and scholars, in defence of the human diversity which America represents, have tended to discount any meaningful significance of race in the social experiences of bi-racial and multi-racial persons, for the simple reason that there is no universal objective principle by which race can be expressed. This argument is too puerile and simplistic. While not denying the social expediency of race, Africans have not forgotten that when videos of blacks being maltreated in Chine surfaced on social media, the world maintained a deafening silence; not a single white leader condemned China for the xenophobia against blacks. This is hypocrisy that stinks to the high Heavens.
America should not only pride itself as the land of the free and the last hope for mankind, it must be seen to be so. Besides preserving the rule of law, America must also properly educate its police and law enforcement officials in tandem with its national philosophy. In this regard, white America should bear in mind that despite the landmark 1954 US Supreme Court verdict in Brown vs Board of Education, and the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which banned racial segregation and affirmed the right to quality education for all its children, there is available overwhelming evidence that for blacks and non-white students, your destiny is defined by your zip code. This is an unbearable national shame to white America. If the dream of its founding fathers is to be sustained, white Americans must purge themselves of their ethnic prejudices and biases of their pre-American roots.
The ugly incident of police brutality against blacks in America is a major burden on the conscience of white America. As blacks the world over, watch as blacks are being killed like game by white police officers on America streets; as many blacks in America experience a new wave of racism in a land that reminds them of the unfortunate past of their forebears, they can only wish that things should change for the better. If in today’s world, oppressed blacks and freedom-loving people still look up to America for any succor, the nation, under whom the whole world could find a rallying shade, cannot afford to lose its own moral compass. America must rise up to the creed of its founding fathers who wrote the 14 majestic words in the preamble to the Declaration of Independence which changed the course of human history: “We hold these truths to be self-evident; that ALL men are created equal…”
In The Spotlight
The Board of Governors and the Ethics Committee of the African Development Bank (AfDB) have given Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, the Bank’s President, a clean bill of health in a report dated May 5, wherein it is stated that Adesina has been “entirely exonerated of all allegations made against him.” The background to that development is useful and it is as follows:
On January 19, a group of anonymous whistle-blowers who described themselves as “a group of concerned staff members” of the AfDB prepared a document titled “Disclosure of Acts Related to Alleged Breach of Code of Ethics by an Elected Officer, to the Attention of the Director of the Integrity and Anti-Corruption Department (PIAC) and the Chairpersons of the AUFI and Ethics Committees.” The “elected officer” in question is Akinwumi Adesina, the Nigerian President of the Bank. The whistleblowers wanted him to be investigated for alleged breach of the institution’s Code of Conduct, in order to check fraud and corruption and prevent an institutional crisis. In that January document, Adesina is accused of non-respect of internal rules and regulations in recruitment, nepotism, impunity, questionable award of contracts, preferential treatment of Nigeria and Nigerians, using Bank resources to collect awards in personal capacity, political lobbying of Heads of State, and turning himself into “the unchallenged travel champion of the Bank.” On March 3, six weeks after the group submitted its petition, it protested that the Ethics Committee was either unable or unwilling to investigate the 16 allegations it raised against Adesina and that there was evidence that certain forces were trying to prevent the Ethics Committee from doing its work. It urged the Ethics Committee to commission an independent investigation. In April 2020, this same “Group of Concerned Staff Members” submitted yet another petition against Adesina titled “Additional Cases of Alleged Breach of the Code of Ethics by the President of the African Development Bank Group to the Attention of the Governors of the African Development Group.” They raised four additional allegations including “use of Bank resources for self-promotion and private gains” and abuse of due process in the appointment of country managers.
There was however a twist in the tale when a counter-complaint, dated March 13, was submitted to the Chairman of the Ethics Committee by another group, called “a group of indignant members” who denounced the “Group of Concerned Staff Members” and stated clearly that they were “outraged” by the latter’s attempt to “take hostage of our institution.” They claimed that the mastermind of the anti-Adesina protest is a certain Executive Director - Stephen DOWD (American, member of the Ethics Committee) and a group of non-regional Executive Directors who are “not for the good governance of the African Bank of Development but to discredit the candidacy of the current President for his re-election.” The “indignant members” disclosed that they were members of the “Group of Concerned Staff Members” until they discovered that they were being manipulated by Dowd and other non-regional Executive Directors. They asked the Ethics Committee to investigate Dowd. The Concerned Members rebutted this and said the indignant members were never part of their group.
All the petitioners on both sides of the aisle, pro- and anti-Adesina did not reveal their true identities but it was obvious that there was sharp division within the bank over Adesina’s leadership and tension between regional directors and non-regional directors of the Bank. The externalization of the conflict was bad for the image of the institution. Akinwumi Adesina himself did not hesitate to proclaim his innocence. In an April 6, 2020 statement, he wrote: “I am 100% confident that due process and transparency, based on facts and evidence, will indicate that these are all nothing more than spurious and unfounded allegations.” Now, with his exoneration by the Bank’s Ethics Committee last week, Adesina can claim to have been vindicated. He received an added morale booster when Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari congratulated him and described him as a good ambassador of Africa and Nigeria. Both votes of confidence should bring huge relief to Adesina’s friends and supporters within and outside the Bank and brighten his chances of re-election for a second term.
There is little doubt that Adesina’s emergence as AfDB President, his leadership style, and his reform efforts constructed around what he calls the High Fives continue to ruffle some feathers within the Bank. His emergence in 2015 was hotly contested. But with President Goodluck Jonathan, then President-elect Muhammadu Buhari, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and many other African leaders strongly behind him, it was easy for him to score 60% of the votes to beat seven other contestants including Chad’s Bedoumbra Kodje, Zimbabwe’s Thomas Sakala, Ethiopia’s Sufian Ahmed and Cape Verde’s Cristina Duarte (the choice of non-regional members). On his part, Adesina came to the competition with excellent professional and academic credentials - a First Class in Agricultural Economics from the then University of Ife, Nigeria, Ph.D, Purdue University, former Vice-President, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), former senior economist, West African Rice Development Association (WARDA), former senior scientist, Rockefeller Foundation, and Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development (2011 – 2015). Above all, Adesina is hardworking, focused, highly driven, cosmopolitan, and self-motivated… We worked together in the Jonathan government.
The 2015 AfDB election was particularly important to Nigeria. In 2005, Nigeria’s Olabisi Ogunjobi lost the AfDB position to Rwanda’s Donald Kaberuka who went on to serve two terms. To become AfDB President, a candidate must have a double majority of the African and non-regional members. Nigeria is AfDB’s largest shareholder with over 9% of the capital and yet since the AfDB was established in 1964, it was only in 2015, that it got its candidate elected for the first time as President of the Bank. Akinwumi Adesina became the presumptive President on May 28, 2015 and assumed office on September 1, the same year. He had hardly settled down in office before France began to complain that he rarely speaks French, whereas he is fluent in both English and French. Three Vice Presidents also left the Bank. The conspiracy against him reared its head early, and has re-emerged more aggressively towards the end of his first term.
Nonetheless, Adesina has had a good run in his first five years as President of the AfDB. No one can doubt neither his commitment and passion, nor his resolve that the mission of the AfDB is to help accelerate the development of Africa, create a new Africa, and provide new opportunities for every African. He has also been very outspoken in promoting partnerships, calling upon bilateral and multilateral institutions to support Africa to build infrastructure, human capital and ramp up economic growth. Under Akinwumi Adesina, the AfDB has consistently maintained its AAA rating achieved under Donald Kaberuka. The Bank is also comparatively more innovative, people-oriented and far more visible. It is better decentralized. Its standing among global financial institutions is strong. The Bank’s income has increased. It is far richer today than it has ever been.
In recognition of his efforts, Adesina has been widely decorated with honours and awards. He has been named African of the Year (2019) by the African Leadership Magazine; countries have decorated him with their national honours – Senegal, Liberia, Tunisia, Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger, Togo. Universities have awarded him Honorary Doctorate degrees.
In 2017, he won the World Food Prize, which is regarded as the Nobel Prize for Agriculture. In 2019, he received both the All Africa Business Leaders African of the Year award and the Sunhak Peace Prize. His critics allege that he uses his position for self-promotion. Every award that Adesina has received as AfDB President is never without an acknowledgement of the achievements of the Bank. He has also used the opportunities presented by his international recognition to promote African causes. The World Food Prize came with a tidy sum of $250, 000 and the Sunhak Prize, $500, 000. What did he do? He donated all the prize money, his own personal contributions and the support of friends and philanthropists, to set up a Borlaug-Adesina Fellowship Programme and the World Hunger Fighters Foundation to fight global hunger. Norman Borlaug, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate established the World Food Prize in 1986. The Borlaug-Adesina Fellowship is managed by the World Hunger Fighters Foundation. It has already graduated a number of Fellows.
But for me, perhaps if there is any personal gain for the bank’s President, it is the manner in which he has managed to emerge as a role model for many young Africans who want to study Agriculture and Economics because of him. They also want to become agri-preneurs because they believe him when he says the future of Africa is in the agriculture value-chain and that agriculture is not land cultivation, but big business.
Adesina’s finest moment is perhaps not the honours and awards that he has received but his presence at the 45th G7 Summit held in Biarritz, France, 24 -26 August, 2019. This was at a time when the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced that it had arrested one Invictus Obi and was looking for about 80 other Nigerians who over a period had been involved in identity theft and wire fraud in the United States. It was a low moment for many Nigerians at home: some of our compatriots had again damaged the country’s image and denigrated the Nigerian Green passport. It was at this exact time that the pictures of Akinwumi Adesina, another Nigerian, showed up in the media, meeting with world leaders at a G7 Summit in France. The G7 Summit is a meeting of the most powerful leaders in the world. And there was Akinwumi Adesina having a tete-a-tete with President Donald Trump, shown in conversations with Chancellor Angela Merkel and others, standing side by side with the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. Many young Nigerians drew inspiration from this. Their reaction was that Adesina at a critical moment helped to show, unwittingly as it were, that there are gifted Nigerians making positive contributions, who can be admitted into distinguished, global company. Many said they would want to be like him. Others wanted him to return home to run for the Nigerian Presidency in 2023. I am sure Adesina himself would not be so tempted. He must have learnt a lesson or two about African politics when he served as Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture. Participation in partisan politics in Africa requires many adaptations that many intellectuals or technocrats may not be best suited for, except of course, they are willing to take the risk and damn the consequences.
Hence, understandably, much earlier, on June 14, 2019, at the 54th Annual Meeting of the Bank in Malabo, Equitorial Guinea, Adesina announced his intention to run for a second term as President of the AfDB. The election was meant to take place during the 55th Annual Meeting of the Bank which was originally scheduled for May 25 -29, 2020 but which due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the “resulting global disruption” has now been re-scheduled for August 25 -27. Adesina’s supporters insist that the attack on him by the “Group of Concerned Staff Members” is meant to politicize and frustrate his re-election bid. Apart from his open proclamation of innocence, Adesina has also been very philosophical about the attack on his person and tenure. A devout Christian and a prayer-warrior, each time President Jonathan asked him to lead the Council in prayers in those days, you were bound to receive a song and a long prayer with Pentecostal flavor and quiet murmurings from across the Chamber that the prayer warrior should make his supplications brief, and so it is not surprising that as the allegations against him circulated, Adesina occasionally resorted to prayers and Bible passages (Psalm 60:12; 2 Corinthians 12:9) on his twitter account.
Prayers can help but there is a lot more to be done. The verdict of the Ethics Committee may be favorable but still, that is not the end of it. President Muhammadu Buhari has re-affirmed Nigeria’s support for Dr. Akinwumi Adesina. The African Union (AU) and all the Heads of State and Governments of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have also openly endorsed him for a second term. AU Chair, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and others have, most recently, commended Adesina and the AfDB for announcing a $10 billion facility to fight Corona Virus in Africa. He also enjoys the backing of Africa’s Organized Private Sector. Former President of Liberia, Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson has told Adesina that African leaders trust him. “We trust you,” she said.
But Dr. Adesina must study the power game a bit more closely. Will his enemies quietly accept their humiliation and sheathe their swords? Do they have any hidden aces up their sleeves, especially as it has been suggested that they are being sponsored by non-regional stakeholders? What is their strength? Can they still do any damage? The AfDB comprises 54 African countries and 27 non-African members, the latest in the latter category is Ireland. AfDB voting power is weighted relative to share of capital, with Nigeria, United States, Japan and Egypt having the greatest share. Does he have enough numbers to gain the required double majority? Even if he does, my take is that the re-scheduling of the 55th Annual General Meeting of the AfDB offers him an advantage. He has the advantage of more time to embark on diplomatic and fence-mending outreaches to turn his adversaries within the system into friends. He and his allies must not ignore those aggrieved “whistle-blowers” or seek to shame them. This is not the time for triumphalism. The right thing to do is to engage the naysayers. Adesina’s overall goal should be a united, inclusive, democratic and open AfDB, not a divided institution. The AfDB must remain focused on its development objectives not in-house politicking.
In 2010, Donald Kaberuka (Rwanda) was re-elected by acclamation. Before him, Omar Kabbaj (Morocco) was also re-elected in 1995. There is no reason why Akinwumi Adesina, a sole candidate, should not be re-elected. He has earned it. Nigeria deserves it. The Nigerian Government should stand by Adesina to ensure his re-election.