President Muhammadu Buhari has endorsed the bid of Nigerian economist and development expert, Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, towards becoming the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Information regarding the nomination of the former Nigerian finance minister by the President was revealed in a letter addressed to embassies of the African Union (AU) in Ethiopia by the Nigerian mission to the AU. President Buhari withdrew his earlier nomination for Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the WTO, and deputy DG of the organisation, Ambassador Yonov Frederick Agah, to pave way for the high profile global economist. The nomination letter reads:
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The embassy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and permanent mission to the African Union and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa present compliments to all embassies and permanent missions in Addis Ababa and has the honour to inform that the Federal Government of Nigeria has withdrawn the candidacy of Ambassador Yonov Frederick Agah for election to the position of director-general of the World Trade Organisation. Nigeria is therefore pleased to request the support of esteemed AU member states as well as permanent missions and embassies in Addis Ababa in favour of the candidacy of Okonjo-Iweala-Excerpt from President Muhammadu Buhari Letter
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The election for the position is set to take place in Geneva, Switzerland next year (2021) with the winner scheduled to hold office for a four-year term of 2021-2025 as Roberto Azevedo, the current Director-General of the WTO steps down a year before the end of his second term in office. Dr Iweala who is currently the chair of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), and board member of Twitter amongst other positions she holds, has bagged a number of appointments this year (2020) which includes being appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa as part of South Africa’s Economic Advisory Council, African Union Special Envoy, World Health Organization Special Envoy, appointment into the International Monetary Fund’s External Advisory Group, among others.
However, another twist has followed Buhari’s nomination for Iweala as the Egyptian government is opposing her nomination for the high profile post. Despite Nigeria beating the July 8, 2020 nomination deadline, the Egyptian government through a letter dated, Friday, June 5, 2020, requested the AU Ministerial Committee on Candidatures to reject the nomination of the former Nigerian finance minister, claiming that the withdrawal of former Nigerian candidate for the post, Yonov Frederick Agah, to include Iweala meant the country forfeited their candidacy slot because member nations of the AU were supposed to submit their candidates on November 30, 2019, about five months ago. The Egyptian mission has urged the ministerial committee on candidatures to officially recognise Abdulhameed Mamdouh of Egypt and Eloi Laourou of the Republic as the only candidates endorsed from the continent for the post.
Meanwhile, a review of the selection process for the position of the DG announced by David Walker of New Zealand, the WTO General Council Chair, on May 20, 2020, clearly noted that the formal commencement of the selection process is June 8, 2020, with nominations ending on July 8, 2020. The fight from the Egyptian government is hardly surprising because Iweala is the candidate to beat for the post. The success of her candidacy already puts her a stretch away from the seat as she is favourite for the role owing to her influence globally which includes working with the World Bank for over 25 years.
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