The Office of the Legal Counsel of the African Union has declared that the nomination of Ms Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for the position of the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) was not in line with the rules.
Nigeria had submitted a Note Verbal on 4 June to the Commission informing it that the candidature of Amb Yunov Frederick Agah had been withdrawn and replaced with Okonjo-Iweala.
Iweala was a former Coordinating Minister for Economy in Nigeria. Based on the new candidature, Egypt requested the Office of the Legal counsel to provide a written opinion if Nigeria’s action is in line with the rules.
In its reply dated 15 June, the Office of the Legal counsel disclosed that the new submission of Nigeria does not fulfil the requirement in accordance with Rule (11) paragraphs 1,2 and 3 and Rule 12.
“The new submission of the Republic of Nigeria is not in line with the Council Decision Ex CI 1072(XXXV) through which the Executive Council called on the AU Member States to consider presenting candidates to the AU Ministerial Committee on Candidatures in the International System for the position of (WTO) Director-General by November 2019 with a view to endorsing one candidate during the February 2020 Ordinary Session, consequently, it is in violation of Rule 15.
“Additionally, the same submission is not also in line with the Executive Council Decision Ex CI 1090 (XXXVI) that recalled the Ex CI 1072 (XXXV) and endorsed respectively the candidates from Benin, Egypt and Nigeria as the shortlisted candidates to the post of the Director-General of the WTO and requested the Ministerial Committee on African Candidatures within the International System to consider the matter and report to the Executive Council’s 37th Ordinary Session with a view to agreeing on a single candidate.”
It insisted that the endorsement made was not for the countries but for the candidates from those three countries namely: Mr Eloi Laourou from Benin, Mr Abdulhameed Mamdouh from Egypt and Amb Yunov Frederick Agah from Nigeria.
Nigeria has not responded to this latest development. Egypt’s opposition On 6 June, that Egypt opposed Nigeria’s nomination of Iweala after Nigeria named her to replace Agah.
The North African country hinged its rejection on the premise that Nigeria had withdrawn its earlier nominee Agah and replaced him with Iweala, and had hence forfeited its interest in the WTO’s top job.
Egypt asked the WTO’s ministerial committee on candidatures for the election to reject the nomination of Iweala.
The country argued that only three candidates, representing Benin, Egypt and Nigeria, had already gotten the endorsement of the Executive Council to contest.
It named the three candidates as Eloi Laourou of the Republic of Benin, Abdulhameed Mamdouh of the Arab Republic of Egypt, and Agah of Nigeria.
Egypt insisted that its nominee, “Abdulhameed Mamdouh and Eloi Laourou of the Republic of Benin are currently the only two endorsed African candidates.”
It added in a memo to the African Union Commission: “In this context, the Permanent Mission of Egypt would like to highlight that Government of Egypt is undertaking consultations with the Government of Benin with the aim of reaching a consensus on one African candidate between the only two currently endorsed African candidates, and will communicate the outcomes of these consultations to the esteemed Ministerial Committee at the soonest possible date.”
World Trade Organisation’s acknowledgement The World Trade Organisation had on 10 June 2020, formally acknowledged Nigeria’s nominee, Iweala, for the position of director-general.
The global trade organisation in a statement wrote: “Nigeria, on 9 June 2020, nominated Iweala for the post of WTO Director-General to succeed the current Director-General, Mr Roberto Azevêdo, who has announced he will step down on 31 August 2020.
“According to the timetable announced by the Chair of the General Counsel, David Walker, the nomination period will close on 8 July 2020.
“Shortly after the nomination period has closed, candidates will be invited to meet with members at a special General Council meeting, present their views and take questions from the membership”, it added.
Based on the election timeline schedule, the election for the position of the DG is to be held in Geneva, Switzerland in 2021 for a four-year term that would run from 2021 to 2025.
Currently, Iweala chairs the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, a public-private global health partnership established with the aim of increasing access to immunisation in poor countries.
She is a former managing director (operations) at the World Bank.