The nomination of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as Nigeria’s candidate for the position of the Director-General (DG) of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has been opposed by the Egyptian government.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on Thursday announced the nomination of Okonjo-Iweala, a former minister of finance, for the position.
Buhari had said that Nigeria was withdrawing its previous nominee for the position, Yonov Frederick Agah and replacing him with the former finance minister.
But the Egyptian government, barely 24 hours after the nomination, registered its opposition to it.
The northern African country, in a letter to the Ministerial Committee on Candidatures for the election, asked that Okonjo-Iweala’s nomination be rejected.
The Egyptian government argued in its communication No. 081 /2020- AU of June 5, 2020, to the Permanent Missions of the WTO Member States of the Ministerial Committee on Candidatures, that Nigeria’s decision to withdraw Agah’s candidature meant it had forfeited its chance to participate in the race.
In a memo it sent to the African Union Commission (Commissioner of Political Affairs/Office of Legal Counsel), Egypt maintained that as far as it was concerned, three candidates, representing Benin Republic, Egypt and Nigeria, had already obtained the endorsement of the Executive Council to contest the position of the WTO Director General vide its decision EX.CL/December. 1090(XXXVI) of February 2020.
It named the three candidates to include Eloi Laourou of the Republic of Benin, Abdulhameed Mamdouh of the Arab Republic of Egypt Arab Republic, and Mr Agah of Nigeria.
The Egyptian government said since Agah’s candidature had been withdrawn that it was urging the Ministerial Committee on Candidatures to officially inform the African Group in Geneva about the development and Nigeria’s disqualification.
According to Egypt, the committee should acknowledge that “Abdulhameed Mamdouh of the Arab Republic of Egypt and Eloi Laourou of the Republic of Benin are currently the only two endorsed African candidates.”
It added in the memo, “In this context, the Permanent Mission of Egypt would like to highlight that Government of Egypt is undertaking consultations with the Government 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.”
Egypt‘a opposition to Okonjo-Iweala’s nomination is coming despite the fact that the July 8, 2020, deadline for the closure of nominations for the elections is still more than a month away.
Buhari, in his diplomatic communication through the Nigerian Embassy and Permanent Mission to the African Union (AU) and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) in Addis Ababa, did not give reasons for the withdrawal of Mr Agah’s candidacy.
However, it is believed that the Nigerian leader may have considered Okonjo-Iweala’s global stature as a former Managing Director (operations) of the World Bank, finance expert, economist and international development professional with more than 30 years of experience, to nominate her for the position.