The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has endorsed Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for the position of director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
This is contained in a document signed by Mahamadou Issoufou, ECOWAS president, and seen by TheCable on Friday.
On June 4, President Muhammadu Buhari approved the nomination of Okonjo-Iweala, former coordinating minister for the economy, for the top WTO job.
ECOWAS called on other African countries to back Okonjo-Iweala, who Issoufou referred to as a “fearless reformer”.
The nomination has been commended by top officials including Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former Liberian president.
Issoufou said ECOWAS heads of state and government acknowledged the nomination of Okonjo-Iweala as Nigeria’s candidate.
He said the ECOWAS leadership considered among others, Okonjo-Iweala’s “established reputation as a fearless reformer, her excellent negotiating and political skills, her experience of over 30 years”.
The regional organisation declared its support for the Nigerian candidate, thereby urging other African and non-African countries to do the same.
“The ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, takes note of the communication by the Chairman of the General Council of the World Trade Organization (WTO) announcing the commencement of a process for the appointment of a new Director-General of VVTO, with the opening and closing dates of nominations set as 8 June and 8 July 2020 respectively,” the statement read.
“Takes into account that since the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on 1 January 1995. which is a successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) established on 1 January 1948, no African has assumed the position of Director-General of the Organization,
“Further notes that the Federal Republic of Nigeria has formally nominated Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-lweala for the position of Director-General of WTO for the period 2021 — 2025:
“Having acknowledged the strong academic and professional background of Dr. Okonjo-lweala and her very large experience in national affairs as Nigeria’s Finance Minister (2003-2006 and 2011-2015) and Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister briefly in 2006;
“Having further acknowledged her long years of managerial experience at the top echelons of multilateral institutions, her established reputation as a fearless reformer, her excellent negotiating and political skills, her experience of over 30 years as a Development Economist with a long standing interest in trade, her excellent academic qualifications, her positions as Managing Director World Bank, and currently as Board Chair Gavi, and African Union Special Envoy to Mobilize Financial Resources for the fight against Covid19,
“Endorses the candidature of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-lweala for the position of Director-General of the World Trade Organization for the period 2021-2025; and
“Calls on other African countries as well as non-African countries to endorse her candidature.”
The Republic of Benin had earlier withdrawn its candidate from the race and pledged support for Okonjo-Iweala.
The nomination of Okonjo-Iweala had triggered slight controversy.
The office of the legal counsel of the African Union (AU) had said that the candidature of Okonjo-Iweala for the position violates the rules of the AU.
However, the Nigerian embassy and permanent mission to the African Union (AU) responded saying claims that Okonjo-Iweala’s nomination contravenes laid-down rules are unguarded and failed all parameters of objectivity and unbiased submission.
Meanwhile, the WTO had confirmed that Okonjo-Iweala is still eligible to run for the office of director-general.