Nigeria: Reps Back Okonjo-Iweala for WTO Top Job

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 30, 2010.

The Nigerian House of Representatives has endorsed a former minister of finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to clinch the post of Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The lawmakers took the decision while adopting a motion to back the ex-managing director of the World Bank during Tuesday plenary.

The motion was sponsored by Minority Leader of the House, Ndudi Elumelu (PDP-Delta), and was titled "In Support for Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO)".

The Economic Community of West African Countries (ECOWAS) had also endorsed the candidacy Mrs Iweala for the position.

The endorsement by the 15-member-state regional group is a boost to Mrs Okonjo-Iweala candidature in the race following a decision by the African Union (AU) to reject her nomination.

In presenting his motion, Mr Elumelu stated that if the former minister emerges as Director General of the WTO for the period of 2021-2025, "she will be the first female and first African to have occupied the office."

He acknowledged that President Muhammadu Buhari having put into consideration her outstanding academic and professional background, as well as, her long years of managerial experience at the top echelons of multilateral institutions, her reputation as a fearless reformer and excellent negotiator graciously endorsed her as the nations candidate for the WTO job.

"With the COVID-19 pandemic at hand and many countries faced with difficult choices and critical moments, the WTO has a vital role to play in hunting for trade solutions and building trust amongst member states, hence the need for a capable hand that can make the WTO fit to thrive for the 21st century. There is no gainsaying that Dr Ngozi Okonjo-lweolo has the requisite capacity and experience to handle the challenges of WTO at this critical moment".

"This is the perfect time for Africa to assume leadership at the WTO and all concerned stakeholders, must unanimously commit to achieving this".

He expressed concern that two other candidates from Egypt and Kenya will split the African votes.

He said the emergence of these candidates will cripple the prospect of an African assuming the WTO position. He called on the House, to urgently reach out to the governments of Egypt and Kenya on the need to rally round a single candidate for the continent.

"In the past, Nigeria has staunchly supported the candidatures of other Africans to leadership position at multilaterals, including the candidacy of late Boutros Boutros Ghali, an Egyptian national to become the Secretary-General of the United Nations."

"A good turn deserves another and we must now unite the African continent and ensure cooperation amongst our countries to put the continent first.

"Having a Nigerian as the Director General of the World Trade Organisation, will further enhance the image of the country amongst the comity of nations, hence the need to massively support this bid."

The house also urged President Buhari to further rally other African leaders to support her bid.

The house also urged the Pan African parliament to follow suit "in the spirit of African oneness and reciprocity."

Mrs Okonjo-Iweala is an economist and international development professional with over 30 years' experience, having worked in Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America and North America.

She is currently the Chair of the Board of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; a member of the Boards of Standard Chartered PLC and Twitter Inc. She was recently appointed as African Union (AU) Special Envoy to mobilise International Financial Support in the fight against COVID-19, as well as Special Envoy for the World Health Organisation's Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator.

Twice Nigeria's finance minister, Mrs Okonjo-Iweala also served briefly as Nigeria's foreign minister in 2006, the first Nigerian woman to hold both positions.

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