Nigeria has rejected the conclusions reached by the African Union’s office of legal counsel on the nomination of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to contest for the office of the director-general of the World Trade Organisation.
In a note verbale on Thursday, June 18, 2020, the Nigerian embassy and permanent mission to the African Union (AU) said claims that Okonjo-Iweala’s nomination contravenes laid-down rules are unguarded and failed all parameters of objectivity and unbiased submission.
The note verbale was addressed to members of the ministerial committee on candidature and four organs of the African Union including the bureau of the chairperson and office of legal counsel.
The AU’s office of legal counsel, had on Thursday, argued that her nomination came after the November 30 deadline set by the ministerial committee on candidature for member countries to present their candidates.
This, it said, was to allow member states to endorse a consensus candidate at the February 2020 ordinary session. However, an agreement could not be reached on the consensus candidate.
The Nigerian government, in its letter, said Okonjo-Iweala’s nomination did not violate any laws as it was a replacement of a previously presented candidate (Yonov Agah) and not a fresh nomination.
“The permanent mission of the Federal Republic of Nigeria will not be a party to any propaganda and/or actions that supplant the vision and objectives of the African Union, by supporting a willful, obviously partisan and outlandish interpretation of rules and decisions,” the letter read.
“It is obvious that the OLC is stubbornly trapped to the unfounded notion that the candidature of Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a fresh submission and cleverly refraining from recognizing it as a replacement for Ambassador Yonov Frederick Agah, an earlier submission, duly made in line with all known rules.
“By the same token of illogic, does it then mean that a country whose candidate steps down as a result of natural causes or act of force majeure becomes ineligible to replacing such candidate according to OLC? Such a conclusion is not just patently wrong, but worrisome and grossly uninformed.”
It said the rules referred to by the legal counsel were related to the submission of a new candidature and “not, by any shred of imagination, a substitution/replacement of an earlier submission duly made in line with all rules”.
“Hence, Nigeria’s substitution/replacement of Ambassador Yonov Frederick Agah with Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as a candidate for DG-WTO cannot be treated as a fresh nomination for the position, and as such cannot be said, or even imagined not to conform with any of the rules of procedure deliberately highlighted by OLC to mislead.”
It also said none of the decisions so far prevents any member state from substituting its candidate especially when a consensus candidate has not been chosen.
“To state that Nigeria is latching on its sovereign right to change existing rules of procedure and relevant decisions of the executive council as well as decisions of other policy organs, is very unbecoming, unfortunate and a gross misinterpretation and misrepresentation of facts from an office established to be dispassionate, neutral and professional.
“OLC has substantially failed to substantiate how the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in exercising her sovereign right, flouted any of the said decisions or rules of procedure, as none of them categorically precludes the substitution of a candidate by the member-states.”