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    Nigeria’s global trail blazers – The Nation News Nigeria

    With the appointment of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the first woman and first African to be chosen as World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Director-General on Monday, questions are being asked about other Nigerians at the top levels of international organisations. ASSISTANT Editor Bola Olajuwon writes on some of them.


    Before the politics behind Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s selection and eventual emergence as World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Director-General, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN) in New York, was the President of the global body’s General Assembly since September 17, 2019. He previously served as vice president of the assembly from September 2016.

    From 2010 to 2016, he was the director-general of the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies in Kuru, and was the Vice-Chancellor of the Usmanu Danfodio University from 2004 to 2009. This year again, Muhammad-Bande was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari as the Permanent Representative to the UN.

    Aside from Dr. Okonjo-Iweala and Muhammad-Bande, some of the Nigerians at the top levels of decision-making in global agencies are Secretary General of Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Mohammed Sanusi Barkindo; President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Dr. Akinwumi Adesina; Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations and Chair of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group Ms Amina J. Mohammed.

    Also included are President, International Criminal Court, The Hague Chile Eboe-Osuji; Ambassador Bankole Adeoye, who was recently elected Commissioner for Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union (AU); United Nations Global Compact Vice-Chairs of the Board of the United Nations Global Compact Bola Adesola and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commissioner for Finance Mrs. Halima Ahmed.

    Below are the profiles of some of them:

    Dr. Okonjo-Iweala

    When she takes office on March 1, she will become the first woman and the first African to be chosen as WTO director-general. Her term, though renewable, will expire on August 31, 2025.

    Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, who was born on June 13, 1954, is a Nigerian-American economist and international development expert. She sits on the boards of Standard Chartered Bank, Twitter, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, and the African Risk Capacity (ARC).

    She spent a 25-year career at the World Bank as a development economist, scaling the ranks to the Number 2 position of Managing Director, Operations from 2007 to 2011.

    In politics, she served two terms as Finance Minister of Nigeria – 2003 to 2006, 2011 to 2015 – under President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Goodluck Jonathan. She was the first woman to serve as the country’s finance minister and the first woman to serve in that office twice. In 2005, Euromoney named her global finance minister of the year

    “This is a very significant moment for the WTO. On behalf of the General Council, I extend our warmest congratulations to Dr. Okonjo-Iweala on her appointment as the WTO’s next Director-General and formally welcome her to this General Council meeting,” said WTO General Council Chair David Walker of New Zealand, who together with co-facilitators Amb. Dacio Castillo (Honduras) and Amb. Harald Aspelund (Iceland), led the nine-month DG selection process.

    “Dr. Ngozi, on behalf of all members I wish to sincerely thank you for your graciousness in these exceptional months, and for your patience. We look forward to collaborating closely with you, Dr. Ngozi, and I am certain that all members will work with you constructively during your tenure as director-general to shape the future of this organisation,” Walker added.

    The new WTO D-G said a key priority for her would be to work with members to quickly address the economic and health consequences brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

    On her emergence, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala said: “I am honoured to have been selected by WTO members as WTO Director-General. A strong WTO is vital if we are to recover fully and rapidly from the devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic. I look forward to working with members to shape and implement the policy responses we need to get the global economy going again. Our organisation faces a great many challenges but working together, we can collectively make the WTO stronger, more agile and better adapted to the realities of today.”

    The General Council’s decision follows months of uncertainty, which arose when the United States initially refused to join the consensus around Dr. Okonjo-Iweala and threw its support behind Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee of the Republic of Korea. But following Ms Yoo’s decision on February 5 to withdraw her candidacy, the administration of newly elected U.S. President Joseph R. Biden Jr. dropped the objection and announced instead that Washington extended its “strong support” to the candidacy of Dr. Okonjo-Iweala.


    Barkindo is a Nigerian politician, who was born on April 20, 1959. He has been the Secretary-General of OPEC since August 1, 2016. An accomplished oil technocrat and veteran of OPEC, Barkindo brought with him a wealth of experience in the oil and gas industry, both in Nigeria and internationally. He previously served as Acting Secretary-General in 2006, represented Nigeria on OPEC’s Economic Commission Board during 1993–2008, led the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation during 2009–2010, and has headed Nigeria’s technical delegation to UN climate negotiations since 1991.

    He completed his bachelor’s degree in political science from Ahmadu Bello University (Zaria, Nigeria) in 1981 and Master of Business Administration degree from Washington University in 1991. In 1988, he earned a postgraduate diploma in Petroleum Economics from Oxford University. Also, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Federal University of Technology Yola.


    Before becoming the AfDB President, Adesina served as Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development. Until his appointment as minister in 2010, he was Vice President of Policy and Partnerships for the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

    He was elected as the AfDB President in 2015 and re-elected for a second term in 2020. He is the first Nigerian to hold the post.

    Adesina was born to a Nigerian farmer in Ibadan, Oyo State and attended a village school and graduated with a Bachelors in Agricultural Economics with First Class Honors from the University of Ife, Nigeria (1981), where he was the first student to be awarded this distinction by the university. He pursued his studies at Purdue University in Indiana, briefly returning to Nigeria in 1984 to get married. He obtained his PhD (Agricultural Economics) in 1988 from Purdue, where he won the Outstanding PhD Thesis for his research work.

    He was the Agriculture Minister from 2010 to 2015 and was named Forbes African Man of the Year for his reform of Nigerian agriculture. He introduced more transparency into the fertiliser supply chain. He also said he would give away mobile phones to farmers but this proved too difficult. One of the reasons was the lack of a mobile network in country areas.

    On May 28, 2015, Adesina was elected the presumptive President of the African Development Bank. He began his tenure of the office on September 1, 2015. In September 2016, Adesina was appointed by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to serve as a member of the Lead Group of the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement.

    In 2017, he was awarded the 2017 World Food Prize. On August 27, 2020, Adesina was re-elected as AfDB President for a second term of five years.


    Chile Eboe-Osuji is a judge of the International Criminal Court, The Hague since March 2012 and was elected as President on March 11, 2018. Born on September 2, 1962, Eboe-Osuji’s election into the Presidency of the International Criminal Court is for a three-year term. He was the Legal Adviser to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

    He was born in Anara, Isiala Mbano, Imo State and obtained his bachelor of laws degree from the University of Calabar, Nigeria, master of laws degree from McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and doctor of laws degree from the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

    He was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1986 and practised briefly there. After obtaining his master of laws degree from McGill in 1991, he worked as a barrister in Canada, having been called to the Bar in Ontario and in British Columbia in 1993.

    From 1997 to 2005, Eboe-Osuji worked at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda as prosecution counsel and senior legal officer to the judges of the tribunal. From 2005 to 2007, he worked in Canada as a barrister and law lecturer. Working for the Special Court for Sierra Leone as senior prosecution appeals counsel in 2007/08 and returning to the ICTR from 2008 to 2010 as Head of Chambers, he became the Legal Adviser to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay in 2010, and held a cross-appointment as the principal prosecution appeals counsel at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, in the case of Charles Taylor, the former President of Liberia. He has authored two books and numerous law journal articles in international law.

     Amina Mohammed

    Ms Mohammed is the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations and Chair of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group. She was born in Liverpool, UK, in 1961 to a Nigerian veterinarian-officer and a British nurse. She is the eldest of five daughters.

    Ms Mohammed attended a primary school in Kaduna and Maiduguri, and Buchan School in Isle of Man. She further attended Henley Management College in 1989. After she finished her studies, her father demanded she returns to Nigeria.

    Between 1981 and 1991, Amina worked with Archcon Nigeria, an architectural design firm in association with Norman and Dawbarn United Kingdom. In 1991, she founded Afri-Projects Consortium, and from 1991 to 2001, she was its Executive Director. From 2002 until 2005, Mohammed coordinated the Task Force on Gender and Education for the United Nations Millennium Project.

    Ms Mohammed served as Minister of Environment in the President Buhari cabinet from November 2015 to February 2017. During the period, she was Nigeria’s representative in the African Union (AU) Reform Steering Committee, chaired by Paul Kagame. She resigned from the Nigerian Federal Executive Council on February 24, 2017.


    Adeoye was elected few days ago to head the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union (AU), succeeding Algerian diplomat Smail Chergui, who held the post for two consecutive terms.

    The election took place on the sidelines of the 34th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union. Adeoye is Nigeria’s former member of the African and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). He was Ambassador to Ethiopia and Djibouti between 2017 to 2020.

    Before the election, Adeoye was ranked overall best candidate in an independent assessment by the AU panel of eminent Africans. He was voted unanimously with 55 votes.

    Bola Adesola

    Ms Adeola’s appointment to the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative, UNGC, was confirmed in April 2018, by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres.

    Adesola, before her appointment, was Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Standard Chartered Nigeria, is serving as one of the two Vice-Chairs of the Board of the United Nations Global Compact, the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative.

    Ms Adesola had served on the Board of the United Nations Global Compact previously, and brought to the position a wealth of experience in the private sector, in the corporate sustainability space and specifically with the United Nations Global Compact itself.

    She has over 25 years of banking experience, including at First Bank of Nigeria and at Citibank. Ms. Adesola holds degrees from Harvard Business School and Lagos Business School, as well as a law degree from the University of Buckingham.


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