Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala looks set to be confirmed as the first woman and first African to become the Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Monday, 3 months after the Trump administration rejected her candidacy.
This follows the convening of the special general council meeting, where she is expected to be formally appointed to lead the global trade organization after unanimous backing from its members.
Okonjo- Iweala, who has a track record of taking on seemingly intractable problems, will have her work cut out for her at the trade organization, even though Donald Trump, who was very critical of the group is no longer in the White House.
The Joe Biden administration swung the contest in her favour after the only other remaining candidate, South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee, withdrew from the race, following a meeting with US officials.
As the Director-General of WTO, a position that wields limited formal power, Okonjo-Iweala, 66, will need to broker international trade talks in the face of persistent U.S.-China conflict, respond to pressure to reform trade rules and counter protectionism exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Former WTO chief, Pascal Lamy, in a chat with Reuters, said, “She brings stature, she brings experience, a network and temperament of trying to get things done, which is quite a welcome lot in my view. I think she’s a good choice. Key to her success will be her ability to operate in the centre of a U.S.-EU-China triangle.’’
Okonjo-Iweala, who is expected to become one of the few female heads of a major multilateral body, said her priorities include getting long-blocked trade talks on fishery subsidies across the finish line and breathing life back into WTO’s Appellate Body.
The Trump administration’s main criticism of her was that she lacked direct trade experience compared to her main South Korean rival and even supporters say she will have to quickly get up to speed on the technicalities of trade negotiations.
While rejecting this claim, Okonjo-Iweala said she has plenty of experience in trade plus other expertise, insisting that what is needed to lead the WTO is not technical skills but boldness and courage.
She said, “The qualities I have are even better.’’
Kingsley Moghalu, former deputy governor of Nigeria’s central bank who worked with her when she was the country’s first female finance minister said she is persistent and stubborn.
- Okonjo-Iweala who is a special envoy for the World Health Organization on COVID-19 and, until recently chair of the board of global vaccine alliance Gavi, told Reuters that trade’s contribution to public health would be a priority.
- The WTO currently faces a deadlock over the issue of waiving intellectual property rights for Covid-19 drugs, with many wealthy countries opposed.
- She argued during the race that she was best placed out of the 8 candidates for the post to help WTO navigate through the crisis, insisting that she is a reform candidate.
- Even before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic with its devastation of the global economy, the WTO was weighed down by stalled trade talks and struggled to curb trade tensions between the United States and China.
What you should know
- It can be recalled that the South Korean opponent formally withdrew her candidacy after consultations with the Biden administration, clearing the way for Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to clinch the WTO top post after opposition from the former Trump administration.
- The United States Government through the US Trade Representative, formally backed Ngozi Okonjo-Iwela for the position of the Director-General of WTO, describing her as someone who would bring a wealth of knowledge in economics and international diplomacy.
- They said she is widely respected for her effective leadership and has a proven experience managing a large international organization with a diverse membership
Senate endorses ex-Service Chiefs as Non-career Ambassadors
The Senate has confirmed President Buhari’s nomination of the immediate past service chiefs as non-career ambassadors.
The Nigerian Senate has endorsed the nomination of the past serving Military Service Chiefs as Non-career Ambassadors.
This was confirmed during Tuesday’s plenary session and announced in a social media statement by the Nigerian Senate.
Their confirmation follows the consideration of the report of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Chaired by Senator Adamu Bulkachuwa.
According to reports, the Senate Minority Leader Enyinaya Abaribe, however, questioned the nomination and confirmation of the ex-service chiefs when the Senate had on 3 different occasions called for their sack.
Senator Abaribe also raised issues on the petitions against the former service chiefs and questioned why they were dismissed without explanations.
But Senate President Ahmad Lawan dismissed Senator Abaribe’s concerns, ruling that the nomination of the former service chiefs cannot be nullified simply because the upper chamber had called for their sack, noting that this is totally a different assignment.
In his concluding statement, the Senate President, Senator Lawan added that these nominees that have just been confirmed have served this country to the best of their abilities. He appealed to the executive to make sure they use their experience as military men to the best.
“These nominees that we have just confirmed are nominees that have served this country to the best of their ability. Our appeal to the Executive is to make sure they use their experiences as military men to the best,” Lawan said.
Lawan, on behalf of the senate, wished them a very successful career in their capacity as Non-Career Ambassadors.
What you should know
- Recall Nairametrics reported earlier this month that President Muhammadu Buhari nominated ex-Service Chiefs for Senate approval as non-career Ambassadors-Designate.
- Their appointment came barely a week after their retirement as service chiefs and their replacement with new ones.
- This led to a spate of criticisms from some Nigerians who felt that the nation’s security situation got worse under their watch.
- They were reported to have tendered their resignation from their positions amid heightened calls that they should be sacked due to the increasing rate of insecurity across the country.
2020 budget performance: FG achieves 89% capital release in December 2020
The Minister of Finance has revealed that the FG achieved 89% release of the capital component of the 2020 budget to MDAs as of December 2020.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, has revealed that the Federal Government achieved 89% release of the capital component of the 2020 budget to Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) as of December 2020.
She said that the 89% capital funding for MDAs was achieved with the release of N1.74 trillion.
According to a report by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), this disclosure was made by Ahmed at an interactive session with the leadership of the National Assembly on Monday, February 22, 2021.
She also revealed that the government had disbursed N118.37 billion for Covid-19 capital expenditure from the fund.
What the Minister for Finance is saying
Ahmed said the Nigerian economy faced serious challenges in 2020, with the macroeconomic environment significantly disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
She said this led to a 65% drop in projected net 2020 government revenues from the oil and gas sector, which adversely affected foreign exchange inflows into the economy.
On the delayed release of funds to implement the 2020 capital budget until March 31, the Minister said the complaint had decreased.
She said, “I think the complaint was earlier in the year when we were trying to transfer the balances. As far as I know, in the past three weeks, I haven’t heard any such complaints and we have been able to address them.
“But when we started the transfers, we couldn’t transfer to some agencies because of some limitations in the system, but we have since been able to transfer the capital component that is being utilised by the agencies budget to the system.”
While pointing out that the implementation of the MDAs projects was tied to procurement processes and capacity of the MDA, Ahmed also said the extension of the 2020 capital budget implementation to March 31 had recorded 30% performance as at January.
However, Ahmed said that she expected that the extension would record 100% performance in March.
Speaking during the interaction, the Senate’s Chief Whip, Senator Orji-Uzor Kalu, commended the Minister on the capital performance of the 2020 budget.
He said, “I want to commend the minister and her team because this is the first time in the history of Nigeria that by December 31, we are having 89% performance expenditure of the budget. It has never happened before; Last year was the very first.
“The budget had been going 49%, 27%; this means from what the Senate President was asking, it means by March, we should be looking at implementing the budget 100%.’’
Earlier, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan said the meeting was to get an update on the capital implementation of the 2020 budget given its extension for implementation by the national assembly to March 31.
What this means
- The 89% capital release for the 2020 budget as of December 2020 is quite encouraging as it occurred despite the economic challenges and disruption caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
- There seems to be an improved effort by the Federal Government at the budgeting process with the early passage of the 2021 budget and the implementation of the capital component of the 2020 budget.
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