There are quite a number of Nigerians holding key positions in various international organisations and excelling in their roles in these organisations. Interestingly, many started out serving Nigeria at state and national levels before their output shot them into limelight on international stages.
This week’s profile looks at some of these men and women, and the career paths which led to their current positions.
Amina J. Mohammed – Deputy Secretary-General, United Nations
Amina J. Mohammed was appointed the 5th Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations in January 2017. She is also the Chair of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group.
Before this appointment, she served as Nigeria’s Minister of Environment (2015-2016). She had also served with the United Nations earlier in 2012 as Special Adviser to former Secretary-General (Ban Ki-moon) on Post-2015 Development Planning4 and led the process that resulted in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the creation of the Sustainable Development Goals.
She has also served as Adviser to four successive Presidents on poverty, public sector reform, and sustainable development. Prior to that, her early career focused on working on the design of schools and clinics in Nigeria and increasing access to education and other social services.
Ms. Mohammed serves on numerous international advisory panels and boards, including the Global Development Program of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Secretary General’s Global Sustainability Panel, the Hewlett Foundation on Education, African Women’s Millennium Initiative, and the ActionAid International “Right to Education Project,” among others.
She is an Adjunct Professor of the Master’s Programme for Development Practice at Columbia University, New York; and also the former CEO/Founder of the Center for Development Policy Solutions. She is a Governor of the International Development Research Centre in Canada, and currently chairs the Advisory Board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Global Monitoring Report on Education.
Mohammed is a recipient of various global awards and has also been conferred several honorary doctorates. She received the National Honours Award of the Order of the Federal Republic in 2006 and was inducted in the Nigerian Women’s Hall of Fame in 2007.
Akinwumi Adesina – President, African Development Bank
Akinwumi Adesina was appointed in May 2015 as the eighth President of the African Development Bank Group and re-elected into the position in August 2020 for his second five-year tenure.
Before this appointment, he had served Nigeria as Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development for about five years. He was the representative of the Rockefeller Foundation for the Southern African area from 1999 to 2003, when he became an Associate Director for food security till 2008. He was Vice President of Policy and Partnerships for the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa up till 2010 when he was appointed Nigeria’s Minister for Agriculture.
Adesina served as Assistant Principal Economist of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics from 1988-1990; as the Principal Economist for the West Africa Rice Development Association in Bouaké, Ivory Coast from 1990-1995; and as Senior Economist and Social Science Coordinator for the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture 1995-1998.
In 2010, Adesina was appointed by UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, as one of 17 global leaders to spearhead the Millennium Development Goals. In September 2016, again Ki-moon appointed Adesina to serve as a member of the Lead Group of the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement.
Adesina got his Bachelors degree in Agricultural Economics from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife), and his Masters and PhD in Agricultural Economics from Purdue University, Indiana.
Mohammed Sanusi Barkindo – Secretary General, OPEC
Mohammed Barkindo started serving as the Secretary-General of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in August 2016.
Before then, he had represented Nigeria on OPEC’s Economic Commission Board (1993–2008), served as Acting Secretary-General in 2006, and led the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (2009-2010). He has also headed Nigeria’s technical delegation to UN climate negotiations since 1991.
He is currently the longest-serving delegate to OPEC. In between his years there, he has also held other positions. He was Group Managing Director and CEO of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) from 2009-2010, and also served as Deputy Managing Director of Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas before then.
Mr Barkindo has also been a leader of Nigeria’s technical delegation to the UN climate change negotiations since 1991. He served as Chair of the Group of 77 and China at the UNFCCC and was elected to serve three terms as Vice President of the Conference of the Parties – COP13 (Bali, Indonesia), COP14 (Poznan, Poland), and COP15 (Copenhagen, Denmark), where he chaired the opening session.
Barkindo has a first degree in political science from Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, a postgraduate diploma in Petroleum Economics from Oxford University; and a Master of Business Administration degree from Washington University. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Federal University of Technology, Yola.
Bukar Tijani – Assistant Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
In November 2018, Bukar Tijjani resumed office as FAO Assistant Director-General of the Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department. Before this, he served as FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa from December 2013 to October 2018.
Before that, he had served as Nigeria’s Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development from July 2011 to September 2013.
He had also held senior positions in several state and national institutions, including the Fertilizer Blending Company where he was General Manager, the North-East Arid Zone Development Programme (NEAZDP) an EC-assisted Programme where he served as Director, as well as the National Programme Coordinator for IFAD-assisted Community-Based Agriculture and Rural Development Programme (IFAD-CBARDP), and National Project Coordinator for the Third Fadama Development Project assisted by the World Bank in Nigeria.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala – Director-General, World Trade Organisation
On Monday, February 15, 2021, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was appointed the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the first woman, first Nigerian and first African to ever hold the position. Her tenure started on March 1, 2021, and will end on August 31, 2025.
She also serves on the board of Twitter Inc., Standard Chartered Bank UK, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), African Risk Capacity (ARC), and at Lazard where she is a Senior Adviser.
Before these positions, she had built a 25-year career at the World Bank as a development economist, rising through the ranks to attain many top positions including that of the Managing Director, Operations which she held for 4 years.
She was the first woman to become Finance Minister in Nigeria, and she served twice in this capacity under President Olusegun Obasanjo (2003–2006) and President Goodluck Jonathan (2011–2015) respectively. In 2005, Euromoney named her Global Finance Minister of the Year.
Bola Adesola – Co-Vice Chair, United Nations Global Compact
In April 2018, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, confirmed the appointment of a Nigerian, Bola Adesola, as Co-Vice Chair to the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative, United Nations Global Compact (UNGC).
Before this, Adesola had over 25 years of banking experience across First Bank of Nigeria, Citibank and Kakawa Discount House, culminating in her appointment as Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Standard Chartered Bank Nigeria Limited.
Adesola holds a Law degree from the University of Buckingham and is also an alumnus of the Harvard Business School and Lagos Business School.
Samaila Zubairu, President/CEO of African Finance Corporation
Samaila Zubairu is AFC’s 3rd President and Chief Executive Officer. Prior to his appointment, he was the CEO of Afri-Capital Management Limited. He has also served as Chief Financial Officer for Dangote Cement Plc, as well as the Treasurer for the Dangote Group during its transformation from a trading company to an industrial conglomerate. He managed the unbundling of Dangote Industries Limited to listed subsidiaries on the Nigerian Stock Exchange.
Zubairu holds a BSc in Accounting from Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria and is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, Nigeria (FCA). He is an Eisenhower Fellow and was the first African appointed to the Board of Trustees of the international leadership exchange programme.
Mr. Zubairu holds Non-Executive positions on several boards.
Kingsley Moghalu, Special Envoy on Post-Covid Development Finance for Africa
Kingsley Moghalu was recently appointed into the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Special Envoy on Post-Covid Development Finance for Africa.
In the past, he served as Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, under the Yar’Adua/Jonathan administration (2009 – 2014), as the Chairman of the Boards of Directors of the Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM) and the Financial Institutions Training Centre, and as a member of the boards of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), among others. He has also lectured at Tufts University as Professor of Practice in International Business and Public Policy at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy from 2015 to 2017.
He founded Sogato Strategies LLC, a global investment advisory firm, and is also the President of a public policy think tank, the Institute for Governance and Economic Transformation (IGET). He was a Joan Gillespie Fellow and a research assistant in the International Political Economy program.
Moghalu has a very extensive international career across several countries and international bodies. He joined the United Nations in 1992, and served as a UN human rights and elections officer with the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia. He also served as political advisor to the special representative of the UN Secretary-General in Croatia; as legal adviser to the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (UNICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania and later the international tribunal’s spokesman.
He has also occupied different positions at the World Health Organization including Head of Global Partnerships and Resource Mobilization at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM), and a member of the risk management committee.
Moghalu got his first degree in law from the University of Nigeria, a Master of Arts degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and later obtained his Doctor of Philosophy degree in international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science at the University of London.
He also earned the International Certificate in Risk Management from the Institute of Risk Management in London. He received advanced executive education in macroeconomics and financial sector management, corporate governance, and global strategic leadership at the International Monetary Fund Institute, Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, Harvard Business School, and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.