WTO DG Post: Did Nigeria goof in nominating Okonjo-Iweala as Egypt protests?

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THE federal government of Nigeria may have goofed in withdrawing the candidacy of Ambassador Yonov Frederick Agah and replacing him with Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former finance minister for the position of director general of World Trade Organisation, WTO.

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The deadline for nomination of candidates ended in November 30, 2019 and the African Union Commission has concluded with the processes of nomination before Nigeria sent the name of Okonjo-Iweala to it on June 4, 2020.

Realnews reports that two other countries namely Egypt and Benin also presented candidates for the post and that the AU had long finished with the process of nomination and had sent the names of the three previous candidates to WTO office in Geneva..

This is why the Permanent Mission of the Arab Republic of Egypt has kicked against the substitution of Agah with Ngozi Okonjo Iwela for the position of the director-general of the World Trade organisation. From the point of view of Egypt only two countries are noe in contention for the position as Nigeria has withdrawn its candidate.

Egypt is basing its opposition to Nigeria’s replacement of its already previous candidate with Okonjo-Iweala on the fact that the time of nomination of candidates has elapsed since November 30, 2019.

Egypt’s position is coming on the heel of the letter the Nigerian government wrote to African Union, AU, on June 4, 2020, notifying it of the withdrawal as well as requesting for its support for the candidature of Okonjo-Iweala.

However, the Note Verbal of the government of Egypt to AU, dated June 5, 2020, referred to the post of the director general of the WORLD Trade Organisation, to which the following three candidates of Benin, Egypt and Nigeria obtained the endorsement of the Executive Council in its decision EX.CL/Dec.1090(XXXVI) in February 2020: Mr. Eloi Laouron of the Republic of Benin; Mr. Abdulhameed Mamdouh of the Republic of Egypt and Ambassador Yonov Fredrick Agah of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Part of the Note Verbal from the government of Egypt to AU reads: “Taking into account the recent decision of the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in which it withdrew the candidature of Ambassador Fredrick Agah – as stipulated in the Note verbal no. 146/2020 of the Permanent Mission of Nigeria circulated to all Permanent Mission to the African Union (attached); the Permanent Mission of the Arab Republic kindly requests the esteemed Ministerial Committees on Candidatures to officially inform the African Group in Geneva that candidature of Ambassador Yonov Frederick Agah of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has been withdrawn and disqualified, and that Mr. Abdulhameed Mamdouh of the Arab Republic of Egypt and Mr. Eloi Laourou of the Republic of Benin are currently the only two endorsed African candidates.

“In this context, the Permanent Mission of Egypt would like to highlight that Government of Egypt is undertaking consultations with the Government {of} Benin with the aim of reaching a consensus on one African candidate between the only two currently endorsed African candidates, and will communicate the outcomes of these consultations to the esteemed Ministerial Committee at the soonest possible date.

“Furthermore, during the Ambassadorial level Ministerial Committee on Candidatures meeting which was held on 4th of June 2020, the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) gave its legal opinion regarding Nigeria’s nomination of a new candidate to the post of WTO-DG, in which the OLC clearly highlighted that – from a legal point of view – such a nomination is not incomformity with the Executive Council decision EX.CL/Dec.1090(XXXVI), since the council’s decision has specifically endorsed the three names of candidates as submitted by the Ministerial Committee’s report after thoroughly examining the qualifications and professional experience of each of the three above mentioned candidates.

“In this regard, the Permanent Mission has the honor to request the esteemed office of the Legal Counsel to circulate to members of the Candidatures Committee, in writing, its above-mentioned legal opinion regarding the conformity of Nigeria’s new nomination with Executive Council decision no. EX,Cl/Dec.1090(XXXVI) of febraury 2020, as was provided to the Members of the Ministerial Committee on Candidatures during its meeting on 4th of June 2020.

“It further kindly requests the office of the Legal Counsel to provide, in writing , its opinion regarding:

The conformity of Nigeria’s new nomination with Executive Council decision no.EX1072 of July 2019, which requested Member State to nominate candidates to the position of Director General of the World Trade organisation by 30 November 2019;
The conformity of Nigeria’s new nomination as presented in its attached Note Verbal with the Rules of Procedure of the Ministerial Committee, specifically rule 11, para (1), (2), (3), (4):
if the new nomination – in the event it is submitted officially to the WTO in Geneva – could constitute a failure to comply with the decision of the Executive Council and be subject to sanction for non-compliance as mentioned in Rule 16 of the Rules of Procedure of the ministerial Committee.”
“The Permanent Mission would like to seize thus opportunity to express to the esteemed Committee its highest of its appreciation for the manner the Committee is fulfilling it{s} mandate and its adherence to the rules of procedures of the Committee, as well as to the decisions of the Executive Council. This reflects the Committee’s genuine commitment to preserve and emphasize the integrity of the African Union as a rules-based organisation, and serves our common goal of promoting African interest.

“The Permanent Mission of the Arab Republic of egypt avails itself of this opportunity to renew to the Permanent Missions of the Member States of the Ministrial Committee on Candidatures, as well as to the African Union Commission (Commissioner of Political Affairs/Office of Legal Counsel) African Union Commission, the assurances of its highest consideration.

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