Buhari appoints Mustafa Chike-Obi as Nigeria’s special envoy to U.S.

Following the current differences between the United States (U. S.) government and the leading continental stakeholders in the African Development Bank (AfDB), President Muhammadu Buhari has appointed the former Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), Mustapha Chike-Obi, casually known as MCO, as Special Envoy to the American government.

Buhari who has expressed deep concern over the unfolding situation in AfDB, which has delayed the re-appointment of Dr Akinwunmi Adesina as president of the bank and threatens its smooth operation at this most inopportune time is counting on Chike-Obi’s qualities as an excellent professional to negotiate a solution acceptable to all stakeholders.

In a document from the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, dated 30th June 2020, which was obtained by The Daily Times, showed that Chike-Obi appointment as Nigeria’s Special Envoy to the Government of the United State of America was with immediate effect and continues through 31 August 2020.

Why Chike-Obi?

Casually known as MCO, Chike-Obi holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from University of Lagos (first-class honours) and an MBA from Stanford University Graduate School of Business.

He was the pioneer Managing Director of AMCON from 2010- 2015. Prior to AMCON, Mr Chike Obi magnified his career in Financial Services in the United States of America.

Although, he had previously worked at Goldman Sachs and founded Madison Park Financial Advisors. Mr Chike Obi was hired in 2010 by former governor of The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sanusi Lamido, who entrusted him to manage the banking sector intervention project with the main objective of purchasing Non-Performing Loans (NPL) from commercial banks, re-capitalising the loans to sell off at lucrative bargains.

Hurdles and expectations

Considering his sound education background, a wealth of experience and professionalism, President Muhammadu Buhari hope Chike-Obi his two assistants, a director from the Federal Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be able to mediate the current differences of opinion between the US government and the leading African stakeholders in the African development bank (AFDB) has delayed the re-appointment of Dr Akinwunmi Adesina as president of the bank.

“Nigeria is determined to take all necessary diplomatic steps to resolve the impasse to enable the full support of the board of the AFDB in the re+election of Dr Adesina”,

“Needless to stress that your appointment is in recognition of your Sterling qualities as an excellent professional who as served Nigeria well and done her proud. The federal government has the confidence that you possess all it takes to effectively function as its special envoy for this purpose” Zainab Ahmed, Finance Minister stated in the document.

Experience

Mustafa Chike-Obi started off his Nigerian Banking career with Chase Merchant Bank from 1980 – 1982 as Head of Treasury Department. It is, however, noteworthy that MCO created the Treasure Department concept in Nigerian banking and headed the first such department in Nigeria, which is now a critical part of the nation’s banking industry.

Consequently, Mustafa Chike-Obi later moved to Goldman Sachs where he worked as Co-Head Trading, Mortgage-Backed Securities. Furthermore, he founded Madison Park Advisors, a financial service advisory and consulting firm specializing in hedge fund and private equity investment – located in New Jersey, U.S.A.

He was also Managing Director of Shoreline Group from 2001 – 2006. Mustafa Chike-Obi worked with Bear Stearns & Co as Co-Head Emerging Markets Trading 1992 – 1995.

As AMCON Boss

AMCON was set up in 2010 following former CBN governor, Sanusi Lamido’s banking sector intervention, with the objectives of buying up bad loans from the banks, re-capitalising them and finding buyers to run them in a transparent manner.

During MCO’s years at AMCON, the institution was known as one of the largest financial institutions in Nigeria with assets exceeding N5trillion.

Recent appointment

Fidelity Bank PLC on Monday 6th July 2020, announced the appointment of Mustafa Chike-Obi as Chairman of its Board of Directors. The appointment, which has been approved by the Central Bank of Nigeria will take effect on August 14, 2020, after the expiration of the tenure of the current Chairman, Mr Ernest Ebi.

However, before now, he has focussed on running Alpha African Advisory based in Ikoyi, Lagos, Nigeria; a company with numerous employees.

It would be recalled that in a letter dated May 22, 2020, to Ms Kaba, the U.S. government, through the Secretary, Department of Treasury in Washington, D.C., Steven Mnuchin, faulted the decision of AfDB committee to totally exonerate Dr Adesina of all allegations, saying it was not yet time to make such a declaration.

Just recently, the board of governors of the bank approved an independent review of the ethics committee’s work.

The decision, taken at the meeting of the bureau regarding the whistleblowers’ complaints against Dr Adesina was obviously in deference to the demand by the U.S. government

Meanwhile, ex-Vice presidents of the African Development Bank (AfDB) are calling for the independent probe of the current president of the bank, Akinwumi Adesina.

A body of ex-Vice Presidents of the AfDB, which is made up of Bedoumra Kordje, Kane Ousmane, Ganthso Mandia and Sakala Zondo said they were concerned by the widely publicized news of the dispute between the Bank’s President and some of its shareholders over the outcome of allegations made against the President by whistleblowers.

The ex-VPs said they believed it was in the interest of the Bank, that its shareholders, President, and staff that an independent enquiry examines the allegations and the evidence and comes to clear conclusions which can inform the conduct of the Bank’s business in the future.

According to them, without such an enquiry, the current situation places the Bank, it’s President and its governing structures in an unfavourable light, with potentially adverse consequences for its credit rating and for its reputation, in general, adding that it worth recalling that the AfDB lost its triple AAA rating in the mid-1990s following a governance crisis, and only regained it a decade or so later following rigorous adjustments and painful reforms.

“We welcome the President’s statement of 27 May 2020 indicating that he is not opposed to an independent enquiry: As he said: “l am confident that fair, transparent and just processes that respect the rules, procedures and governance systems of the Bank and the rule of law will ultimately prove that I have not violated the Code of Ethics of this extraordinary institution.” Such a perspective will honour him and, in turn, bolster his prospects for possible re-election”

They welcomed the decision from the Board of Governors’ Bureau to act swiftly for an independent and credible review of the matter saying it was important for Africa that its premier financial institution was above suspicion and is exemplary in its governance.

“More generally, we believe that Africa’s political commitment to good governance is well established. Therefore, Africa must, in all its initiatives, compel the world’s respect in terms of transparency; ethics, and compliance with established rules.

This is a requirement for optimal mobilization of its abundant internal resources (see the Report of the High-Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa, headed by President Thabo Mbeki, the Former President of South Africa). It is also a necessary condition for a fruitful partnership with the rest of the world”, they said.

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Meanwhile, Adesina, who seeks a second term in office as head of the AfDB has been in the eye of the storm lately over sundry allegations of misconduct.

Although, he has consistently insisted that he is innocent amid the crisis.

In a recent visit to President Muhammadu Buhari, Adesina, a former Nigerian Minister for Agriculture said the allegations raised against him were trumped up, “and without facts, evidence, and documents, as required by the rules and regulations of the bank.”

Earlier, he had said that he is confident that a fair and just process of investigation would establish that he is innocent of all the allegations leveled against him.

“I am confident that fair, transparent and just processes that respect the rules, procedures and governance systems of the Bank, and the rule of law, will ultimately prove that I have not violated the Code of Ethics of this extraordinary institution,” he said.

It is, however, noteworthy that among all the instruments available to the President in his conduct of foreign relations, none is more flexible than the use of personal representatives.

In fact, findings have shown that the President is free to employ officials of the government or private citizens. He may give them such rank and title as seem appropriate to the tasks; these designations may be ambassador, commissioner, agent, delegate; or he may assign no title at all.

He may send his agents to any place on earth that he thinks desirable and give them instructions either by word of mouth, or in writing, or through the Department of State, or in any other manner that seems to him fitted to the occasion.

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