WTO: Okonjo-Iweala’s nomination late, invalid — Egypt

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The nomination of former Minister of Finance under the former President Goodluck Jonathan administration, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for the World Trade Organisation top job seem to have run into troubled waters as Egypt has requested that her nomination to contest for the office of the director-general should not be recognised.

In a letter to States of the African Union, Egypt contended that her nomination was out of time and therefore flew in the face of the rules of nomination which import they said, was that Nigeria no longer had a candidate for the position.

It said member states of the African Union (AU) had been required to nominate candidates for the director-general position by November 30, 2019 over five months ago while the request to substitute Yonok Frederick Agah was made on June 4, 2020.

President Muhammadu Buhari approved Okonjo-Iweala’s nomination to contest for the position and withdrew the candidacy of Agah, Nigeria’s permanent representative to WTO.

In a letter kicking against the fresh nomination to the candidature committee, the permanent mission of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the AU said the Office of Legal Consent gave the opinion that Nigeria’s nomination of a new candidate “is not in conformity with the executive council decision”.

The Egyptian mission urged the ministerial committee on candidatures to officially inform the African Group in Geneva that Abdulhameed Mamdouh of Egypt and Eloi Laourou of the Republic of Benin are currently the “only two endorsed African candidates”, according to the communication dated June 5, 2020.

During the ambassadorial level ministerial committee on candidatures meeting which was held on June 4, 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 in conformity with the executive council decision EX.CL/Dec. I 090(XXXVI), since the council’s decision, had 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.

“The conformity of Nigeria’s new nomination as presented in its 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 I 6 of the rules of procedure of the ministerial committee.”

Flowing from the above, the mission urged the legal counsel office to provide its opinion on “the conformity of Nigeria’s new nomination with executive council decision no. EX1072 of July 2019, which requested member states to nominate candidates to the position of director-general of the World Trade Organisation by November 30, 2019.

The mission also said it has started consultations with the Republic 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”.




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