HEADS of governments of the 15 nations that make up the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) have unanimously backed Nigeria’s former finance minister Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s bid to become the World Trade Organisation (WTO) director-general.
Early this month, , President Muhammadu Buhari, nominated Dr Okonjo-Iweala, 65, as his candidate for the position, after withdrawing the candidacy of Yonov Agah, Nigeria’s permanent representative to WTO. However, Egypt objected to the nomination asking the WTO to reject it and also asked other African nations to support its candidate Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh.
However, the WTO acknowledged the nomination of Dr Okonjo-Iweala for post of director-general, saying her application was in line with its guidelines. Following this development, the Republic of Benin decided to withdraw its candidate for the position, making Dr Okonjo-Iweala a favourite to clinch the post.
Dr Okonjo-Iweala’s only real opponent now is Mexican economist Jesús Seade Kurim who also has experience of working with the World Bank and international development bodies. In a big boost for Dr Okonjo-Iweala, however, the Ecowas leaders have issued a joint statement backing her candidacy.
In a statement signed by Niger Republic’s President Mahamadou Issoufou, the Ecowas chairman, they also called on other African countries as well as non-African nations to endorse her candidature for the job. Their statement read: “Since the creation of the WTO on January 1, 1995, which is a successor to the General Agreement on Tariff and Trade established on January 1, 1948, no African has assumed the position of director-general of the organisation.”