The Federal Government has launched investigations into the role played by some senior officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that led to the loss of Fatima Kyari Mohammed, Nigeria’s candidate in the African Union position of Commissioner for Peace and Security in the January election.
The federal government has been accused of not only filling an incompetent candidate, but, also, nepotism over allegation that Mohammed is a relative of the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari.
Mohammed, who lost to the incumbent Algerian candidate, Ambassador Smail Chergui, was described as a dark horse and a green horn introduced at the last minutes of the election.
Algeria has held the same position since 2002 and Chergui is the third Algerian in that position.
A presidency source, who pleaded anonymity, said a serving Director and two retired Permanent Secretaries, with reported ties to one of the candidates from a friendly country that vied for the same position of Commissioner for Peace and Security, were said to be behind the illegal and fraudulent issuance of notes verbal, alleging that Nigeria had withdrawn her candidate in favour of the Algerian candidate.
While the director involved has been issued a query, investigations have been launched into the roles played by the two permanent secretaries.
“Most worrisome and unfortunate is the issue of the so-called Note Verbal issued by our Embassies in Addis Ababa and Algiers, conveying a decision by the federal government of Nigeria to withdraw from the race in favour of Algeria. The truth is there was no such decision by the government.
“While, indeed, there were Note Verbales to that effect, these notes were issued without the knowledge, let alone approval of the Minister of Foreign Affairs who, normally, should be the one to authorise such action on the express approval of the president.
“Therefore, if anything, the government deserves commendation for keeping calm and abstaining to raise dust, despite initial indication of an external influence in the issuance of these highly embarrassing notes.
“This, certainly, is another case of suspected fraud and corruption which, by the way, is also endemic in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in its more than 100 missions abroad. It will, therefore, be interesting to see how this case will be resolved.”
The source also denied allegations that Ms. Mohammed was a relative of the chief of staff and described the rumour as callous and malicious. The source added that Kyari met Mohammed for the first time after she became the country’s candidate.
“The assertion, including in some major media, that Fatima is the daughter of the chief of staff to the president is utterly callous and malicious, clearly made with the intention to generate bad feelings against not only the chief of staff, but the president, and to, also, denigrate the candidate by associating her to nepotism. This is much so because it does not take anything to cross check her lineage, if no malice was intended, and if professionalism was a motivating and guiding factor. The chief of staff met her for the first time ever after she became Nigeria’s candidate.”
The presidency source also went ahead to list out factors that led to Ms. Mohammed being Nigeria’s candidate for AU’s position of commissioner for peace and security.
“On the selection process, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, indeed, chaired not only the meeting where prospective candidates were shortlisted, but also chaired the interview panel which, not only, graded the candidates, but also recommended names for the consideration of Mr. President. Fatima Kyari was graded as second best candidate along with another female candidate. All the other candidates were also found to be competent and this reflects Nigeria’s strong human resource capital.
“However, only one candidate was to be selected. While only Mr. President and, possibly, those who were privy to the final selection process could say why Fatima and not any of the other three highest rated candidates was approved, the AU rule on gender parity may have been a determining factor in favour of a female candidate.”
The source added that the rule required that the two commissioners from each of the five regions must be a male and a female.
“While Nigeria was still on the selection process, as always, we were running late; Senegal and Ghana had already put forward candidates for the two top most posts of Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson, respectively.”
The presidency explained that Fatima’s proficiency in French Language, among other set of skills, also stood in her favour.
It also debunked insinuations that Ms. Mohammed was inexperienced and noted that she was adjudged to have the requisite skills by the panel of assessors by both the AU and Nigeria.
“On the much talked about “inexperience” and/or “incompetence” of the candidate, it is interesting to note that the AU contracted an independent consulting firm that evaluated, assessed and cleared those who were adjudged to have the requisite skills, experience and competence to hold the positions they wanted to compete for.
“Fatima went through the process as all other candidates did and was duly cleared, otherwise she would not have been allowed to run. It, therefore, amounts to ignorance, malice and/or mischief to label the candidate as inexperienced and incompetent to serve as commissioner at the AUC.
“Clearly, therefore, Nigeria’s failure to clinch the post can only be attributed to other factors and not the quality of the its candidate,” the source said.