EXCLUSIVE: Egypt wants Okonjo-Iweala disqualified from WTO top job

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance of Nigeria at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Abuja, Nigeria 2014. Copyright by World Economic Forum / Benedikt von Loebell

Egypt has requested that Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s nomination to contest for the office of the director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) should not be recognised.

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.

TheCable had reported on Thursday that President Muhammadu Buhari approved Okonjo-Iweala’s nomination to contest for the position and withdrew the candidacy of Yonov Frederick Agah, Nigeria’s permanent representative to WTO.

The request to substitute Agah was dated June 4, 2020.


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

In the letter, dated June 5, 2020 and seen by TheCable, 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”.

“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 letter read.


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 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.”

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”.


Okonjo-Iweala, 65, served twice as Nigeria’s minister of finance — from 2003 to 2006 under President Olusegun Obasanjo and from 2011 to 2015 under President Goodluck Jonathan.


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