President Muhammadu Buhari has congratulated former Minister of Finance and Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on her election as Director General (DG) of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Buhari in a statement issued by his spokesman, Garba Shehu, said her track record of integrity, diligence and passion for development will continue to yield positive results and rewards to mankind.
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Buhari also said Dr Okonjo-Iweala, who over the years set major records of economic reforms in Nigeria as minister of finance, and later minister of foreign affairs, will excel in her new position and validate the global mandate of repositioning and strengthening the multilateral institution for the greater good of all.
A statement released by the WTO on Monday, announced the confirmation of Mrs Okonjo-Iweala as the first female and Africa to become the organisation’s DG. Her recent endorsement by the United States of America and the withdrawal of the South Korean Trade Minister and candidate, Yoo Myung-hee, sealed the deal for Okonjo-Iweala.
The Senate President Ahmad Lawan urged her to deploy her famed intellect, experience, energy and integrity in leading the WTO to promote global prosperity through fair trade.
“I heartily rejoice with Dr Okonjo-Iweala on this well-deserved victory. With her latest feat, the former Nigerian Minister of Finance and Managing Director of the World Bank has again brought honour to Nigeria, Africa and women everywhere,” Lawan said in a statement by his media aide Ola Awoniyi.
On his part, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Lanre Lasisi, said Dr Okonjo-Iweala’s unanimous confirmation by the General Council of the WTO is a testament to her years of experience in the financial sector at home and abroad. The Speaker also called on the new WTO DG to make Nigeria and Africa proud.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo, in his speech delivered via zoom at the Special General Council Meeting of the organisation in Geneva, Switzerland on Monday, where the election happened, said the process of selection was not only transparent but the credit for the resulting success must go to the entire membership.
“We also thank the WTO Secretariat staff, translators and the press who worked really hard in supporting and providing updates to members and the general public on the Director General selection process,” he said.
“We believe that the new Director-General will lead this organisation to achieve its purpose and mandate.”
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) also commended the UniteAccording to d State of America and other international communities for the support given to her to emerge as the DG of WTO.
The party’s spokesman, Kola Ologbondiya, in a statement said, “The PDP restates its charge to the new WTO Director General to redouble her effort in bringing to bear her wealth of experience and competence to the world body.”
Private sector sets agenda for WTO
In the meantime, experts, the organised private sector and the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) have set the agenda for the new DG of WTO.
ACCI in a statement by the media officer, Latifat Opoola, said Okonjo-Iweala has made history as the first African and woman to head the WTO, describing her as “a shining light in trade diplomacy.”
Similarly, an economist and former DG of ACCI, Chijioke Okechukwu, said her eventual election only shows the global acceptability of her qualifications, experience and credentials.
“It should involve serious-minded organised private sector bodies and not government ministries,” he said.
A professor of Capital Market, Professor Uche Uwaleke, said Okonjo-Iweala’s emergency as WTO DG would certainly rub off positively on Nigeria’s economy.
An economist, Prof. Aminu Usman, said an African heading the WTO would help the continent and Nigeria in particular, to address trade imbalance and wrong trade policies affecting African countries.
Another economist, Prof. Sarah Anyanwu, said Nigeria would also benefit through more foreign exchange earnings, greater flow of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and aids and improvements in Nigeria’s image globally.
By Francis Arinze Iloani, Muideen Olaniyi, Balarabe Alkassim, Abdullateef Salau & Hamisu Kabir Matazu