The head of the African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina, has been accused by bank staff of multiple abuses and breaches of the bank's code of ethics, charges he flatly denied.
A group of anonymous "concerned staff members of the AfDB" wrote to bank governors to detail "cases of alleged breach" of conduct by the president, who is seeking a second term in May.
The staff said they had initially followed established policies within the bank to voice their concerns but in early March "came to the conclusion that the Ethics Committee was unable or unwilling to proceed with their preliminary examination of the complaint".
Their allegations, first reported on by the French daily Le Monde, include "various cases of alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct: unethical conduct, private gain, impediment to efficiency, preferential treatment, adversely affecting confidence in the integrity of the Bank and involvement in political activity".
The bank staff added: "It looks as if a conscious effort is done by some staff members close to the President to sabotage all attempts by the Ethics Committee to perform its duties."
Adesina, 60, replied on Monday without referring in detail to the allegations, which he termed "spurious and unfounded" and "blatantly false".
The AfDB president added that the board of directors' ethics committee was carrying out an internal review that should proceed "without interference from anyone or the media".
Adesina, a former Nigerian agriculture minister, has appeared to be almost certain to be named to a second five-year term as head of Africa's foremost development finance institution.
In the letter, more than a dozen pages long and dated April 2020, bank staff also complained of "preferential treatment for Nigeria and Nigerians".
They said in particular that while Nigeria owned a little more than 9% of the shares in AfDB, Nigerians "made up roughly 25% of the newly recruited managerial functions" under a "massive recruitment drive that was launched due to the restructuring of President Adesina between 2016 and 2018".
The new managers allegedly include a brother-in-law of the president and a childhood friend.
Adesina said: "I am 100% confident that due process and transparency, based on facts and evidence, will indicate that these are all nothing more than spurious and unfounded allegations."
Another example raised by the bank staff was that of awards received by Adesina in 2017 and 2019 of $250 000 and $500 000 from groups in the US and South Korea.
"It is not clear if he received these awards as the President of the AfDB or as a private citizen," but "dozens of people, bank staff, executive directors" and others including family members "attended the award ceremonies at the bank's costs".
The letter went on to ask: "If these awards were private, why did the bank support associated costs? If they were awarded to the President of the Group of the Bank were the awards returned to the Bank?"
The AfDB is one of the five largest multilateral development banks in the world, and in October 2019 it raised $115 billion in fresh capital, an operation deemed a personal success for Adesina.
The bank has 80 state shareholders, 54 of which are African, with the remainder located in the Americas, Asia, and Europe.