FG backs senior UN Staff, Makinwa, Obasanjo supports Ex Minister Osotimehim

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is under pressure by Nigeria's former president Olusegun Obasanjo to appoint former Health Minister, Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin as the next Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund, a.k.a UNFPA even though the former minister was not originally nominated by the Nigerian government for the position, Empowered Newswire reports.

President Goodluck Jonathan had personally asked the Secretary-General to name Mr. Bunmi Makinwa, a current senior staff of the UN working with the UNFPA to the position, before Obasanjo suddenly sent Osotimehin's name to the UN leader.

However while the UN leader is said to be confused about what to do, causing a significant delay in the announcement of the post, civil society groups and some Africans at the UN are circulating critical information about Osotimehin, who had been poorly rated by the UN officials and agencies while he was managing the UN funds sent to Nigeria to fight HIV/AIDS.

The group by the name Free Africa Network at the UN said of Osotimehin, "Dr. Osotimehin is incompetent, a poor manager, and if he succeeded as a medical doctor, he did not succeed as chairman of Nigeria's AIDS programme and not as minister of health."

Basing its claims on public records at the UN, the group quoted from the 2005 reports of the UN Global Funds for HIV/AIDS which spoke poorly of Osotimehin's managerial capacity of the funds sent to Nigeria.

For instance Global Fund said in a note titled "Formal early warning Letter of February 7th 2005" which was sent from the Fund's secretariat letter to Professor Osotimehin. The letter expressed

"concern about lack of progress reports and slow disbursements of funds (only 14% and only 5% of

the funds for the two programmes disbursed).

The UN Fund also noted that "over one year into the implementation of the programs it is clear that programs are falling well short of achieving the projected targetsÔÇŽ"

Recalling that Osotimehin had led the Nigeria National Action Committee on AIDS, NACA, the UN Fund Secretariat said it emphasizes performance based funding as " a cornerstone of GF-Global Fund- operating procedures ", but that the "the projects administered by NACA are at risk of losing the support of the Global Fund".

Later in December that same year after NACA and Osotimehin had promised to do better, the Global Fund auditors said in another public document reviewing NACA and Osotimehin's role, that further funding requests should not be granted Nigeria because, "following a review, the Secretariat found insufficient evidence of performance to warrant providing Phase 2 funding."

Not done, the Global Fund Secretariat in a 6-page report on NACA and Osotimehin's role added that "there were also concerns raised regarding the integrity of data and the management of programs."

A UN source said the UN Secretary General who had not been personally aware of all this reports when Obasanjo sent Osotimehin's name is now confused because he had decided to offer the position to Nigeria. In deed the Nigerian UN Mission and Makinwa had secured about 80% support of the African countries at the UN for the position of Executive Director of UNFPA.

When Empowered Newswire asked the Spokesperson of the UN Secretary-General Martin Nesirky about an update on the UNFPA post on Thursday afternoon, he said he will not comment on the issue since the process of appointment was still on.

Earlier this year, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon requested all members-states of the UN to submit names of potential candidates to help him decide on the new Executive Director for the UNFPA as the incumbent holder of the office, a notable UN official from Saudi Arabia, Mrs Thoraya Ahmed Obaid is completing here tenure later this year making 10 years of two terms.

The Executive Director position is the equivalent of UN Under-Secretary-General-one step below the Secretary-General's and the UN African group has been campaigning that it was Africa's turn to assume the headship of UNFPA, as is traditional at the UN to spread top positions among the continents.

UN secretariat sources disclosed that after the Secretary-General Ban received nominations in July this year he shortlisted about 9 potential candidates who were interviewed including the federal government's choice, Mr. Bunmi Makinwa, who is currently heading the Africa Section of the UNFPA in South Africa.

But by September the interviews were completed and although Makinwa was the candidate the Nigerian government proposed to the Secretary-General, the name of Osotimehin was said to have suddenly emerged because former Nigerian President Obasanjo had pressured the UN leader, Ban, to broaden the search and therefore by implication ignore the candidate of the Nigerian government, according to UN sources.

Even top Nigerian diplomats at the UN expressed shock when they found out about Osotimehin's name on the list of potential candidates.

A UN source pleading anonymity said the UN Secretary-General was himself visibly surprised because he had met in September with Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan who at that meeting in New York during the UN General Assembly summit last month personally informed Mr. Ban, that Nigeria was backing Makinwa for the office.

Meanwhile a set of three candidates out of those interviewed were being drawn to include the candidates from Netherlands, Uganda and Nigeria. Osotimehin, whose name surfaced late in the game, was also eventually invited to New York for the interview, but there is now confusion, according to UN sources at the office of the Secretary-General on who actually is Nigeria's preference between Makinwa and Osotimehin.

According to the group of Free Africa Network at the UN, Osotimehin should be qualified with his experience and education, but queried that "with Osotimehin's record of at NACA (documented), and very poor performance as minister of health (rejected by his own government), what new qualifications has he acquired to become eligible as a UN agency boss?

The group made of Africans working at the UN and some diplomats also wondered if "perhaps what is not useful or acceptable to Nigeria, evidence of poor performance, constant mismanagement, questionable financial dealings etc. do not mean much to the UN."