Buhari, National Assembly, Govs Hail Okonjo-Iweala's Emergence As WTO Boss

The oceans seemed to have united on Monday as high-ranking politicians from across the political spectrum struggled for space to rejoice at the confirmation of a former minister of finance, Dr Ngozi OkonjoIweala, as the first woman and African to be named the directorgeneral of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The senior special assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said President Muhammadu Buhari, has congratulated Okonjo-Iweala. He quoted the President as saying that the development had brought joy and more honour to the country. Shehu, in a statement, said, "On behalf of the Federal Government and all Nigerians, President Muhammadu Buhari warmly felicitates with former minister of finance and Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on her election as director general of the World Trade Organisation, bringing joy and more honour to the country. "As the Harvard-educated and renowned economist takes up another onerous task of service to the world and humanity, the President believes her track record of integrity, diligence and passion for development will continue to yield positive results and rewards to mankind. "The president joins family, friends and colleagues in wishing Dr Okonjo-Iweala well in her new endeavour. The minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Adeniyi Adebayo, in his speech on behalf of the Federal Government, delivered via Zoom at the Special General Council Meeting of the organisation in Geneva, Switzerland on Monday, said the process of selection was transparent. He said the credit for the resulting success must go to the entire membership. Adebayo was quoted in state ment issued by his aide, Ifedayo Sayo, as saying, "Nigeria wishes to express profound gratitude and deep appreciation to all the members, who in one way or the other assisted Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala during the campaign period. "Thanks also goes to all the regional groupings in the WTO for granting audience and support during and after the exercise. The minister described OkonjoIweala as one of the few on the global stage that enjoyed high recognition in view of charismatic leadership qualities and proven records of excellence and integrity, along with international political connections. The president of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, in a statement by his media office, also congratulated Nigeria on the latest feat of its 'great daughter' on the international stage. "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. The governor of Delta State, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, assured OkonjoIweala of the support of her home state and the entire country. This was contained in a certified social media post by the governor. Okowa said, "Over the years, we have all followed your growth and celebrated your noteworthy achievements. This is why, as you begin your new role at the helm of the WTO, I want you to know that you have the unwavering support of both your home state and your country. The Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, and the minority caucus in the House also congratulated the new WTO boss. Gbajabiamila, in a statement issued on Monday by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Lanre Lasisi, said OkonjoIweala's unanimous confirmation by the WTO was a testament to her years of experience in the financial sector both at home and abroad. Gbajabiamila said with OkonjoIweala's pedigree, he believed that she would take the WTO to enviable heights during her term as the director general. The minority leader, Ndudi Elumelu, in a separate statement, said her emergence as DG of the WTO "has reinforced global confidence in international consensus and recognition of competence and proficiency over provincial considerations. The governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, said the appointment of Oknonjo-Iweala to head the WTO was a beacon of hope for Nigeria. A statement by Wike's aide, Kelvin Ebiri, said, "The Rivers State governor is confident that Dr Okonjo-Iweala, who has distinguished herself as a renowned economist, and contributed to the economic successes of many nations, will usher in a new era in the WTO. Similarly, the Edo State governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki, said Okonjo-Iweala would bring her wealth of experience in building stronger alliances to promote multilateral trade, instill the needed discipline to advance the development of world economies and bridge trade gaps between developed and developing economies across the globe. In a speech after her confirmation, Okonjo-Iweala said her key priority would be to work with members to quickly address the economic and health consequences brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. She said, "I am honoured to have been selected by members as WTO director-general. "A strong WTO is vital if we are to recover fully and rapidly from the devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic. "I look forward to working with members to shape and implement the policy responses we need to get the global economy going again. "Our organisation faces a great many challenges but working together we can collectively make the WTO stronger, more agile and better adapted to the realities of today. Okonjo-Iweala will resume her position on March 1, and her term which is renewable will expire on August 31, 2025.

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