A social media campaign started by the Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC) has targeted the GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for refusing to provide evidence, cooperate with investigations, or answer simple questions related to a $2.2 million refund from Nigeria to GAVI this year.
SaharaReporters previously reported that the Ministry of Finance, under the leadership of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, refunded GAVI $2.2 million because the Nigerian government allegedly stole or misused that amount of money. SaharaReporters learned that ex-Minister Okonjo-Iweala refunded that money without the knowledge of the Ministry of Health or the Economics and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Ex-Minister Okonjo-Iweala, it was found, refunded $2.2 million despite knowing that the Ministry of Health’s own investigation did not replicate the findings from GAVI’s audit. CSNAC also launched an independent investigation, which also discovered that GAVI’s audit, which claimed that at least $2.2 million was unaccounted for, was not holding up to scrutiny.
Earlier this week, several months after ex-Minister Okonjo-Iweala refunded the money, GAVI announced that she was elected to their Board of Directors as their Chairperson. Since this announcement SaharaReporters has attempted to reach GAVI for clarification around her election, the findings outlined in their audit, and the circumstances around the $2.2 million refund—but they have refused to answer all of our questions. GAVI representatives at their headquarters in Geneva no longer take our phone calls, and our emails have gone unanswered.
CSNAC has made similar attempts, according to emails their representative shared with a SaharaReporters correspondent, but GAVI has refused to acknowledge CSNAC’s findings in their independent investigation. CSNAC, the Ministry of Health, the EFCC, and other government agencies repeatedly asked GAVI to compare its audit with their findings but GAVI has refused to respond to or acknowledge this information.
CSNAC’s social media campaign #AskGAVI intends to put pressure on GAVI to respond to inquiries made by the Nigerian government, the media, and CSNAC about the $2.2 million allegedly stolen. It also calls into question the circumstances of the refund—which happened in a secretive manner by Okonjo-Iweala’s office—and her election to the GAVI board.
According to a CSNAC representative speaking to SaharaReporters, “we want GAVI to respect the independent investigations that [CSNAC and others] have done. We also want GAVI to apologize to Nigeria for propagating bad and unfair information on Nigeria to the world.”
The representative added that, “we are also wanting the return of 2.2 million dollars to Nigeria if it belongs to us. Finally, we want the appropriate [governing] body to sanction Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for giving that money away in such a sneaky, unprofessional, and unpatriotic way without referring to the Ministry of Health” or other groups.
GAVI representatives were unavailable or refused to comment about this social media campaign to SaharaReporters. SaharaReporters continues to request clarification and information from GAVI around the $2.2 million refund and the ascent of ex-Minister Okonjo-Iweala to their board.
SaharaReporters has also attempted to reach Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for comment but she has not provided any to our correspondents.
SaharaReporters has also followed up on its previous story about how Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was hired as a senior adviser for Lazard Ltd., a financial advisory and asset management company. SaharaReporters learned that Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala, as the Minister of Finance under the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, hired Lazard to assist with debt negotiations with the Paris Club in 2005 for $100,000 per month lasting two years. Clare Pickett, the Vice President for Global Communications, has refused to answer any of our questions and hung up the phone on our correspondent when asking about the due diligence Lazard carried out before hiring Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala. Lazard representatives continue to ignore SaharaReporters’ phone calls.
Some #AskGAVI tweets can be seen below: