The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Monday felicitated with Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, over her confirmation as the new Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The Secretary General of OPEC, Dr Sanusi Barkindo, in a statement in Vienna, headquarters of the international oil cartel, hailed the wisdom of the General Council of the WTO for the historic nature of the appointment.

He noted that it was even more significant that she is the first woman and first person from the continent of Africa to take up the reigns of the organisation.

According to OPEC, the robustness of the support garnered by Okonjo-Iweala during her campaign underscored her suitability for the role, having received backing from every geographical region and all categories of members recognised in WTO provisions.

Stressing that the appointment was coming at an extremely challenging time, the OPEC boss advised that support for the multilateral system needed to be bolstered and urged her to embark on a period of substantive and procedural reform.

Barkindo noted that as a highly-respected economist, an international development expert who worked for 25 years at the World Bank, as a diplomat as well as a two-term finance minister in Nigeria, Okonjo-Iweala was more than up to the task.

“Yours is a career replete with achievement. I recall with pride when in 2005, as minister of finance for Nigeria, you successfully led a team that negotiated an $18 billion debt write-off with the Paris Club.

“This enabled Nigeria to obtain its first-ever sovereign-debt rating. At the World Bank, you fronted several initiatives that supported low-income countries, including raising almost $50 billion from donors in an aid campaign for the International Development Association.

“Your leadership capabilities, your deep knowledge and your astute judgement and negotiating skills will be warmly welcomed at the WTO.

You have continuously conducted yourself with the highest standards of professionalism, honesty, integrity and courage. I can think of no-one better for the position,” Barkindo said.

Moreover, the OPEC secretary general, opined that Okonjo-Iweala’s selection for the position will inspire women and girls across the globe to become more involved in trade-related professions and aspire to leadership positions in international organisations.

He noted that OPEC would continue to explore opportunities to strengthen its relations with like-minded international organisations who share its values, adding that he looked forward to having an opportunity to discuss in person the possibilities of enhancing relations between the WTO and OPEC.

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