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Tomori kicks over Nigeria's disinterest in WHO Africa’s regional directorship

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Professor of Virology Oyewale Otomori

By Abujah Racheal

A Nigerian Scientist, Prof. Oyewale Tomori, has expressed disappointment over Nigeria’s continuous exclusion from the role of Regional Director for the World Health Organisation (WHO) African Region.

Tomori, a renowned Nigerian Virologist, expressed his concern in an interview in Abuja on Monday.

The document “CODE OF CONDUCT FOR THE NOMINATION OF THE REGIONAL DIRECTOR” outlines guidelines established during the Sixty-eighth session of the Regional Committee for Africa in Dakar, Senegal, held from Aug. 27 to Aug. 31 August 2018.

Its purpose is to enhance the transparency fairness, and credibility of the process for nominating the Regional Director of (WHO) for the African Region.

The Code builds upon existing rules and procedures, particularly Rule 52 of the Regional Committee’s Rules of Procedure, and incorporates principles such as fairness, equity, transparency, and non-discrimination.

It addresses specific aspects of the nomination process, including the submission of proposals, electoral campaigns, and the conduct of member-states’ and candidates.

The Code emphasises ethical conduct, mutual respect, and the avoidance of conflicts of interest among candidates.

Key provisions include the standardisation of curriculum vitae submissions, restrictions on campaign activities, and guidelines for maintaining confidentiality during the nomination meetings.

The adoption of this Code aims to harmonise practices across WHO regional committees and uphold the integrity of the nomination process for regional directors in the African Region.

Tomori said that in spite having highly qualified candidates, Nigeria had never held this influential position in the WHO.

According to him, it is a worrisome trend that also undermines and limits the career progression and aspirations of citizens in the organisation.

He attributed this to a lack of governmental support, especially from the Coordinating Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in Nigeria.

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He alleged that the ministry often showed bias in favour of candidates from specific tribes rather than supporting the most qualified individuals.

He said that this persistent geopolitical favoritism and calculated negligence have frustrated capable Nigerian candidates.

“This pattern of internal opposition has resulted in Nigeria’s absence from a significant role in global health leadership, undermining the country’s potential contributions to WHO Africa’s mission,” he said.

The names of the candidates for the election of the next Regional Director for the WHO African Region were sent by WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to the relevant Member States on June 14.

The candidates include Dr N’da Konan Michel Yao, proposed by Côte d’Ivoire and Dr Boureima Hama Sambo, proposed by Niger Republic.

Others are Dr Richard Mihigo, proposed by Rwanda, Dr Ibrahima Socé Fall, proposed by Senegal and Faustine Engelbert Ndugulile, proposed by Tanzania.

Meanwhile, the African Regional Committee of WHO will vote to nominate the next Regional Director in a closed meeting during its 74th session from Aug. 26 to Aug. 30 in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo.

The nomination will then be submitted for appointment by the 156th session of the WHO Executive Board, which takes place in January 2025 in Geneva, Switzerland.

The newly appointed Regional Director is expected to assume office on Feb. 1, 2025, for a five-year term and be eligible for reappointment for one additional term.

The Regional Director is appointed by the WHO Executive Board in agreement with the WHO Regional Committee for Africa.

Any member-state of the region may propose one or more candidates for the position.

The Regional Director is elected by secret ballot at a private meeting of the Regional Committee.

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