Biden appoints Ebong as acting director of USTDA, Okolo as COVID-19 policy advisor, Badejo into cabinet

The 46th president of the United States of America, Joe Biden, will lead the most diverse administration in the country’s history. ENIOLA OYEMOLADE discusses the recent appointments of some Nigerians into different offices.

The United States President, Joe Biden has appointed Nigerian-born Enoh Ebong as the acting director of the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA).

The USTDA helps companies create United States jobs through the export of US goods and services for priority development projects in emerging economies.

USTDA links US businesses to export opportunities by funding project preparation and partnership building activities that develop sustainable infrastructure and foster economic growth in partner countries.

Ebong’s appointment meant a return to USTDA where from 2004 to 2019, Ebong had served in a variety of roles, most recently as the Agency’s General Counsel, and Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer.

As Acting Director, Ebong leads an agency that partners with the United States private sector to develop sustainable infrastructure and foster economic growth in emerging economies, while supporting US jobs through the export of US goods and services.

During her swearing-in ceremony, she said: “It is an honour to return to USTDA. The opportunity to lead the agency comes at a critical moment when the world is turning to the US for leadership on clean energy and climate-smart infrastructure, as well as safe and secure ICT solutions.

“The Agency is one of the most effective, targeted and proven tools within the United States government. I’ve long believed in USTDA’s mission and program, which are fully aligned with the President’s vision of strengthening our economy and addressing climate as an essential component of American foreign policy and national security.”

Prior to her return to USTDA, Ebong served as the Head of Strategic Partnerships at the Milken Centre for Advancing the American dream, where she drove the development of strategic partnerships to expand access to education, health, financial empowerment and entrepreneurship.

Before joining USTDA in 2004, Ebong practiced law at the Boston office of Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris and Popeo, P.C., representing public and private companies in public offerings, financing transactions, mergers and acquisitions, and corporate governance issues.

Ebong earned a Juris Doctor from the University of Michigan Law School, a Master of Arts in Communication from the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, and a Master of Arts in History, with Honors, from The University of Edinburgh, Scotland. She is a member of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Bar.

Biden has also appointed 26-year-old Miss Osaremen Okolo, who hails from Ewohimi in Esan South East Local Council of Edo State, as his COVID-19 Policy Advisor.

Okolo is a graduate of Harvard University and a former Senior Health Policy Advisor in the United States House of Representatives.

Her parents hail from Edo State, South-South Nigeria. She was born in Massachusetts in 1994. The 26-year-old graduated with honours from Harvard University in 2017 with degrees in medicine and African-American studies.

Before now, Okolo served as the Legislative Aide for Health Policy on the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labour, and Pensions (HELP) for Ranking Member Patty Murray of Washington.

She also worked for United States Representative, Jan Schakowsky of Illinois as legislative aide for health policy advisor.

Her work at the time was to draft, negotiate and manage the Congresswoman Legislation, oversight, and policy that concern comprehensive health care and public health agenda. Recently, she focused only on the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, the COVID-19 Response Team will “work to quickly implement a comprehensive, whole-of-government COVID-19 response strategy to contain the pandemic, restore public trust, and protect all Americans.”

Nigerian-born Funmi Olorunnipa Badejo is also another Nigerian that has been appointed into Biden’s cabinet.

Biden had announced the appointment of Badejo, a lawyer and an alumna of Berkeley Law College in the US, when he named additional 20 members of the office of the White House counsel.

The office of White House counsel advises the president, the executive office of the president, and the White House staff on legal issues pertaining to the president and the White House.

Badejo served as ethics counsel in the same office toward the end of the Obama administration.

According to a statement on the Biden-Harris transition website, Badejo was general counsel of the house select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis which was chaired by James Clyburn, House Majority Whip.

Her prior government service includes serving as Counsel for policy to the Assistant Attorney-General in the Civil Division of the US Department of Justice, Ethics Counsel at the White House Counsel’s Office and Attorney Advisor at the Administrative Conference of the US during the Obama-Biden administration.

Badejo began her legal career as an associate with the law firm of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP and was Legal Counsel at Palantir Technologies Inc. She is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and the University of Florida.

Taking to her LinkedIn page to celebrate her appointment, she wrote: “Honoured to be serving in the Biden-Harris Administration in the White House Counsel’s Office. Building Back Better will take effort from all of us and I am glad to be able to do my part.”

Meanwhile, Nigerians have been applauding the appointment of these Nigerians. Many of them view the appointments as a well-deserved recognition of the brilliance and competitiveness of the Nigerian people. They also commended President Biden for consciously creating a path towards inclusiveness and equity.

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