Nigerian president swears in first ministers
7/2/2011 4:20:01 PM -
ABUJA (AFP) - Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan appointed the first 14 ministers to his new government Saturday -- and immediately ran into criticism for bringing back so many old faces.
Of the 14 who took their oath of office Saturday, 12 were members of the old cabinet, called back to their former portfolios. The two new appointees will be assigned their posts on Monday.
"Those of you who are returning, you are to go back to your ministries and start work," he said, adding that he wanted ministers to "hit the ground running."
Among those returning to their jobs were Diezani Alison-Madueke, the first woman to head the lucrative oil ministry in the OPEC member nation; and justice minister, Mohammed Adoke.
But Debo Adeniran, who heads the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, criticised the return of so many old faces.
"The reappointments signify just one thing: the promotion of a culture of cultism in government," he said.
"President Jonathan has shown that he is not ready to change the situations of things in Nigeria. He has recycled the old people who have continued to pull Nigeria backward."
The president should have "injected fresh blood into his cabinet who will take Nigeria to the next level rather than allow the godfathers and their cronies to continue to feather their nests", he said.
Alison-Madueke is back in post after Jonathan first appointed her last year, but not everyone is happy at her return.
More than two years after they were presented to parliament, proposed reforms of the under-performing and corrupt sector are still waiting to be passed into law.
The former minister in charge of the oil-rich but volatile Niger Delta, Elder Godsday Orubebe is also back.
Orubebe won some credit for his part in bring back peace to the Niger Delta following a government deal with ex-rebels there.
The Niger Delta is rich in oil and gas, but most of its inhabitants live in poverty, with many getting by on less than one dollar per day.
It was this gaping disparity that fuelled the armed struggle.
The unrest, which has included sabotage of oil installations and the abduction of oil workers had disrupted oil production since 2006.
At its peak, it had slashed Nigeria's oil production from 2.6 million barrels a day to about one million.
Nigeria, the world's eighth largest oil producer, currently produces around more than two million barrels daily.
So far, Jonathan has submitted 34 names in all to the upper-house Senate for approval: 13 of them are from his outgoing cabinet.
"The Senate is still screening," said Jonathan.
"Any group they clear, even if it is one person, that person will take the oath of office so that the ministers will go and hit the ground running," Jonathan said.
Next week, the Senate will resume the screening process. Outgoing finance minister Olusegun Aganga, a former Goldman Sachs executive, will be one of those under scrutiny.
Jonathan is also reportedly planning to bring World Bank managing director for Africa, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala into his government.
He previously served as a finance minister under ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo and was instrumental to Nigeria's getting a debt relief from the Paris Club.
His name is expected to be on an additional list of nominees the president is preparing.
Jonathan, 53, a Christian from the Niger Delta, was sworn in on May 29 following April elections deemed the fairest in the history of the vast west country of 150 million people.
He has promised to transform the country by improving key infrastructures like water, health, education, electricity and roads as well as provide jobs.
© 2011 AFP