Nigeria president picks World Bank MD for cabinet

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Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has asked the Senate to approve World Bank managing director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as a member of his new cabinet, the president of the upper house of parliament said yesterday.

Okonjo-Iweala, a former finance minister who helped negotiate debt relief in 2005, is expected to return in her old position but with additional broad powers over economic management, government sources have said.
“I hereby submit the name of Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, with her CV, for confirmation as minister by the distinguished members of the Senate,” Jonathan said in a letter read out by Senate President David Mark.

Jonathan was sworn in for his first full term on May 29 and his ministerial choices are being closely watched by foreign investors keen for a team capable of driving badly needed reforms in Africa’s most populous nation.

He has already reappointed 12 ministers from the outgoing government to their old jobs, including oil minister Deziani Alison-Madueke, a move his critics regarded as uninspiring.

The inclusion of Okonjo-Iweala in Jonathan’s cabinet could lend more weight to his reform ambitions.

She was praised as finance minister for fighting corruption and negotiating the cancellation of nearly two-thirds of Nigeria’s US$30 billion Paris Club debt. She was suddenly reassigned by then-President Olusegun Obasanjo to the foreign ministry in 2006, a move that was never properly explained.

She was appointed to the World Bank, where she had previously worked for more than two decades, in October 2007.