Nigeria’s Senate confirms 38 new ministers


Nigeria’s Senate confirmed 38 new ministers proposed by Acting President Goodluck Jonathan, including the country’s former junior oil minister and a senior Goldman Sachs executive.

The Senate approval will allow Jonathan to quickly assign portfolios and form his new cabinet, a move his supporters hope will herald a more muscular period of government and ease political uncertainty in Africa’s most populous nation.
“We use this opportunity to urge the Acting President that any minister who does not live up to the expectations of Nigerians should not be spared but be removed immediately,” Senate President David Mark said after the confirmation yesterday.

Jonathan sacked the cabinet two weeks ago in a bid to assert his authority a month after assuming executive powers in the absence of ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua, who was receiving medical treatment abroad and remains too sick to govern.

The nominees confirmed so far include 13 returnees from the outgoing cabinet and while political analysts hope progress on key reforms may accelerate, few expect Nigeria’s broad policy direction to change.
“There is nothing wrong with the way things have been done. The energy is what we need,” Murtala Yar’Adua, President Yar’Adua’s nephew and one of those approved as a new minister, said while being screened by lawmakers.

The cabinet shake-up comes at an important time for Nigeria, sub-Saharan Africa’s second largest economy and the continent’s biggest producer of oil and gas.

Key reforms before parliament include, a wide-ranging bill to overhaul the energy industry, legislation to help sanitise the banking sector, revive lending and plans to revamp the electoral system and prevent a repeat of chaotic 2007 polls.

Former Minister of State for Petroleum Odein Ajumogobia, tipped as a possible oil minister, and Olusegun Aganga, a London-based executive at Goldman Sachs seen as a contender for finance minister, were among those confirmed.

Nominees from the outgoing cabinet also include former Information Minister Dora Akunyili, former Justice Minister Adetokunbo Kayode, former National Planning Minister Shamsuddeen Usman and former junior Niger Delta minister Godsday Orubebe.

Questioned by lawmakers during the screening process, most of the newly confirmed ministers said they wanted to forge ahead with programmes begun under Yar’Adua.

Ajumogobia said he wanted to increase the participation of Nigerian companies in the oil industry and that deregulating the downstream sector was key to getting the country’s refineries working again.

Pic: Nigeria’s Acting president- Jonthan Goodluck