President Buhari's long-awaited cabinet list has finally been released. Nigeria's upper house will start vetting nominees on October 13. The list includes three women.
The long-awaited list of nominees for Nigeria's cabinet has finally been unveiled but still needs to be approved by the upper house. Senate President Bukola Saraki read out the names without specifying their portfolios. The list is representative of all Nigeria's regions. Among the nominees is the recently appointed head of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu. The screening of the nominees starts on October 13. However, the list is still not complete.
President Buhari, who assumed office on May 29, has been running his government with permanent secretaries. He lashed out at those who criticized him for failing to form a government earlier, saying that his administration had set out to do things methodically and properly. It would have been haphazard to announce ministers when the government had not finalized the number of ministries to optimally carry the burden of governance, he said.
Appointing himself oil minister
While attending the UN General Assembly in New York, Buhari said he would appoint himself minister of petroleum resources. He has emphasized that he is committed to stopping the rot in the oil sector. Nigeria is a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and Africa's biggest oil producer. Oil accounts for some 90 percent of Nigeria's foreign exchange earnings. But the benefits of being Africa's leading oil producer have been slow in coming, due largely to corruption. This perhaps explains President Buhari's determination to personally manage Nigeria's oil sector. He has vowed to recover the huge sums of stolen oil cash. As soon as he took over office, Buhari overhauled the NNPC, sacking the entire board. The corporation has a reputation of being synonymous with corruption. Last year it was accused of failing to remit $20 billion in revenue to the central bank.
Buhari has experience in the oil industry himself. In 1977, he was the oil minister under military ruler General Olusegun Obasanjo and helped establish the NNPC. He was later in charge of the Petroleum Trust Fund during the rule of General Sani Abacha in the 1990s. Many Nigerians have placed their hopes in Buhari and believe that he can revive the country's economic backbone.
"Buhari is somebody who is a credible person who is not known to be enriching himself so by way of conclusion let us test him, let us try him and see. We believe he wants to correct something that has remained uncorrected across many years" said Abdullahi Muhammad from Borno state in northern Nigeria. "If he cannot bear the responsibility, I think he cannot put it upon himself, he is known to be an upright man. He believes nobody can do it better at least for now than himself, that is why he put himself there."
The nomination of the current chief of the NNPC does not come as a surprise. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu is a Harvard graduate with 30 years' experience in Nigeria's private oil sector. He is expected to be minister of state running the petroleum ministry under Buhari. Other nominees include the former Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola and Lieutenant General Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau. Babatunde is known for rehabilitating Lagos, Nigeria's largest city of 20 million, and making Lagos state financially independent through local tax collection, while Dambazau is an experienced army chief. Considering the current security threat in the country, he is poised to take on the defense ministry. The 20-name list has only three women: UN special adviser Amina Ibrahim, Kemi Adeosun and Aisha Jummai Al-Hassan.
Many were not surprised by the list. "He is using those who have track record and experience in governance. I think that's the best thing for us to do," said Senator Robert Boroffice, a member of Buhari's party. In an interview with DW, political analyst Abdulkarim Tukur described Buhari's list as "meticulous and decisive." He added that the appointments were in line with the president's promise to revitalize the economy by putting more emphasis on non-oil sectors. "Agriculture and solid minerals are expected to be given prime position in the new scene of things" said Tukur.
Tukur said religion has often been used to polarize the country, but credible and purposeful leadership would address the matter. "Given the kind of support the president enjoys now, I don't think that this is going to be an issue" he said.
Mohammad Al-Amin contributed to this article