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Nigeria: Acting president sacks oil chief

By BASHIR ADIGUN (AP)

6 April 2010

ABUJA, Nigeria — Nigeria’s acting president has sacked the head of the nation’s national oil company.

A spokesman for Acting President Goodluck Jonathan gave no explanation for Tuesday’s decision to fire Mohammed Sanusi Barkindo from the Nigeria National Petroleum Corp. The move comes the same day that Jonathan appointed a former employee of Royal Dutch Shell PLC’s Nigerian subsidiary as the country’s petroleum minister.

The spokesman also said Jonathan directly will supervise the power ministry. The moves could wipe away years of corruption that saw the oil-rich nation struggle to produce power for its 150 million people.

Jonathan has only a year to make those changes, as the ruling party says he can’t run as president on its ticket in the next election.

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ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria’s acting president swore in a new Cabinet in the oil-rich nation on Tuesday, placing a former oil company employee in charge of the country’s petroleum ministry and an investment banker at the helm of its finances.

Acting President Goodluck Jonathan told the 38 new Cabinet members that they would sign public agreements on what he expected from their ministries. The ministers will be responsible for informing the nation on how they reach those goals, a rare show of accountability in a nation long considered one of the most corrupt in the world.

“I will hate to disappoint you but I will hate even more to disappoint the nation,” Jonathan said.

He also told the new ministers that he expected efficiency and results.

“No minister will be allowed to go on a mission of endless search for solutions,” Jonathan said. “You must hit the ground running. Time is of fundamental essence and no distraction in our mission will be tolerated.”

New members of the cabinet include Diezani Allison-Madueke, who will serve as head of the petroleum ministry, a key post for a country that is the No. 3 supplier of crude oil to the U.S.

Allison-Madueke previously worked for the Shell Petroleum Development Company, which Shell runs as a subsidiary with the Nigerian government. Shell first struck oil in Nigeria 50 years ago and remains the main force for exploration in the country, though attacks by militants upset by environmental damage and poor living conditions in the country’s Niger Delta have cut into the oil major’s production since 2006.

Olusegun Olutoyin Aganga, a senior executive with bank Goldman Sachs, will take over as Nigeria’s finance minister. Jonathan also restored Dora Akunyili as information minister. She circulated a memo to the Cabinet in February calling on it to grant then-Vice President Jonathan powers to act on behalf of President Umaru Yar’Adua.

Yar’Adua, 58, hasn’t been seen publicly since leaving in November for medical treatment in Saudi Arabia. Long troubled by poor health and kidney ailments, Yar’Adua was hospitalized over what his doctor described as acute pericarditis, an inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart.

Yar’Adua left the country without formally placing Jonathan, then the vice president, in charge, sparking a constitutional crisis that lasted several months. The National Assembly empowered Jonathan to become acting president Feb. 9. A military convoy and an ambulance apparently swept Yar’Adua back into the presidential palace Feb. 24, though he has not been seen publicly since his return and his Christian vice president remains in control of the nation.

Though dissolving the Cabinet Yar’Adua created, Jonathan kept some of the same members in his reconstituted Cabinet. He also put a nephew of Yar’Adua as the No. 2 minister at the country’s defense ministry.

While trying to put his own mark on government, Jonathan has a short time to address the nation’s growing insecurity, religious problems and corrupt elections. The next presidential election will come in January or April 2011 and the ruling People’s Democratic Party has said it won’t back Jonathan as a presidential candidate. Yar’Adua also could send a letter to the National Assembly assuming presidential powers — though Christian leaders who met with him Monday said he remains physically weak, leading some to believe he may not be able to handle the affairs of Africa’s most populous nation.

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