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Same-Day Analysis

New Cabinet Unveiled as Nigeria's Acting President Shores Up Position

Published: 07 April 2010
Acting president Goodluck Jonathan yesterday swore in his new cabinet, placing himself more firmly at the centre of the Nigerian political order and marginalising ailing president Umaru Yar'Adua's "cabal".

IHS Global Insight Perspective



Acting president Goodluck Jonathan was thrust into the vacuum created by President Umaru Yar'Adua's long absence from active office for health reasons earlier in 2010, but to date he has been frustrated by divisions, vested interests, and Yar'Adua's ambiguous status. The new cabinet shows that he is moving to take a firmer grip.


The appointments include some notable technocrats such as Finance Minister Olusegun Aganga, formerly of Goldman Sachs, and Petroleum Minister Diezani Allison-Madueke, formerly of Shell, but continuity and party-political calculations are strongly evident elsewhere; one surprise is that Jonathan has added the key Power portfolio to his own responsibilities.


Policy continuity is the order of the day with the election in 2011, but President Yar'Adua's unclear status makes the situation fluid. The big question is whether Jonathan can make faster progress on the key reforms that Yar'Adua committed to but failed to deliver on.

Asserting Control

President Umaru Yar'Adua was hospitalised in Saudi Arabia for a heart complaint in November 2009. Despite returning to Nigeria in late February, he has made no public appearances. In February 2010, the national legislature appointed Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan as acting president to fill the power vacuum and break the institutional paralysis created by Yar'Adua's long absence. Despite his promotion, Jonathan was reportedly inhibited from freely exercising his powers by Yar'Adua loyalists both within and without government. In particular, power is said to have gravitated to the first lady, Turai Yar'Adua. Jonathan started to centralise power with the removal of Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Michael Aondoakaa in February, but the dismissal of the entire 42-member cabinet on 17 March was a much bolder move. This was generally well received, and triggered competition for political office among key figures. Following approval of the cabinet list by the legislature, Jonathan swore in the government yesterday. The list of individuals was therefore known, but only now has Jonathan confirmed who takes which role. It should be noted that Jonathan faced some important restrictions when drawing up his list, most notably the requirement that all 36 states be reflected in the cabinet. The new line-up includes 13 members of the dissolved government as well as a nephew of President Yar Adua.

The New Line-Up

Cabinet Ministers


Sheikh Ahmed ABDULLAH


Fidelia NJEZE

Culture and Tourism

Abubakar Sadiq A MOHAMMED

Commerce and Industry

Jibril Martins KUYE


Adetokunbo KAYODE


Ruqayyatu A RUFAI


John Ogar ODEY


Olusegun AGANGA

Foreign Affairs




Information & Communication




Justice & Attorney General

Mohammed Bello ADOKE


Chukwuemeka Ngozichineke WOGU

Lands, Housing, & Urban Development


Mines & Steel Development

Musa Mohammed SADA

Niger Delta Affairs




Police Affairs



Vacant (role assumed by Goodluck JONATHAN)

Science & Technology


Special Duties




Women Affairs

Iyom Josephine ANENIH

Works & Housing


Youth Development


Ministers in the Presidency

Federal Capital Territory


National Planning Commission Chairman

Shamsuddeen USMAN

National Sports Commission

Ibrahim Isa BIO

Ministers of State

Agriculture & Water Resources

Awodele Najeem ADEWALE


Josephine TAPGUN


Murtala Shehu YAR'ADUA



Foreign Affairs (1)

Aliyu Idi HONG


Suleiman BELLO

Information & Communications

Labaran MAKU


Humphrey Enemakwu ABAH

Niger Delta Affairs

Samuel ODE


Nuhu Somo WYA

Works & Housing


Energy Posts

The key Petroleum portfolio was handed to a native of Jonathan's own Bayelsa state, Diezani Allison-Madueke, the first woman to hold that role. Allison-Madueke had been one of three people tipped for the Petroleum brief, alongside Odein Ajumogobia, former minister of state for petroleum resources (and now foreign minister), and Nigeria National Petroleum Company (NNPC) insider Chris Ogiemwonyi, from Edo state (now minister of state for works). Allison-Madueke was previously minister for mines and has also worked in a senior position for the Shell Petroleum Development Corp in Nigeria, where she was appointed executive director responsible for external affairs in April 2006 before moving into the cabinet in 2007 under President Yar'Adua. More controversially, she was questioned in 2009 by the Senate on decisions taken during her time in the transport brief, resulting in a recommendation that she be prosecuted for alleged financial transfers from a toll company "without due process", although this issue now seems to have been set aside.

As yet, no announcement has been reported for the minister of state role within the Petroleum Ministry, with that position previously held by Ajumogobia, who has been shifted to Foreign Affairs. The group managing director of the NNPC has, however, been removed, with Mohammed Barkindo giving way to Shehu Ladan. Barkindo had only held the role since 2009 but was closely associated with former petroleum minister Rilwanu Lukman, one of the former president's "kitchen cabinet" who Jonathan has been keen to disband to gain some freedom of manoeuvre. Ladan left the NNPC as group director for commercial and investors in 2009, but had also held other positions within the state company as head of human resources, legal advisor to NNPC subsidiary, the Nigerian Gas Company, and deputy managing director of Nigeria LNG (a project led by Shell).

Meanwhile, Jonathan has decided to take on the Power portfolio himself, at least temporarily, making special mention of it within his welcome speech to new ministers. After years of failed targets, including 2009's very public failure to reach the 6,000MW capacity figure (itself a revision of the previous target), the brief is a difficult one to master. However, with much public focus on it, Jonathan clearly sees this as one way of making his mark ahead of the 2011 election. This is likely to see greater focus on near-term improvements to the sector, including the connection of "stranded" power to the grid, which depends on improvements in gas supply. Minister of State for Power Mallam Nuhu Way was retained in his role and will report into Jonathan, Meanwhile, a new body is set to be established to co-ordinate actions in the power sector, working with the power sub-committee of the Presidential Advisory Council, which is expected to reveal a new power initiative in days, according the The Punch.

The key legislative priority in the energy sector is the long-anticipated and -delayed Petroleum Industry Bill. This is already reported to have undergone some substantial changes in recent months in response to heavy and co-ordinated criticism from oil investors, including Allison-Madueke's former employer, Shell. Although part of the bill concerns the terms for upstream engagement and increased take from offshore developments, the more controversial part, at least domestically, remains deregulation of the downstream sector and cost-reflective pricing for fuel.  This is another long-standing issue that has floored a number of ministers before, but one that, should it succeed, would change the financial capabilities of both the national oil company and the government, decisively.

Other Key Changes

One figure on the list who has created something of a stir is the new finance minister Olusegun Aganga, a London (U.K.)-based executive who previously led Goldman Sachs' Hedge Fund Consulting Services. This is viewed as a bid to improve the Nigerian economy's international image, although some question whether Aganga boasts the necessary political experience. Another technocrat figuring prominently in the line-up is legal professional Bello Adoke, now at Justice. Chris Ogiemwonyi (now minister for works and housing), was meanwhile previously responsible for production and exploration of the state-run NNPC. As mentioned above, the country's new foreign minister is former junior oil minister Odein Ajumogobia. Another key post is that of the Niger Delta Affairs minister, which has gone to the former junior minister in that department, Godsday Orubebe. Dora Akunyili, an open critic of the "silence policy" during Yar Adua's early illness, has been handed the Information and Communication portfolio.


Goodluck Jonathan has said he will adhere to the same political and economic programme outlined by Yar Adua, but hopefully he will pursue this with more vigour. In describing the business of the new team yesterday, Jonathan put emphasis on "policy continuum" rather than change. His priorities, quoted by international and local press, are to tackle an ailing national infrastructure, particularly power supply; good governance; and free and fair elections, all points included by President Yar Adua in his 2007 seven-point agenda. The inclusion of Allison-Madueke, Orubebe, and Ajumogobia, all natives of the Niger Delta, in the government could indicate the emphasis that will be given to maintaining peace in that restive region, especially since Allison-Madueke holds a prominent oil posting.

Outlook and Implications

Acting president Jonathan is now better insulated against the Yar'Adua loyalists who have reportedly frustrated his administration in recent weeks and months. To that extent, the efficacy of government business, from petroleum-sector legislation to the Niger Delta peace project, has been bolstered. That said, this cabinet, and indeed Jonathan's tenure, has a short life-span written into its DNA. An election is due in 2011 and the ruling People's Democratic Party has agreed to nominate a candidate from the north (Jonathan is a southerner). Jonathan could return as vice-president, but this will depend on how his performance and political manoeuvring are perceived over the coming months. President Umaru Yar'Adua's status meanwhile remains a potential source of instability, although his supporters are now significantly weakened by the cabinet overhaul.

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