Nigeria's new cabinet
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated his new cabinet on 21 August, appointing 43 ministers six months after he secured his second and final term in the February 2019 presidential election. Buhari appointed Timipre Sylva, former governor of oil-rich Bayelsa state (2008-12), as minister of state for petroleum (or deputy minister). The president retains overall control of the petroleum ministry.
Sylva, who was arrested in 2013 by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on charges of engaging in a suspected NGN19-billion (USD53-million) fraud, replaces Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu. Silva has also been accused by civil society groups of funding militants in the Niger Delta. He strongly denies this. Others in the cabinet include Babatunde Fashola from Lagos state, who has been given the works and housing portfolio. Fashola has lost power from his portfolio in running the separate works and housing ministry, instead of the erstwhile power, works, and housing ministry.
The composition of Buhari's cabinet indicates a motivation to mitigate divisions within his ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party, with some powerbrokers arguing that they have been side-lined or overlooked in decision-making. It also comes in response to criticisms of the government's slow economic policy-making and decision-making, which has led to rising inflation (which reached 11.4% in July) and unemployment.
The appointment of ruling party loyalists such as Fashola, as well as close advisers from Buhari's northern stronghold of support, such as chief of staff Abba Kyari and Mamman Daura, his uncle, indicates that the government is trying to strengthen patronage networks to deal with the party divisions. However, this strategy likely will also undermine the president's ability to bring his cabinet to order, thereby stalling the implementation of the administration's policy manifesto.
The cabinet appointments signal the improbability of implementing major reforms in the one-year outlook, including dealing with corruption in the petroleum sector, such as illegal oil bunkering, and reform of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, reducing liquidity challenges in the power sector, rolling out various gas-to-power projects, eliminating imported fuel subsidies, and overhauling the country's oil and gas legal framework. An announcement of successful prosecutions by the EFCC in its ongoing corruption investigations into the petroleum sector would indicate that Buhari's government is sincerely committed to dealing with graft.
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