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Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari to become oil minister in own cabinet

The new president says he will take control of the portfolio rather than trust anyone else with the source of about 70% of Nigeria’s revenue

President Muhammadu Buhari will hold Nigeria’s oil portfolio in his new cabinet, rather than trust anyone else with the source of most of Nigeria’s revenue, he said on Tuesday.

Buhari, who took office at the end of May promising to fight corruption, has made it clear he wants to overhaul the oil sector in Africa’s biggest economy, which provides the government with about 70% of its revenue.

“I intend to remain the minister of petroleum resources,” Buhari said in an interview on the sidelines of the annual meeting of world leaders at the UN general assembly in New York.

A minister of state would oversee the day-to-day running of the petroleum sector.

Buhari has not named a cabinet but is expected to submit candidates to parliament in the coming days.

A former general who briefly ruled Nigeria 30 years ago said Buhari has deep knowledge of the oil sector, having been head of the petroleum trust fund under the military ruler, Sani Abacha, in the 1990s and oil minister in the 1970s under president Olusegun Obasanjo.

A collapse in global oil prices has damaged Nigeria’s public finances and weakened its naira currency, delaying public salaries and fuelling inflation.

Buhari has said he would trace and recover what he has called “mind-boggling” sums of money stolen over the years from the oil sector.

The dealings inside the state-owned company Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation are so opaque that PricewaterhouseCoopers, commissioned to conduct an audit over the missing funds, said it was unable to obtain sufficient account documentation.

Not only is oil money stolen through accounting gymnastics and oversight gaps, but oil goes missing at unmetered oilfield wellheads, pipeline taps and export terminals.

Buhari has already split the NNPC into two, and said on Tuesday he was considering breaking up the company further to improve efficiency and better root out corruption.

“I haven’t absolutely made up my mind about that,” he said. “We want to see what we have done in reducing the size and redeploying most of the management. We want to see the impact of that before we decide further.”

He would re-evaluate in about 18 months.

The Guardian
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