President Muhammadu Buhari is likely to keep the oil portfolio for himself in the new Nigerian cabinet, rather than trust anyone else with the source of most of Nigeria’s revenue and traditional fount of corruption, associates say.
Nigeria’s oil sector is so dirty that nobody’s hands are clean enough to do the “surgical changes” needed, one long-standing associate told Reuters on condition of anonymity because the cabinet decision is still under wraps.
Another political associate said: “He will do it. It would be silly to give that position to anyone else.”
The first source said Buhari has still not settled on his cabinet and has laughed off media speculation about figures he will appoint, joking with friends as he read out a newspaper article that mentioned possible names: “They have picked my ministers for me! Have I even told you who I want?”
A former general who ruled Nigeria 30 years ago, Buhari has extensive knowledge of the oil sector, having been head of the Petroleum Trust Fund under military ruler Sani Abacha in the 1990s and oil minister in the 1970s under Olusegun Obasanjo.
He was voted in by Nigerians on an anti-corruption platform after years in which graft appeared to worsen under the leadership of his predecessor Goodluck Jonathan.
Buhari sent a list of 15 special advisors to the outgoing national assembly for approval on Tuesday, but the cabinet is unlikely to be publicly revealed until the end of July or early August.
The senate, which must confirm the cabinet, will convene only briefly on June 9 before its members are expected to go on recess for up to six weeks.
“It’s going to be a lean government, I doubt he’ll have 42 ministries like Jonathan but he must have at least 36 (for the number of states) as prescribed by the constitution, though it does not specify whether they have to be senior or junior,” an advisor in the ruling APC party told Reuters.
The new administration had not yet gone through reports on Jonathan’s handover notes on policy, the advisor said.
“There is a huge body of proposals being bandied around the place,” the advisor said, adding that nothing beyond broad strokes had been outlined.