Buhari Will become Petroleum Minister, Holds two most powerful office in Nigeria
Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari has finally named his petroleum minister. Himself. Buhari, who won a landslide election in March of this year, has decided to keep hold of the country’s most important portfolio, in order to drive through much-needed reforms to the sector.
The last president to hold the two most powerful offices in Nigeria was Olusegun Obasanjo, the first leader after the country returned to civilian rule in 1999. Some observers have warned of the potential for abuse in a system where political power and economic resources are so closely aligned.
“The accumulation of powers could send the wrong signal for the reform path ahead. Concentration of powers is among the chief reasons for the poor performance of Nigeria’s oil sector governance,” says Malte Liewerscheidt, Senior Africa Analyst at risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft. “Buhari will need to make clear that combining the roles of president and petroleum minister will only be an extraordinary and temporary measure to accelerate reforms.”
This is a “high risk strategy” for Buhari, Liewerscheidt says, as it denies him the get-out of blaming a disposable minister for any failings in the hydrocarbon industry.
However, even when the two positions are held separately, the system has been widely abused. A series of investigations by NGOs and state agencies have alleged that billions of dollars have disappeared within the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), which falls under the remit of the petroleum ministry.
A PwC report, commissioned by the last government and released in April this year, said that the NNPC has had “a blank check to spend money without limit or control”. An August 2015 report from the Natural Resources Governance Institute, said that between 2010 and 2013, unregulated off-book spending averaged $6bn per year. Buhari replaced the NNPC’s leadership in August, and has split the company into two separate entities.