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New Cabinet Ministers Take Oath in Nigeria

Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua has reconstituted his Cabinet, almost two months after sacking half the panel in a drawn-out re-organization.

Amid loud applause, President Yar'Adua administered the oath of office and secrecy to each of the 16 new ministers at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.

Former OPEC secretary-general Rilwanu Lukman took over as minister of energy, a position previously held by the president. Other names included Dora Akunyili, who as head of the national drug administration spearheaded a crackdown on counterfeit drugs. She was assigned the information ministry portfolio.

Akunyili described her appointment as a call to higher national service.

"It is a way of the president recognizing and appreciating the job we have been doing in NAFDAC for almost eight years now and that is why he has decided to give me a higher position with a wider responsibility so I can replicate in a wider form what I have done in NAFDAC. And I definitely not going to let him down, or let Nigerians down or the international community that are watching," she said.

Months of uncertainty over who will be in the new Cabinet has slowed government business in sub-Saharan Africa's second biggest economy.

Analysts said the Yar'Adua administration has made little progress on the areas the president set as his priorities, 18 months after his election.

Yar'Adua's critics said he has moved too slowly on reforms; citing long delays in putting together a draft 2009 budget, choosing a new Cabinet and revamping the energy sector.

The administration also faces major challenges in the restive Niger Delta, where militants had been kidnapping expatriates and vandalizing oil production facilities, and crumbling infrastructure in the most populous African nation of 146 million.

Godswill Orubebe, previously the minister of special duties, was picked to head the newly created Niger Delta ministry. He will be in charge of improving security in the oil-rich delta, the heartland of the country's oil and gas sector.

A presidential aide told VOA the Cabinet re-organization was part of efforts to rejuvenate the administration to better deliver services to Nigerians.