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Nigeria Appoints First Female Oil Minister

Nigeria‘s acting president, Goodluck Jonathan, has sworn in the country’s first female oil minister.

Diezani Allison-Madueke is a former executive of the oil giant Royal Dutch Shell. She will be responsible for reforming Nigeria’s corrupt oil sector, which accounts for most of the nation’s foreign earnings.

Critics say she does not have the experience needed to succeed, but supporters say she is the right person for the job.

The new minister faces a lot of challenges, says Innocent Chukwuma, executive director of the CLEEN Foundation, a pro-democracy group based in Lagos.

“The appointment is a welcome one if you look at it with a gender lens, but beyond that there are a number of issues which are quite troubling, especially at this time, when Nigeria was trying to extricate itself from the strangle hold of the oil industry.”

Supporters of Allison-Madueke say she earned the job on merit, but Chukwuma says Mr. Jonathan was trying to make a bold political statement with the appointment.

“It is indeed a political appointment or a political statement from a different angle. Yes, the north has over the years felt that the [oil] ministry should continually be controlled by people from the north.

But if you look at how the thing works in practice, it is actually who controls the NNPC that [actually] runs the oil sector.”

The small number of President Umaru Yar’Adua’s appointees who were chosen for the new cabinet suggests that Mr. Jonathan has taken control of the government, says Chukwuma.

“There is a serious power struggle within the presidency -- nobody can deny that. And the gladiators are every day trying to undo one another.”

The visit of Christian and Muslim leaders to the ailing president was orchestrated by loyalists, he says, to show their reservation about Mr. Jonathan’s dissolution of the Federal Executive Council and the appointment of a new set of people.