Nigeria’s Senate approved the return of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a managing director at the World Bank, to the Cabinet, five years after she was dismissed as head of the country’s Economic Management Team.
Okonjo-Iweala’s nomination by President Goodluck Jonathan was approved by a unanimous vote. Before the decision, she told parliament that Africa’s top oil producer wasn’t doing enough to boost investment, with recurrent expenditure soaking up 74 percent of the 2011 budget.
“We need the help of the legislature,” she told lawmakers. Cutting expenditure “isn’t something the executive branch can do alone.”
Nigeria’s Senate passed a 4.97 trillion-naira ($31.8 billion) budget for the 2011 fiscal year on March 16, 17 percent more than what Jonathan had proposed in December. It later agreed to scale back spending plans to 4.48 billion naira.
As finance minister of Africa’s largest oil producer between 2003 and 2006, Okonjo-Iweala spearheaded talks that led the Paris Club group of creditors to write off $18 billion in debt. She was named finance minister of the year by the Banker magazine in 2004 and by Euromoney in 2005. The Harvard University-educated economist resigned from the Cabinet in August 2006 following a demotion by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Jonathan, who is forming a new government after winning April elections, will now assign her a portfolio. She is expected to return to her previous post as finance minister with additional powers to oversee the country’s economic management, Vanguard reported on July 5, citing an unidentified security official.
The president has so far appointed 14 ministers of a 34- member Cabinet. Ex-Finance Minister Olusegun Aganga was also approved for a ministerial post today.
Jonathan has pledged to invest in roads and railways and reform the petroleum industry, the mainstay of the economy, to boost growth. His new government must also deal with growing insecurity. While an armed insurgency in the oil-producing Niger River delta remains subdued, parts of the north, including the capital, Abuja, have seen a campaign of violence by the radical Islamic sect, Boko Haram, which is inspired by Afghanistan’s Taliban movement.
Nigeria’s economy, the third-largest on the continent after South Africa and Egypt, will probably grow 8 percent this year, compared with 7.8 percent in 2010, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
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