Nigeria’s President Jonathan Fires Nine Cabinet Ministers

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan fired nine ministers in a bid to bolster his authority amid defections from the ruling People’s Democratic Party.

The PDP is facing its biggest internal crisis since coming to power 14 years ago in Africa’s top oil producer and winning all general elections since then. Dissident party members led by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar walked out of a party convention on Aug. 31. The group formed the New PDP and appointed its own leaders.

The defectors are demanding that Jonathan, a southern Christian, announce that he won’t run in the 2015 election, respecting a gentleman’s agreement in the party to rotate the presidency between the mainly Muslim north and south. The split may slow key government reforms, such as passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill, or PIB.

“Goodluck Jonathan is consolidating control of his cabinet and reinforcing loyalty in a bid to overcome the schisms rocking the PDP,” Thomas Horn Hansen, senior analyst at Control Risks, said by phone from London. “The crisis rocking the PDP will provide a major distraction to reform initiatives which are sorely in need of strong leadership amid continued interference and resistance from vested interests.”

Oil Industry

Minister of National Planning Shamsudeen Usman, Foreign Affairs Minister Olugbenga Ashiru and Hadiza Mailafia, the minister of environment, were among those removed from their positions, Information Minister Labaran Maku said in Abuja, the capital, yesterday. Replacements weren’t immediately named.

Minister of Education Ruqqayat Rufai, Minister of Land and Urban Development Ama Pepple and Minister of Science and Technology Ita Ewa were also dismissed, Maku said.

Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Petroleum Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke retained their posts.

“What the president has done is simply to address the issues of re-tooling his government to achieve service delivery,” Maku said. “This has nothing to do absolutely with any other factor other than having come two years into his administration.”

Alison-Madueke has come under criticism for management of the oil industry, according to Hansen. The proposed PIB is aimed at reforming the way Nigeria’s oil and gas industry is regulated and funded, and seeks to increase the government’s share of profit from oil pumped to at least 73 percent, from 61 percent currently, according to Alison-Madueke.

Revenue Risk

The PIB may cost Nigeria $185 billion within 10 years because proposed higher taxes will deter investors in the oil industry, an association of energy companies including Exxon Mobil Corp. said last month.

“Despite sustained political pressure on Diezani Alison-Madueke, who has come under constant criticism for her management of the oil sector and key reforms, Jonathan’s close ally has again been shielded from reproach and now looks set to hold the strategic oil post until 2015,” Hansen said.

“In this respect, Jonathan has prioritized reinforcing personal and political loyalties over scoring points with investors or the international community,” he said.

Election Plans

Jonathan succeeded Umaru Yar’Adua, a northern Muslim who died in office in 2010, and was re-elected in 2011. He hasn’t ruled out running for another term when his current four-year tenure ends.

The cabinet reshuffle suggests he plans to do so, said Habu Mohammed, professor of political science at Bayero University in Kano. Three ministers and one junior minister who were fired are from states whose governors are members of the breakaway PDP.

“This creates suspicion that President Goodluck Jonathan is trying, by hook or by crook, to maintain himself in power despite the agreement with members of the PDP that he would only rule this country for a term,” Mohammed said by phone.

The naira weakened 0.4 percent to 163.30 per dollar by 13:37 p.m. in Lagos, the commercial capital.

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