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Jonathan swears in Okonjo-Iweala as Finance minister

Adekunle Aliyu with agency report
ABUJA: (AFP) – President Goodluck Jonathan, Wednesday, swore in respected, former World Bank managing director as finance minister an appointment that has raised hopes for reforms for Nigeria.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala resigned her position at the World Bank to take up the post of  Finance minister in a country where enormous economic potential has been held back by deeply rooted corruption and mismanagement.

Her appointment was among those announced by President Goodluck Jonathan after he won the April elections on a pledge to transform the continent’s most populous nation.

However, many other cabinet appointments by Jonathan were criticised as lacklustre, and some analysts have questioned whether Okonjo-Iweala will receive the full backing she will need to push ahead with major reforms.

“The expectation, not just for Nigerians but for the whole world, is quite high,” Jonathan said at her swearing in.

“People expect so much from you. Some feel that you have the magic wand to change everything. I believe with your level of experience and the support we will give you and the cooperation of your colleagues, all of you collectively, will help to change our own country.”

Okonjo-Iweala previously served as Nigeria’s finance minister between 2003 and 2006 and was lauded for having negotiated the cancellation of 18 billion dollars of Nigeria’s debt. She also served briefly as foreign minister.

She will take over the finances of a country where two-thirds of government revenue and more than 90 percent of export earnings result from the oil-and-gas industry.

Nigerian GDP growth estimates have been put at more than seven percent for 2011, but most of the population lives on less than $2 a day and the oil industry provides few meaningful jobs for locals.

The previous finance minister, Olusegun Aganga, has remained in the cabinet and is now in charge of the ministry of trade and investment, but Okonjo-Iweala’s role will include “coordinating minister for the economy.”


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