By Emeka Anaeto, Economy Editor, with agency report
There is an indication that the Presidency has reversed itself on the petroleum ministerial position.
The portfolio will now have no minister, while a ministerial nominee in the person of Emmanuel Kachikwu, current Managing Director of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, would be Minister of State for Petroleum Resources.
This indication was given by the presidential spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, barely two weeks after he had told international media that President Muhammadu Buhari would take the position.
Bloomberg, yesterday quoted Adesina as saying “he cannot be President and oil minister at the same time. He will supervise the ministry, so there will be no petroleum minister. Maybe he will appoint a Minister of State.”
Adesina had said in New York, few days to handing over of the ministerial nominees’ list to the Senate that Buhari was to take charge of the ministry.
Reports had come from New York, where Buhari was attending the UN General Assembly last month, quoting the President as saying he would be Minister of Petroleum, with a junior minister taking charge of day-to-day affairs in the sector.
Though Adesina gave the impression that the reversal was to separate the office of the President from that of petroleum ministry, it was speculated that the move may be due to some Senators’ threat to force a screening of the President in line with their rules, if he nominates himself for the position.
Buhari has made tackling the rot in the oil sector a priority, as he seeks to cut endemic graft and put the country’s crippled, crude-dependent finances on a firmer footing.
Nigeria, Africa’s number one crude producer and biggest economy, has been hit badly by a slump in global crude prices since last year, squeezing government revenue.
Oil accounts for some 90 percent of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings.
The president has vowed to recover “mind-boggling” sums of stolen oil cash, starting with a drastic overhaul of NNPC, the government-owned oil firm.
Buhari helped establish the NNPC in 1977 as oil minister under military government of General Olusegun Obasanjo.
He was later in charge of the Petroleum Trust Fund during the time of General Sani Abacha in the 1990s.