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Rather than trust anyone else with a key source of government revenue, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said Tuesday he will keep Nigeria’s oil portfolio for himself. However, Buhari also said he will appoint a minister of state in his new Cabinet who would oversee the daily running of the petroleum sector, according to Reuters.
“I intend to remain the minister of petroleum resources,” Buhari reportedly said Tuesday in an interview on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City.
Having been head of the petroleum ministry under military rule, there was earlier speculation that Buhari might indeed appoint himself to the powerful post as he works to overhaul the oil sector, which provides the Nigerian government with about 70 percent of its revenue.
Buhari, who took office May 29, has vowed to drive out corruption from the lucrative industry and has already taken steps to do so. Most recently, he announced a new managing director to run Nigeria’s state oil company, sacked its eight executive directors and dissolved the entire corporate board. Buhari has split the company into two entities and said Tuesday he might divide it further to improve efficiency and eliminate graft, Reuters reported.
The scale of corruption within Nigeria’s state-run oil company was revealed in a report published in August by the National Resource Governance Institute, an international governance watchdog in New York City. The report found the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation has increasingly stolen large sums of money from the Nigerian treasury. The company, which did not respond to requests for interviews, withheld about $12.3 billion from the sale of 110 million barrels of oil over 10 years. Buhari said he would trace and recover the “mind-boggling” sums of money stolen over the years from the opaque sector.
The 72-year-old Nigerian leader is expected to name the rest of his Cabinet Wednesday and submit the candidates to Nigeria’s National Assembly for approval. Buhari has received criticism for taking too long to appoint ministers in his new Cabinet, which remains largely vacant. He has vowed to announce his list in September and said “Nigerians should ask me questions after the 30th of September if I do not do so,” according to Nigeria’s Leadership Newspaper. His presidential aides, who accompanied him to New York City this week, said Saturday the Nigerian leader will not miss the deadline.