Friday, 27 August 2010

Nigeria: Further personnel changes rumoured

As analysed in recent editions of Nigeria Politics & Security, Petroleum Minister Mrs Deziani Allison-Madueke escaped dismissal in the minor reshuffle on 11th August, despite rumours of her imminent removal. Deputy Finance Minister Remi Babalola was not so lucky, being summarily reassigned to a ministerial backwater following his “unguarded” public comments about the purported insolvency of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

However, this may not be the end of the current struggle for influence in Nigeria's oil hierarchy. Our sources have suggested that the next person in the line of fire may be NNPC Group Managing Director (GMD) Austin Oniwon, upon whose letter to the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) Babalola's fatal comments were apparently based.

Whether this speculation has any mileage remains moot. However, Menas Associates has noted with interest the increasing behind-the-scenes frustration of the presidency with the slow progress in narrowing the gap between the NNPC's view of the Petroleum Investment Bill (PIB) and the views of the oil industry. Oniwon has been a key figure in the NNPC's uncompromising stance, and has resisted calls from Allison-Madueke to move towards the middle-ground.

While Oniwon's departure might serve the presidency's interests vis-à-vis the PIB, it would further reinforce criticisms of Jonathan's (and Allison-Madueke's) handling of the NNPC: Oniwon took over from Shehu Ladan only four months ago, while Ladan himself had barely spent seven weeks in the position before he was replaced. Sources suggest that Oniwon – an indigene of Kogi State – will be replaced by a GMD from the South-East.

For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria, please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.

© 2010 Menas Associates

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