Wednesday, May 20, 2015

US, Others Caution Buhari On Choice Of Petroleum Minister

Ahead of the May 29 handover of the Federal Government administration to Muhammadu Buhari following his victory at the March 28 polls, friendly countries have continued to show renewed interest in who occupies some key posts in the incoming administration.

Already US had expressed concern over series of issues including human rights abuses by the Nigerian military in its prosecution of the war in the North-east, and the manner top officials of the Nigerian government  have managed the oil and gas sector of the economy citing several acts of corruption.

A source in the Foreign Ministry which pleaded anonymity said the US is now eager to assist Buhari turn the situation around, as it has always considered Nigeria an important ally on the African continent. This was as Daily Sun learnt that several highly placed persons and multinational companies who attended a recent US State Department briefing cited corruption as the main reason for low investment in Nigeria’s oil sector. Against this background, a source said the US is backing a senior official of a multi-national oil company from the Niger Delta who is conversant with transparency rules to emerge as the Petroleum Minister.

The source said, “in fact, the multinationals have discussed with the US State Department and have already agreed on a credible candidate, who they believe will be able to restore confidence and attract the necessary investment into the critical sector. Meanwhile sources say the US has already made this position known to the incoming administration cautioning  the president-elect against making a wrong choice in the appointment to the office.

It urged the President to appoint people of integrity and proven track record into his cabinet to make the job easier for him.  Already, top oil and gas industry operators have indicated their support for the candidate, who they believe will bring his vast experience to bear in the turnaround of the Ministry and give credibility to the sector and the Buhari’s “Change” mantra.

In 2014, Transparency International ranked Nigeria as the 136th  most corrupt country in the world. In addition, a US report in March last year said that in Nigeria, “massive, widespread and pervasive corruption affected all levels of government and the security forces,” while alleging that judges were not left out of the massive corruption ring, the report accused the government of not implementing laws on corruption effectively, thus deliberately allowing “officials (to) frequently engage in corrupt practices with impunity.”

These are, possibly, part of what the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, saw when he cried out that the current administration’s “body language” encouraged corruption. The US government had also condemned the pardon granted some ex-convicts by the National Council of States headed by President Goodluck Jonathan in 2013.

Recall that former Governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreiye Alamieyeseigha, the former head of the Bank of the North, Shettima Bulama and some other Nigerians were granted a presidential pardon. The US had roundly condemned the act, saying, “this decision undermines anti-corruption efforts in Nigeria and encourages impunity. If the government is serious about uprooting public corruption, sanctions against those who betray the public trust should be strengthened, not relaxed,” said Akere Muna, Vice-chair of Transparency International.

And now the US has sounded a note of caution to President-elect, Buhari, not to bow to pressure by allowing politicians foster any candidate for the Petroleum Ministry whose records are stained or for purpose of satisfying political patronage.

According to the US, it will send the wrong signal that business is going to continue as usual, in which case, the incoming president might not get the much needed assistance from the US or any European country for that matter.

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