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Nigeria’s president on Wednesday evening announced a cabinet of close advisers and political loyalists as he seeks to rejuvenate a faltering economy and respond to a crisis in neighbouring Niger that has dominated the first few months of his term in office.
Bola Tinubu, who took over in May, appointed investment banker Wale Edun as finance and co-ordinating minister of the economy in a sweeping role responsible for rebooting the battered finances of Africa’s most populous nation.
Edun, a former chair of the Lagos-based investment bank Chapel Hill Denham, was previously Tinubu’s special adviser on monetary policy.
Many had expected Edun to be appointed finance minister eight years ago under former president Muhammadu Buhari but he was overlooked. One of Tinubu’s closest allies, he served as commissioner of finance in Lagos, Nigeria’s economic capital, from 1999 to 2007 when Tinubu was governor of the state.
Edun, 62, played a key role in crafting Tinubu’s economic manifesto during the campaign for February’s elections and is regarded as the architect of market-pleasing attempts to return to economic orthodoxy in Africa’s biggest economy.
Since Tinubu took office, he has eliminated popular but costly fuel subsidies that drained more than $10bn from state coffers last year.
The new president has also suspended central bank governor Godwin Emefiele and ended the currency peg that artificially propped up the value of the local currency against the dollar.
Most of these moves have been welcomed by investors looking to bring money into a country where dollar investments have fallen to record lows in recent years amid a stuttering economy and chronic dollar scarcity.
S&P Global Ratings raised its outlook on Nigeria to stable from negative earlier this month on the back of the proposed reforms.
However, the price of petrol has tripled since fuel subsidies were scrapped. Many people consider cheap fuel to be their only benefit from the government. Inflation surged to a fresh 18-year high of 24 per cent in July on the back of elevated transport and food costs, worsening the crisis in the cost of living.
Yusuf Tuggar, currently Nigeria’s ambassador to Germany, was named foreign minister as Tinubu confronts the first foreign policy crisis of his presidency in the wake of last month’s coup in Niger. The Nigeria-led Ecowas bloc has threatened military intervention if the ousted president Mohamed Bazoum is not reinstated by mutinous soldiers led by the head of his presidential guard.
Tinubu, who has been criticised for the size of his 45-member cabinet, picked Mohammed Badaru, a former state governor, as defence chief at a time when the country is grappling with multiple security challenges and is playing a leading role in the response to events in Niger.
A minister for petroleum was not announced but two deputies were named. Heineken Lokpobiri and Ekperikpe Ekpo will serve as junior ministers for petroleum and gas resources, respectively. There is an expectation that Tinubu will fill the senior oil minister role, as his predecessor Buhari did.
A government spokesperson said the new ministers would be sworn in on Monday.