Nigerian Pres to Inaugurate Cabinet; President May Be Energy Minister

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP), Jul 26, 2007 (Dow Jones Commodities News)

Nigeria's president, scheduled to inaugurate his new Cabinet on Thursday, was expected to keep the post of energy minister to himself in this oil rich country.

According to an official list released to reporters, former deputy governor of the Central Bank Shamsudeen Usman will become finance minister and Ojo Maduekwe, ruling party secretary and close ally of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, will become foreign minister.

The list didn't name an energy minister, leading to speculation Yar'Adua would follow Obsanjo's lead - Obsanjo was his own energy minister for most of his two terms in office.

In all, there are 39 Cabinet positions, including junior ministers.

Yar'Adua's April 21 election was marred by allegations from foreign and local observers of massive fraud, including ballot-stuffing and intimidation of voters.

Nigeria is Africa's leading oil producer and the world's eighth exporter, normally with the capacity to export about 3 million barrels of oil daily. Unrest in the main Niger Delta oil region, including attacks on oil facilities and kidnapping of foreign oil workers by militants and criminals, have cut nearly a quarter of exports since 2006.

Yar'Adua pledged on taking office on May 29 to make resolution of the delta unrest a key task of his government. Militants claiming to defend the interests of the region's impoverished inhabitants are seeking greater local control of oil wealth. Criminal gangs have also engaged in hostage-taking and extortion, with more than 200 foreign oil workers seized in the region in the past year.

Most were freed unharmed after the payment of ransom, but the unrest has contributed to upward pressures on global oil prices.

The new government also faces the challenge of rebuilding a country weakened by official corruption and decaying infrastructure, suffering daily power cuts and frequent fuel shortages despite its energy riches.

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