Nigerian leader Jonathan starts naming new government

Mon May 30, 2011 6:44pm EDT

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* National security adviser remains unchanged

* New cabinet expected in coming weeks

By Nick Tattersall and Felix Onuah

LAGOS/ABUJA, May 31 (Reuters) - Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has started appointing his new administration, a team which will be closely watched for its ability to drive badly-needed reform in Africa's most populous nation.

Jonathan named former Senate president Anyim Pius Anyim as secretary to the federal government late on Monday -- a day after being sworn in for his first full term -- a powerful post that coordinates between ministries and the presidency.

He also retained General Andrew Azazi, a fellow member of the minority Ijaw ethnic group from the southern oil-producing Niger Delta, as his national security adviser, a key position particularly in the wake of weekend bomb blasts.

Ministers and other senior political advisers from the last administration reached the end of their tenure on May 29, and although Jonathan is expected to retain many of them, he formally dissolved the cabinet.

Jonathan has said he expects to name a new cabinet over the next two weeks. Ministries in Africa's top oil exporter and third largest economy will be run by civil servants until then.

His choice of ministers and aides will be closely watched. Nigerians and foreign investors alike are hoping Jonathan, who first came to power last year when his predecessor Umaru Yar'Adua died in office, will surround himself with reformers.

"Nigeria is on the verge of a takeoff," Jeffrey Sachs, a leading development economist and adviser to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, wrote in a New York Times column published on Monday after a visit to Nigeria.

"In my conversations with President Jonathan...I felt a firm determination to ensure that this time, in this decade, Nigeria fulfills its potential to become an African economic powerhouse and a member of the world's leading emerging economies."

MUCH AT STAKE

Some steps have already been taken.

Banking and capital markets regulation has been tightened over the past 18 months. Finance Minister Olusegun Aganga, whom many analysts expect to be retained, has overseen the establishment of a sovereign wealth fund to better manage long-squandered oil savings.

Jonathan has relaunched a blueprint for the privatisation of the power sector, a multi-billion dollar programme which has caught the attention of foreign investors and which is aimed at ending chronic power shortages, a major brake on growth.

But there are massive challenges.

Corruption remains endemic, from bribe-taking policemen to politicians who see high office as a means to control lucrative government contracts rather than serve the public interest.

And while April's elections were deemed to have been the cleanest in decades, hundreds of people were killed in rioting in parts of the mostly Muslim north after Jonathan, a Christian from the south, was announced the winner.

A ruling party pact on regional rotation had meant the north expected to be in power this term, a rhythm interrupted when Yar'Adua died and Jonathan took over last year.

Three simultaneous bomb blasts -- two in the north -- killed at least 16 people in the hours after Jonathan was sworn in on Sunday, while Boko Haram, a radical Islamist sect in the remote northeast, is carrying out almost daily fire bombings.

His critics doubt that Jonathan, whose respectful demeanour is a change from the overbearing brashness of some of the country's former military rulers, will have the guts to clean out the vested interests hampering Nigeria's development.

His path to the presidency has not been an easy one and there is a list of regional and political factions who feel he owes them for his victory. Such debts have in the past crimped Nigerian leaders' ability to pursue their reform plans.

"The swearing in of President Goodluck Jonathan ... will neither usher in a new era for Nigeria nor will it be a breath of fresh air. It is going to be business as usual," said Shehu Sani, president of the Civil Rights Congress of Nigeria. (For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit: af.reuters.com/ ) (Writing by Nick Tattersall, Editing by Lin Noueihed)

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