Nigeria: U.S. seeks new election boss as President declares new cabinet

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Acting Nigerian president Mr. Goodluck Jonathan has sworn in a new cabinet to replace the cabinet members who fought a fierce battle to keep incapacitated president Mr. Umaru Yaradua in office even when he was too sick to hold office. The new cabinet is expected to stay in power until the next elections due next year. Meanwhile, the U.S. has called on acting President Jonathan to replace the election commission Chairman.

Having only kept 13 members of the dissolved Yar’Adua cabinet in his new 38 member cabinet, analysts believe that President Jonathan’s decision to revamp the cabinet is not only to do away with the elements who Nigerians blame for some of the nations corrupt practices, but also to bring in people loyal to him as acting president.

According to some Nigerians, the most significant of the president’s new appointee’s was who he placed in charge of the country’s oil ministry. The key post in Nigeria is now under former Mines Minister Deziani Allison-Madueke. Also of importance to some Nigerians was Finance Minister Olusegun Aganga who is seen as a reformer, expected to back efforts for greater transparency and the fight against corruption.

Following the swearing in of his new cabinet, President Jonathan reiterated his main priorities as electoral reforms, security in the oil-producing Niger Delta, providing a more reliable power supply and fighting corruption.

President Jonathan dissolved the entire cabinet and made new nominations in March, most of which were accepted by Nigeria’s senate last week, and while President Umaru Yar’Adua has not been seen in public since he fell ill in November 2009, President Jonathan is due to guide the nation to elections in Jan, 2011.

However, the Obama administration requested that Independent National Election Commission (INEC) chairman Maurice Iwu who has been blamed for the flawed elections in 2007, be replaced ahead of January 2011 elections.

According to U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson Mr. Iwu was incapable of organizing a credible election. The 2007 poll overseen by Mr. Iwu was widely criticized for irregularities such as ballot-stuffing and voter coercion.

Mr. Iwu’s current term as INEC chairman ends in June 2010 and U.S. government is keen that Mr. Iwu’s past record be taken into account when a new chairman is appointed.

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