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Thursday, July 1, 1999 Published at 01:43 GMT 02:43 UK

World: Africa

Ex-soldiers dominate Obasanjo cabinet

President Obasanjo has returned Nigeria to civilian government

The new President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, has sworn in his government with key posts dominated by men who served previous military regimes.

Nigeria elections
They include Defence Minister Theophilus Danjuma who was once army chief of staff, and the veteran politician and former governor of Nigeria's Central Bank, Adamu Ciroma, who has been appointed Minister of Finance.

The vast majority of the 47 ministers are from President Obasanjo's People's Democratic Party, but he has included representatives from the two main opposition parties.

BBC Lagos Correspondent Barnaby Phillips: "Many of the key jobs have gone to the north"
"It is your responsibility to plug loopholes that allow for bending of rules and pilfering of state resources," the president told his new ministers at a ceremony in the capital, Abuja.

"You must not allow corruption in your separate ministries and departments."

The new government is Nigeria's first civilian leadership after more than 15 years of military rule.

Disputed nominees

President Obasanjo's list of nominees was originally presented to the senate shortly after the military government stepped down on 29 May, but his choices came in for lengthy criticism.

The BBC's Correspondent in Lagos, Barnaby Phillips, says that even though the president complied with the terms of the constitution and selected a minister from every single one of the country's 36 states, he still faced numerous accusations that he was favouring one region over another.

In particular, politicians from the north of Nigeria complained that he was favouring his native south-west. Ultimately most of the key posts have been assigned to ministers from the north.

However, while President Obasanjo has repeatedly expressed his determination to deal with corruption, he has included many names associated with past discredited regimes.

Our correspondent says the president appears to have opted for experienced politicians and has therefore disappointed those who hoped for a clean break with the past.

Trust fund scrapped

In a separate development, President Obasanjo also announced the winding-up of the discredited Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) which was supposed to finance infrastructure projects.

But correspondents say little concrete evidence exists of the more than $1bn spent since the fund was created in 1994.

The PTF was set up in 1994 by former military ruler General Sani Abacha to provide new social amenities following riots sparked by a rise in the price of petroleum products.

The scrapping of the fund had been part of President Obasanjo's election campaign.

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