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By Gilbert da Costa
Abuja
30 October 2008

Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua dismissed 20 cabinet ministers in a government shake-up following growing criticism of the government's performance in the past 18 months. The administration has made little progress in the sectors the president set as his priorities. For VOA, Gilbert da Costa reports from Abuja.

Nigerian President Umaru YarAdua (file photo)
Nigerian President Umaru YarAdua (file photo)
The presidency said the cabinet shake-up was to rejuvenate the Yar'Adua administration. The president is facing increasing criticism of his inability to meet the expectations of most Nigerians, particularly improving their lot.


The head of the non-governmental Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, Auwal Rafsanjani, said the long-awaited changes could strengthen the administration to deliver on its promises.

 "This is something a lot of people have been calling for, given the lack of direction in this government," he added. "The government was completely stagnated where you could not see any serious performance in any of the ministries. Nigerians have been concerned that both the president and the ministers are not performing. I think there are a lot of concerns by many Nigerians and they believe that it is time for those ministers who are not performing to go."

The reorganization did not affect key ministries such as finance, defense and foreign affairs. President Yar'Adua presides over a 44-member cabinet, with a representative from each of Nigeria's 36 states.

The president is expected to submit a list of nominees, to replace the dismissed ministers, to the parliament for approval. The ruling party has an overwhelming majority in both houses of parliament.

Mr. Yar'Adua made sweeping changes to the structure of his ministries last month in a prelude to the reorganization.

The 57-year-old leader is most certain to announce a minister for a separate ministry tasked with pacifying the oil-rich Niger Delta where militants are fighting for a greater share of the region's oil wealth.

The president's victory at the 2007 presidential election is being challenged at the Supreme Court amid persistent rumors that he has health problems.

Mr. Yar'Adua says he will step down if the court eventually rules the poll was invalid. 

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