By Felix Onuah
ABUJA (Reuters) – Nigerian President Bola Tinubu on Monday swore in 45 ministers to a new cabinet that must get to grips with tackling the problems of sluggish growth, a weak currency and high inflation in Africa’s largest economy.
The country also faces widespread insecurity, including the theft of crude oil by criminal gangs.
The ceremony took place nearly three months after Tinubu took office on May 29 after winning a disputed presidential election in February which is being challenged by his main opponents in court.
“Your obligation is to return public faith in government so that our people can once again believe in government,” Tinubu told the new ministers.
The new cabinet will have to confront sluggish growth, caused by a previous collapse in oil prices that weakened the currency, slashed government revenues and drove up inflation.
It must also try to win back foreign investors who fled as currency controls were introduced in 2016.
Tinubu, 71, who is chairman of regional bloc ECOWAS, is working with other heads of government in West Africa to find a solution to the crisis in Niger where a military junta has seized power.
He has embarked on some of the boldest reforms that Nigeria has seen in years, including scrapping a popular but costly petrol subsidy and removing exchange rate restrictions. The naira has weakened to record lows.
The reforms are a gamble to try to kick-start growth but inflation has soared, worsening a cost of living crisis for Africa’s most populous nation. Nigeria will release its second-quarter growth data on Friday, the first after Tinubu initiated the reforms.
Tinubu, appointed former investment banker Olawale Edun as finance minister and coordinating minister for the economy. He named Heineken Lokpobiri as junior minister of petroleum and Ekperipe Ekpo as junior minister of gas resources.
A main petroleum minister has yet to be appointed, spokesman Ajuri Ngelale said.
Tinubu’s cabinet is bigger than that of his predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari, who had 36 ministers in his first terms and 43 in his second term in office. Under the law, the president must include a member from each of the country’s 36 states.
Most cabinet members are political veterans, many of whom were key players in Tinubu’s election campaign.
“I believe in you that government can be a positive force for transformation and the vehicle for the collective progress of this country,” Tinubu said.
(Reporting by Felix Onuah, Writing by Chijioke Ohuocha, Editing by Angus MacSwan)