July 21, 2015 / 9:21 AM / 2 years ago

Nigeria's Buhari says will name cabinet in September

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari speaks during a news conference after the Summit of Heads of State and Government of The Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) in Abuja, Nigeria, June 11, 2015. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

LAGOS (Reuters) - Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari will not appoint his cabinet until September, more than three months after taking office, he wrote in an article, explaining that he needed time to root out corruption before naming his ministers.

Buhari won March elections and became president on May 29, after campaigning against corruption and pledging to quash an insurgency by Boko Haram Islamists, but critics have asked why Africa’s biggest economy still has no cabinet ministers.

“Nigeria must first put new rules of conduct and good governance in place,” Buhari wrote in the Washington Post on Monday, confirming speculation that the cabinet would not be appointed before September.

Nigeria’s financial markets have suffered as investors wait for policy direction on key issues such as the currency and oil. Meanwhile, hundreds of people have been killed in attacks by suspected Boko Haram militants in the last few weeks.

But Buhari, who met U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House on Monday as part of a four-day visit to Washington, said he had good reason to bide his time.

“When cabinet ministers are appointed in September, it will be some months after I took the oath of office,” he wrote, adding that it would have been neither “prudent nor serve the interests of sound government” to have made appointments sooner.

Boko Haram has killed thousands of people in a six-year insurgency, during which it has attempted to set up a state imposing strict Islamic law in the northeast of Nigeria, Africa’s top oil exporter and most populous nation.

Following their talks, Obama said Buhari had a “clear agenda” for defeating the militants and tackling corruption.

Since taking office, Buhari has replaced his defense chiefs and dissolved the board of the state oil company, but not appointed a cabinet.

In his article, Buhari said people in positions of power under previous administrations had been able to plunder state coffers with impunity.

“The fact that I now seek Obama’s assistance in locating and returning $150 billion in funds stolen in the past decade and held in foreign bank accounts on behalf of former, corrupt officials is testament to how badly Nigeria has been run,” he wrote.

Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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