Abuja - Nigeria's new President Muhammadu Buhari dissolved the board of the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) on Friday as a first step to cleaning up the oil industry in Africa's biggest economy.
Inaugurated on May 29, Buhari came into power on an anti-corruption platform and a pledge to make the oil sector more transparent. Oil represents 80 percent of the government's revenues but the slide in crude prices since last year has left it struggling to pay its bills.
"The president has said he will clean up the oil sector. That is the beginning of the clean up," Buhari's spokesman, Femi Adesina, said.
The government may be losing money through opaque contracts in which crude oil worth billions of dollars is given to traders in exchange for refined imports, mainly gasoline, international and domestic watchdogs have said.
The lower house of parliament decided on Wednesday to set up a committee to investigate whether the government had been short-changed by the state oil company scheme to swap crude for refined products.
"You can't possibly have the same board in place while the place is being investigated and with the intention to change the way things are being done there," said Adesina.
Nigeria's anti-corruption agency has investigated various oil scandals in the past, namely a fuel subsidy fraud costing the government $6.8 billion between 2009-2011. But due to a lack of political will, only a handful were prosecuted.
"It's the country's cash cow. It has a bright future. It's just that transparency and accountability have to be introduced into how it operates and this is the beginning of that process," Adesina said. (Additional reporting by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by David Clarke)