LUANDA, OCTOBER 26, 2016 – Angola’s Supreme Court has asked President José Eduardo dos Santos to respond to an inquiry on why he appointed his daughter as head of the state oil firm, according to court documents seen by Reuters.Dos Santos appointed his billionaire daughter Isabel as chief executive of state oil firm Sonangol in June. She has pledged an overhaul of Sonangol to improve its efficiency and margins to offset the impact of depressed oil prices.
Angola, a member of OPEC, is currently Africa’s largest oil producer because of militant attacks and other problems that have cut output in Nigeria. But it has been hard hit by depressed oil prices that have forced it to slash spending and growth forecasts.
The court was acting in response to a case filed by 14 Angolan lawyers who accused the president of nepotism and violation of the Angolan probity law.
Neither the presidency’s communications staff nor Isabel were immediately available to answer calls to their offices.
Isabel, ranked as Africa’s richest woman by Forbes magazine, was named CEO after the shock firing of Sonangol’s existing board by Angola’s leader of the last 36 years.
After being sworn in as chief executive, Isabel told reporters she was looking to split the firm into three units overseeing operations, logistics and concessions to international oil companies.
The appointment was seen by some analysts as President dos Santos laying the ground for dynastic, family succession if he follows through on a declared intention to step down in 2018, a year after presidential elections. However, others said it was possible he was serious about bringing about change at Sonangol.
Dos Santos said in March he intended to step down as president in 2018 but gave no reason for his decision and did not name a preferred successor.