By Abdoulaye Massalatchi

Niamey - Niger President Mamadou Tandja named economist Seyni Oumarou as prime minister on Sunday, ordering him to form a new government after parliament voted out its predecessor over a corruption scandal.

Oumarou had been minister for equipment in the previous administration of Prime Minister Hama Amadou, which fell late on Thursday after losing a no-confidence vote in the national assembly of the landlocked west African state.

"By presidential decree, Mr Seyni Oumarou is named prime minister and head of government," an official statement released on Sunday said.

Niger, rated the world's poorest country by the United Nations in its human development index, was shaken last year by the discovery that hundreds of thousands of dollars of education funds, most of it from foreign donors, had been embezzled.

Amadou's opponents, who voted him out of office on Thursday with the support of deputies from the ruling coalition, had accused him and his allies of complicity in the embezzlement, a charge he denied.

Oumarou, the new premier, is a member of Tandja's National Movement for a Developing Society (MNSD) party which was expected to maintain its majority governing coalition with the Democratic and Social Convention (CDS) party and other allies.

Analysts said the aim of Thursday's vote appeared to be to punish Amadou for his handling of the embezzlement affair.

The controversy led to the detention last year of two former education ministers who have yet to be tried.

It also scandalised a country where an estimated 3,6 million people ran short of food in 2005, shocking TV viewers abroad with images of wasted bodies and prompting an international food aid effort.

Niger is the world's third largest uranium producer, but its people are poor and the largely desert country has suffered coups, rebellions and above all droughts since independence from France in 1960.

The funds embezzled last year came out of Niger's 2002-2012 education plan, which was backed by international donors who temporarily suspended this funding after an audit showed money had disappeared.

Located on the southern side of the Sahara and named after the Niger river, the country was placed last of 177 countries last year on the UN Human Development Index, which ranks them by quality of life based on income, education, health care and life expectancy.

Life expectancy in Niger is 45 years.