By Usman Mahmud
Why is the Petroleum Ministry which has President Muhammadu Buhari as its leader and Dr. Ibe Kachikwu as supervising Minister, now on the precipice of an epic managerial crisis?
The answer is not the manner with which the duo of Buhari and Kachikwu are managing the Oil and Gas sector in their respective capacities.
Buhari is a former Petroleum Minister, who still understands the traditional narratives in the industry, while Kachikwu is a top-flight industry player, who brought to the table innovative reforms. Their mastery of the industry presumably compliments each other. The response to the poser is not a supremacy battle between the two leading overseers of the industry because there is none. Now, what are the problems with the combustible sector again?
We can safely point at the systemic absence of unity of purpose, highhandedness, and nepotism as the problems. These, as also highlighted by Kachikwu in his recent memo to the President on the official conduct of the Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Commission, NNPC, Maikanti Baru, were found to be at the root of the issue. However, there are some, who argue that the Minister should have sought more confidential assess with the President in order to avoid the mixed impressions trailing the leakage of his memo. While that correctness of such argument is not in doubt, the weighty nature of the issues raised seems to have justified the avenue through which the message was passed to the President.
Indeed, the matter which does not exist in isolation as the nation had witnessed near similar issues between the Minister of Transport, Mr. Rotimi Ameachi, and Minister of State for Aviation, Sen Hadi Sirika; Finance Minister, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun and Comptroller General of Customs, Col Ahmad Ali, retd; and the Senate and Ali, underscores the obvious absence of synergy among various organs of government in this dispensation. However, the gravity of the latest issue and the fact that it involves a sector regarded as the country’s nerve centre, demand a display of leadership by the appropriate authority where the buck stops. In doing that, an implicit understanding of Kachickwu’s petition to the President the way it is, becomes exigent. The Minister of State said for over one year, he had tolerated the disrespectful and humiliating conducts of Baru on his office and decided to bring the issue to the attention of the President. “Mr. President, yesterday, like many other Nigerians, l resumed work confronted by many publications of massive changes within NNPC.
“Like the previous reorganisations and repostings done since Dr. Baru resumed as GMD, I was never given the opportunity before the announcements to discuss these appointments. This is so despite being Minister of State, Petroleum, and Chairman, NNPC Board.
“The Board of NNPC, which you appointed and, which has met every month since its inauguration and, which by the statutes of NNPC is meant to review these planned appointments and postings, was never briefed. “Members of the Board learned of these appointments from the social media and the press release of NNPC. “However, truth is that given the global challenge in this sector, we must aggressively pursue out-of-the-box ideas on rejuvenating this sector, getting the best yield and increasing our earnings from oil and gas. “What this means is that parastatals in the Ministry and all CEOS of these parastatals must be aligned with the policy drive of the supervising Ministry to allow the sector register the growth that has eluded it for many years. “To do otherwise or to exempt any of the Parastatals would be to emplace a stunted growth for the industry.”
Oversight regulatory mandate
His other prayers to Buhari included but were not limited to: “Save the office of the Minister of State from further humiliation and disrespect by compelling all parastatals to submit to oversight regulatory mandate and proper supervision which I am supposed to manage on your behalf.
“You kindly instruct the GMD to effectively leave NNPC to run as a proper institution and report along due process lines to the Board and that Your Excellency instructs that all reviews be done with the Minister of State prior to your decision. “That to set the right examples, you approve that the recently announced reorganisation changes be suspended until the GMD, myself and the board have made relevant input to same. This will send a clear signal of process and transparency. “That Your Excellency encourages joint presentation meetings between heads of Parastatals and the Minister of State to you so as to encourage a culture of working together and Implant discipline in the hierarchy.”
What happens to the issues raised?
While the import of the message which Kachikwu described as procedural is clear, many are concerned about what happens to the issues raised. It is observed that the general interest in the matter was borne out of the thinking that such allegations if found to be true, roundly contradict President Buhari’s change disposition. Indeed, for an administration that flew to power on the wings of change mantra, this development is believed to pose a test to its moral claims to fairness. More to it is the fact that under the President’s watch, vagueness is giving way to transparency, especially as a result of his reforms.
Hence, the growing consensus that the manner the matter would be handled by the Presidency, would go a long in either making or mocking the President’s assertion of belonging to ‘’everybody and to nobody.’’ That is a point Mr. President truly cherishes. The aforementioned is so relevant to the budding controversy given assumptions by some to the effect that Baru, may have allegedly been motivated by past instances where the Presidency was seen not to have reined-in its appointees when it mattered most. If the resulting effects of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s attitude to the allegations raised by the then governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Muhammadu Sanusi against ex-Petroleum Minister, Diezani Madueke, is anything to go by, the need to display leadership on this matter becomes all-important. With a growing perception of sectionalism regarding high-profile appointments in the present dispensation, analysts consider this an opportunity to look at the merits of some claims by Kachikwu with a view to addressing those found to be true.
A quick decisive action
Therefore, a quick decisive action on the underlisted prayers would prove an appropriate step in countering the perceived systemic aloofness to such issues. The areas include saving the NNPC and the country’s oil and gas industry from collapse arising from non-transparent practices and empower the NNPC board to do what is required; compelling NNPC to submit to oversight regulatory mandate and supervision; ordering the suspension of the recent appointments and promotions in NNPC until the NNPC board has made their inputs in order to send a clear signal of process and transparency; encouraging joint presentation meetings by the heads of parastatals with the minister and Buhari in order to foster a culture of working together and implant discipline in the hierarchy. These matters cannot be divorced from the central issue of management mandate and superior policy directives meant to set a progressive tone, not just for the NNPC, but, for Nigeria. Of all the areas of contention in Kachikwu’s letter, these are believed to be germane to any measure that would prevent the President’s reforms from being frustrated.
Should these be done, even habitual critiques of the administration would agree that efforts at creating balance in the country, which was eminently canvassed by the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, have commenced.
► Mahmud, a public affairs analyst, works in Abuja