•Relinquish your position as Minister of Petroleum, Falana tells Buhari
From Iheanacho Nwosu, Abuja and Emma Njoku
There are strong indications at the weekend that President Muhammadu Buhari may direct the Department of State Security (DSS) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to probe the allegations by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, that the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Maikanti Baru, not only awarded about $24 billion major contracts without due process but also engaged in an act of insubordination.
A directive to that effect is expected to be handed to the leadership of the two agencies this week, a source told Daily Sun.
President Buhari on Friday met with Kachikwu over his leaked 18-page letter, where he alleged that Baru flagrantly flouted due process in the handling of the corporation’s businesses.
He specifically accused the NNPC boss of not only sidelining him, but also tagging him “corrupt, anti-north and working with militants.”
Kachikwu alleged that Baru awarded a multi-billion dollars oil contracts without passing through the Board of NNPC, which he is the chairman.
The minister wrote: “Indeed, in anticipation of vacancies that would arise from retiring senior executives of NNPC, I wrote the GMD (Baru) a letter requesting that we both have prior review of the proposed appointments. This was to enable me to present same to the board or give an anticipatory approval and then review with the board later.
“I wrote to the GMD, given previous happenstance of this nature. In addition, thereafter, I called the GMD to a private meeting where I discussed these issues. Needless to say that, not only did he not give my letter the courtesy of a reply, he proceeded to announce the appointments without consultation or board concurrence.”
Kachikwu declined to speak to the press after his meeting with the president.
Also last Friday, Baru met with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, ostensibly on the letter Kachikwu wrote to. No statement was issued on the meeting. Prior to the two meetings, the Senate, last Thursday, announced that it will investigate Kachikwu’s allegations. It set up a committee headed by former Sokoto State governor, Alhaji Aliyu Wamakko, to probe the matter.
However, a source at the presidency disclosed that President Buhari is likely to ask the DSS and EFCC to delve into the matter.
According to him, “ it is normal to expect that an allegation of this nature be thoroughly investigated by the right people. Very likely, both the EFCC will be asked to delve into the matter so as to guide the president properly.”
He stressed: “I don’t know why some people feel that President Buhari can sweep allegations as weighty as what the minister raised in his letter under the carpet. I can tell you that every word contained in the letter will be investigated by EFCC and DSS.”
Asked if EFCC has been formerly informed of the letter and issues raised in it, spokesman of the commission , Wilson Uwajaren, told Daily Sun that he was not aware of that.
But an official of DSS, who pleaded anonymity, said the agency will probe some aspects of the allegations.
“It is our job. We know everything about the letter. The president asking us or the EFCC to further investigate the issue is expected,” he said.
On whether President Buhari has equally held a meeting with Baru over the allegations against him, the presidency source said the President will meet with everybody concerned in the matter.
“It is not only the GMD that Mr President will meet; he is determined to get to the root of the matter. This informed the reason he swiftly met with the minister last week,” he said.
Also speaking on the matter, Director General of Voice of Nigeria (VON) Osita Okechukwu, gave assurance that President Buhari will dig out the truth about the matter.
Okechukwu stressed that Buhari’s urgent meeting with Kachikwu was a proof that he would deal with the issue expeditiously.
He continued: “As I said before, I have not seen nor heard from Mr. President since the altercation; am at Enugu as you know, but permit me to opine, from my observatory, that the meeting President Buhari had with Kachikwu vindicated some of us who have expressed the candid view that it is possible that those who blocked Kachikwu from seeing Mr. President might have blocked the letter from getting to him. Otherwise, the urgent verification meeting he had with Kachikwu signposts this assumption. Aso Villa has unresolved culture of mix-bag.”
Okechukwu explained that for the much he knew of President Buhari, he had always placed public interest above self and cannot allow his political capital of integrity quotient to be extinguished by anyone, contending that even his critics can attest to his selflessness.
He laughed off insinuation that President Buhari is not charge of some affairs in government.
He said: “He is in charge. How can you spew such propaganda? He is not the talking type. His approach is slow and steady, which wins the race. For a president who, in his independent anniversary speech, x-rayed how he met an almost empty treasury and huge infrastructure deficit, and took the pain to travel round the world to source for funds to revamp the infrastructural deficit, it is unfair to profile him in that manner.”
Meanwhile, Lagos lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana has advised President Buhari to relinquish his position as Minister of Petroleum.
This, he said, would remove undue pressure on the health of the president and allow him to attend to urgent matters of the state.
Falana, in a statement he personally signed, said: “Having regard to enormous responsibilities of the office of Minister of Petroleum Resources and Chairman of the NNPC board, President Buhari is advised to relinquish the ministerial position, in view of his busy schedule, and appoint another Nigerian of proven integrity and competence to superintend the affairs of the Ministry.
“If this advice is accepted in good faith and acted upon without any delay, it would remove undue pressure on the health of the president and allow him to attend to urgent matters of the State,” he said.
Regardless, Falana urged the Federal Government to investigate Baru over the allegation.
He said the NNPC GMD should be placed on indefinite suspension and the case referred to the EFCC for thorough investigation.
“In order to conduct a thorough investigation into the grave allegations of the reckless contravention of the provisions of the Public Procurement Act, Mr. Baru should be placed on indefinite suspension, while the presidency should refer the case to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission,” he said.
Falana added that once it is confirmed that the said $26 billion contracts were awarded without the approval of the NNPC board, they should be revoked, while the recent appointment of the heads of the parastatals in the oil and gas industry should be reviewed in line with the Constitution and the Federal Character Commission Act.
“Curiously, the presidency has demanded the minutes of the meetings of the NNPC board. This demand has confirmed that the meetings of the board, which are statutorily required to be chaired by the Minister of Petroleum Resources, have not been held as and when due.
“More importantly, the demand has corroborated that aspect of Dr. Kachukwu’s petition alleging that the powers of the board have been usurped by Dr. Baru. Therefore, the petition should provide an opportunity for the president to reorganise the NNPC with a view to ensuring that it is publicly owned in a manner that the board is constituted by accredited representatives of the oil producing communities and credible civil society groups, including the trade unions in the oil and gas industry,” he said.
…ADP to Kachikwu: Resign
…Demand documents on controversial contracts
From Samuel Bello, Abuja
The Action Democratic Party (ADP), yesterday, asked the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, to resign his position for proper investigation.
National Secretary of ADP, James Okoroma who stated this at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja, said the minister should honorably resign his appointment, having become a stranger in the Buhari’s cabinet.
“We all know that Buhari is the substantive minister, he is conversant with that sector. It is worrisome and annoying that this monumental fraud could have taken place under his watch
“Government’s loud silence on these allegations is most worrisome. It is also a clear indication that the APC-led Federal Government is paying lip service to its much-touted war against corruption, which has been largely selective.
“There is a leadership collapse in the country as no one appears to be in charge. This can either be attributed to President Buhari’s ill health or his inability to check the excesses of the cabal that is currently running his government.
“We expect the presidency to come out with a formal response to these allegations. He should own up and address Nigerians on these monumental allegations and misappropriation of our national patrimony.
“Kachikwu is the chairman of that board and if the number one person of that board claims publicly that he knew nothing about it formally or informally, there is no other evidence we need because he stated it categorically.”
Okoroma said the ADP would have no other option but to go to court if all documents on the controversial contracts were not made available within 14 days as stipulated in the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.
“The National Assembly should do the needful by engaging the president directly in this matter, since he is the substantive Minister of Petroleum. They should be guided by their oath of office and ensure that all those who are involved are not spared
“This government has continued to deceive itself with a laughable and dishonest war against corruption when it has refused to clear serious cases of corruption involving its major functionaries,” he said.