IT is good and in the interest of Nigerians that the feud between the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu and the Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Maikanti Baru, over the running of the oil behemoth has been exposed. Kachikwu had in a petition to President Muhammadu Buhari claimed that the NNPC boss “had repeatedly sidelined and disrespected the board of the national oil firm, which is chaired by the minister of state.”
In the August 30, 2017 letter, Kachikwu alleged, among others, that: “Like the previous reorganizations and ‘repostings’ done since Dr. Baru resumed as the GMD, I was never given the opportunity before the announcements to discuss these appointments. This is so despite being the Minister of State, Petroleum, and Chairman NNPC Board.”
Kachikwu also claimed that “The board of NNPC, which you appointed and which has met every month since its inauguration, and which by the NNPC, is meant to review these planned appointments and postings, was never briefed. Members of the board learnt of these appointments from the pages of social media and the press release of NNPC.”
Besides, Kachikwu alleged that “Against the rules, some major contracts were never reviewed or discussed with him or the board of NNPC.” Some of these contracts include “the Crude Term contracts ($10billion); the DSDP contracts ($5billion); the AKK pipeline contract ($3billion); various contracts with NOCs ($3billion); and the NPDC production service contracts valued at over $3billion to $4billion.
The total sum of the contracts is reported to be over $25billion. Kachikwu also stated that “The legal and procedural requirement is that all contracts above $20 billion would need to be reviewed and approved by the board of NNPC, adding that in over one year of Mr. Baru’s tenure, no contract has been run through the board.”
On its part, the management of NNPC has through its spokesman, Ndu Ughamadu, denied any misdeed in the award of the multi-million dollar contracts. The NNPC management also said that “the input of the NNPC board or ministry was not required before certain contracts are awarded and executed.” According to it, “what is required is the processing and approval of contracts by the NNPC Tenders Board, the president in his executive capacity or as minister of petroleum, or the Federal Executive Council (FEC) as the case may be.”
As if the NNPC defence was not enough, the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, through his spokesman, Laolu Akande, said that he approve some loans in NNPC worth N640 billion in July, in his capacity as Acting President when Buhari was away. However, in spite of the spirited defence by All Progressives Congress (APC) government, Kachikwu’s allegation of insubordination and lack of adherence to due process by Baru in the management of NNPC, are too weighty to be ignored or waved aside as if nothing has happened. The best way the government can assure Nigerians that the war against graft is still on course is to institute a judicial commission of inquiry to probe the sundry allegations and make public the findings.
This matter must be seriously and properly investigated. There should be no sacred cows. I say this because oil is very important to Nigeria and Nigerians. Oil is the major reason we exist together today. Oil sustains all of us and pays our bills. Without oil, some states will not function.
We fought a fratricidal civil war because of many reasons, including oil and who will control it. Oil is a blessing from nature, God. I now know why some wise people among us regard the oil blessing as ‘curse.’ I am beginning, though reluctantly, to join the tribe of those who believe that oil is, indeed, a curse, a big curse from Lucifer. May God spare all of us from the curse of oil.
Oil can be a blessing to other oil exporting countries that have good standards of living, well-paved roads, working health and education systems but not us. Oil has led to brain drain, medical tourism and dilapidated road infrastructure. From oil boom when our problem is not money but how to spend it, we have graduated to oil doom.
More doom will come from oil if we refuse to do things the right way. It is sad and tragic that the sweet crude has turned sour in our mouth. We have killed ourselves because of oil money. Some Nigerians have fed fat on oil money. Some Nigerians has appropriated or stolen plenty of our oil money while most Nigerians are wallowing in abject poverty and penury.
The sum of $25 billion worth of contracts should not be done without the knowledge of the presiding minister and the Federal Executive Council (FEC). Let the management NNPC be sanitized like other national oil firms in the world. We want an NNPC whose operations should stop being opaque. We need a transparently run oil firm that should not tolerate absence of due process.
We need an NNPC where one person should not dictate the tune and do things arbitrarily. It is public knowledge that our NNPC is not run transparently and diligence to due process. The last audit of the behemoth towards to end of the last administration confirmed that the NNPC was not run in tandem with best accounting practices.
Therefore, the power play in NNPC between Kachikwu and Baru is never a surprise to those that are conversant with Nigerian oil politics. Nigerian leaders are more interested in oil than ensuring good governance. They are all oil-fixated. That can possibly explain why former president Olusegun Obasanjo indirectly acted as the oil minister during his eight-year long rule. It seems that President Muhammadu Buhari has taken a cue from Obasanjo.
For how long can we continue to do the wrong things simply because another person has done it? We need change from the apostles of change. They should give us the desired change, especially in good governance. The present feud between Kachikwu and Baru is extension of larger Nigerian politics between the North and South and which bloc controls the oil wealth.
Our leaders should think of how govern and make Nigeria great and stop luxuriating and romancing with oil, a vanishing and fast depleting natural resource. Since the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) is expected to sanitize the running of our NNPC, let the National Assembly save the nation and its oil sector by speedily passing that bill into law.
The lawmakers should expedite action on the bill so that our NNPC should stop being a bastion of corruption and lack of due process. The recent lopsided appointments in the corporation, which Kachikwu mentioned in his petition, should be properly investigated and reversed in the interest of equity and justice.
Any acts considered as gross abuse of office and indiscipline must not be condoned in our NNPC. The APC government must show transparency in the investigation of the sundry allegations leveled against Baru. Let’s show other people that Nigerians can do something better.