Since the news broke penultimate week ago of the memo to the President written by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu on August 30th 2017,raising sundry allegations against the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Dr Maikanti Baru; It has been a series of allegations and counter-allegations from the camp of both men with many Nigerians taking sides with one camp or the other. It is important that we understand what the issues are and what they are not before we pass judgement or support one camp or the other.
Dr Kachikwu raised three main issues in his memo. One, is that the GMD of NNPC unilaterally awarded contracts to the tune of $25 billion US Dollars without consulting the Board of NNPC. Two, that he ran a “bravado management” sidelining the Minister and the board. Three, is that he made appointments without consultation with the Minister or the Board. Nowhere in the memo did the Minister accuse Baru of corruption or allege that monies where missing as was the case during the Jonathan administration when the then Central Bank Governor and now Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi alleged that about $49 billion US Dollars realized from crude oil sales was not remitted into the Federation Account by the NNPC. That allegation by Sanusi was later proven to be true first by an International Audit firm engaged by the government of the day, and second by the corruption cases against Diezani Allison-Maduekwe, the Former Minister of Petroleum, Jide Omokore and Kola Aluko who are both Oil Moguls. Now having established that indeed no money is missing or was stolen, the GMD of NNPC went ahead to clarify the issue of the contracts. According to him, there was no release of money to the International Oil Companies that won the contracts as the IOC’s would source for the funds themselves and the share of the profits realized that pertains to the Federal Government would be paid directly into the Federation Account.
The real substance in all the allegations of Dr Kachikwu against Dr Baru is that due process was not followed by the GMD and also his alleged insurbodination to the Minister. The GMD has defended himself by saying he acted in line with the NNPC Act, the NNPC Handbook and the Public Procurement of 2007, which vests the power to award contracts and make critical appointments in the NNPC with the NNPC Tenders Board of which the GMD is Chairman, the Minister of Petroleum Resources which happens to be the President and the Federal Executive Council. However, we must also not fail to note that there are gaps in the NNPC Act which stakeholders in the oil industry have argued would only be solved with the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill. One of the many gaps is that there is no mention of the Minister of State for Petroleum in the Act. That means that Kachikwu has now become like a “spare tyre"who will only work when the President wants him to work as the President is the substantive Minister of Petroleum and Baru claimed he got all approvals from him which he ( the President) is yet to refute.
Both Kachikwu and Baru are experienced technocrats who know their jobs and have made meaningful impact in the Petroleum Industry. Kachikwu as the GMD of NNPC helped resolve the problem of Joint Venture Cash Calls. He has also helped to influence the extension of exemption of Nigeria from the production cap by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Baru on the other hand was the Former Chairman of the NNPC Anti-Corruption Committee. He has also helped to not only ensure unhindered petroleum product supply for all Nigerians but has also commenced exploration efforts in the Frontier Basins especially those in the North, the most recent being the Sokoto Basin.
The President should call Kachikwu and Baru and resolve the matter amicably. He should establish a chain of command taking cognizance of Kachikwu’s office and delegate some of his powers to Kachikwu. The National Assembly should also expedite action on the passage of the PIB bill so as to avoid crisis of this nature in the future.