How else can one describe the letter of lamentation by the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, to President Muhammadu Buhari on the contracts scam and the serial misdemeanor of the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Maikanti Baru, if not to say it was not only childish but outrightly naive? Is there anything in government that makes even our brightest minds think and act like dullards once they join the cult? What made Kachikwu think the NNPC boss had been acting unilaterally without the full backing and approval of the substantive Petroleum Minister who also doubles as the President of the Federal Republic? Who was supposed to receive this letter and appropriately advise the President? Is it not the Chief of Staff, the same man that removed Kachikwu and installed Baru as the NNPC helmsman? So what was the rationale in taking the case to this same man?
Let’s look at it: in what looked like deterioration of the supremacy tussle between the Minister of State for Petroleum and the NNPC Group Managing Director, the minister wrote a letter to President Buhari accusing the NNPC boss of flagrant violation of due process in the award of contracts and acts of insubordination.
In the letter, titled ‘Re: Matters of insubordination and lack of adherence to due process by the GMD NNPC – Dr. Baru,’ written on August 30, 2017, with reference number HMS/MPR/001/VOL.1/100, Kachikwu alleged that the NNPC boss had repeatedly sidelined and disrespected the board of the national oil firm, which is chaired by the minister of state.
Listing his prayers to the President, the minister noted among other things that “we save NNPC and the oil industry from collapse arising from the above non-transparent practices and empower the board you inaugurated to do the needful.”
He continued, “That you 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.”
Did Kachikwu need a reminding to have known that the moment Buhari relieved him of the Chief Executive Officer position of the NNPC and appointed Baru, and then appointed the NNPC Board of Directors with his Chief of Staff as member, that he has been made completely useless and a mere rubber stamp figure in the entire setup?
To Ibe Kachikwu, good morning! Are you just realizing you’re just a figurehead? Are you just realizing your brain was being picked by the “real Minister of Petroleum” who not only has a different mindset but also running a completely different agenda from whatever good intention you think you have for both NNPC and the nation’s entire oil and gas sector? Are you just realizing that the party you are working for is a massive fraud and that the corruption perpetrated by this government is likely to be unmatched in our short history of democratic experiment? Diokpaanm, if you’re just waking up, then “a very good morning” to you. The tragedy of your situation is that “chi ewegea eshishe jikpudoi!”
Most Nigerians’ reactions to the Kachikwu’s disclosure actually fell short of informed understanding of where the real problem lies. Without mincing words, the NNPC issue is one of the fallouts of the dangers of an authoritative and, worse still, an incapacitated President doubling as minister of a critical sector like petroleum. The other military General in our democratic history, General Olusegun Obasanjo, tried the same concept of doubling as the petroleum minister in his first tenure; however, the glaring difference is that he totally relied on a seasoned technocrat, Dr Rilwanu Lukman. But even at that what did we get? Serial complicity in awards of lucrative oil contracts including ownership structure of OPL 245 (Malabu), Right of First Refusal contracts and Oil for Infrastructure frauds with Chinese and Indian companies amongst others!
Look at it: The Group Managing Director of NNPC got Ministerial approval (from the President in his capacity as the substantive Minister) for each of those mega billion dollars contracts. The question we should ask is: Did whosoever that approved the contracts not know that the NNPC boss did not follow due process to run the contracts that required Board Approval through the NNPC Board?
Whether it was the President or the Chief of Staff that approved the contracts is immaterial in our peculiar case, as our President has operated so far on absentee basis for the better part of his two years in office due to his health challenge though there’s no way Abba Kyari could have acted on such matters without getting the President’s approval.
How did Kachikwu come to conclude that he can successfully accuse the Honorable Minister of Petroleum Resources of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (who also doubles as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria) of approving contracts without following due process? You see where the naivety came in!
Buhari rode on our backs into Aso Rock based on the grossly trumpeted high moral ground of integrity, impeccable and incorruptible character. However, from day one, impunity, indiscipline and disregard for authority and due process which are the mothers of all corruption in government have remained his government’s defining characteristics. It is a well known fact that with impunity, the very cardinal pillar of anti-corruption, which is entrenchment of transparency and accountability in conduct of government’s business, has been completely eroded by officials of this government including, President Buhari himself.
Anti-corruption is not about handcuffing the opponents and critics and parading them on televisions. Arrogating powers to an office and disregard for due process is a most virulent form of corruption in the public service. Over $30 billion dollar contracts awarded by Buhari and Baru without the knowledge of NNPC board. Do you know that this amount is the size of our entire foreign reserves if it’s not even bigger?
So what’s the difference between the immediate past Petroleum Minister and the current one (Buhari himself)? Is this not an exact replica of Diezani Alison-Madueke’s “Strategic Alliance Agreement” approvals which she gave without following due process? Why, then, do we demonize Diezani if it is going to be business as usual? What is the essence of NNPC board when all critical decisions at NNPC are taken between Buhari and Baru?
Now, those justifying the unilateral and one-sided appointments of top NNPC management staff completely missed the point. In serious business organizations even in the private sector, there is no way a chief executive officer of an organisation can carry out a full business structure transformation, with appointments of executive directors and chief operating officers without full Board of Director discussions and approvals – not to talk of a directly combustible and political organization like the NNPC.
There are certain appointments above certain levels that require board approval. The GMD is supposed to run them through the board before seeking ministerial approval. It is very clear that the current setup is disjointed because the minister who is supposed to chair of the the board (the President) delegated that responsibility to the Minister of State (Kachikwu). The GMD made the mistake of sidelining Kachikwu. Kachikwu is blowing his whistle against both Buhari and Baru. Forget all the nice grammar in the letter. Kachikwu is accusing Baru of not following due process and Buhari of negligence at the minimum. This is clearly intellect/merit versus mediocrity as usual on one part and whistleblowing on the other part.
Add these stinking incidents to the infinitely delayed actions on Osinbajo’s report on the grass-cutting SGF fraud case and cash-stashing DG-NIA among several others, no one will be left with the conviction that Buhari’s so called anti-corruption war is a hoax.
We may be tempted to give the benefit of doubt on this issue to the President for now as all these scams may be the scheme of the so called “cabal” (or, “the hyenas and the jackals”) while he was ill. However, the response of the President in the next few weeks will determine whether by omission he is culpable. God bless Nigeria!
Ifeanyi Izeze writes from Abuja and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org