President Muhammadu Buhari was under pressure yesterday to get to the bottom of the $25 billion contracts awarded by Maikanti Baru and other matters at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Minister of State for Petroleum Ibe Kachikwu, in a letter to the President, alleged that NNPC Group Managing Director (GMD) Maikanti Baru awarded $25bn contracts unilaterally ran a ‘bravado management’, sidelining the board and the minister; and made key appointments without consultations.
The President was scheduled to meet Dr. Kachikwu yesterday, but the meeting was put off. “It is rescheduled for today”, a source told The Nation last night.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Nigerian Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI), the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) and the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) are pushing for Baru’s probe. He is yet to speak on the allegations.
The popular questions being asked on the matter are:
Will Buhari force a review of the $25b contracts?
Will the President ask Baru to step down pending an investigation into the allegations?
Will the recent reorganisation and appointments made by Baru stand?
Who are the officials blocking Kachikwu from seeing Buhari?
NLC President Ayuba Wabba, in an interview, said the issues raised by the minister must be verified.
He said: “The issue is under some investigation and I think there should be an opportunity to interrogate the process and at the end of the day, let us know the veracity and facts of the issue. We have made this issue quite clear and loud that part of our challenge is how we are able to imbibe the process of good governance, transparency and accountability.
“Some of the issues bother on this critical idea of ensuring that there is good governance in place. Our hope is that this issue will be thoroughly investigated and concluded at the end of the day. Let us hear what the issues are as well as the fact of the matter. Once we get the facts, we will then be able to make a conclusion.”
ANEEJ Executive Director Rev. David Ugolor, in a statement in Abuja, applauded the Senate for launching a probe into Kachikwu’s allegations.
Ugolor said: “Since the Senate has waded into the matter, we suggest that Mr. President as well must invite the Nigerian Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative, NEITI, to carry out a comprehensive and forensic audit of the allegations.
“Among statutory functions of the NEITI include the regulation of matters related to due process in the award of contracts in the extractive sector of the Nigerian sector.
”We believe that the inconsistencies being thrown up by the startling revelations from the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources include some of the issues which the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill seeks to address and redress.”
SERAP said Buhari must use his “good offices and leadership position to urgently refer the allegations of corruption and abuse of office against Mr Maikanti Baru, Group Managing Director Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) for investigation, and if there is relevant and sufficient admissible evidence, for him to face prosecution”.
The organisation urged Buhari to “suspend Mr Baru, pending the referral to the EFCC and ICPC, and the outcome of any investigation by the anti-corruption agencies in order not to create the impression that your government is treating Mr Baru as a sacred cow. We urge you not to allow the allegations against Mr Baru go the way of past inconclusive investigations of allegations of massive corruption within the NNPC”.
NEITI Technical Adviser Dr. Dauda Garuba urged the President to wade into the crisis because $25 billion is too huge an amount to consummate its contract without due process.
He said: “Whichever way one looks at it, N25 billion is too huge an amount to build contracts around without due process. We are supposed to be a country guided by rules and procedures. We must make Nigeria work.”
Garuba said that if it is established that there are infractions as alleged by the Minister of States for Petroleum Resources, the necessary sanctions must be deployed.
He insisted that Mr. President must demonstrate that he meant business when he promised Nigerians to reform the oil sector.
He said: “I must say that it is unfortunate that the Nigeria public is being unenviably treated to unpleasant developments in the oil sector. If you ask me, this is coming at a wrong time in our history. Just when we are expecting a reform of the sector so that it can deliver the country out of the wounds, we are having to deal with this.”
The PDP called for Baru’s suspension. The party warned the President against shielding Baru and others involved in the alleged scam.
The party urged the President to treat Baru and others involved in the scandal the same way he treated the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki and many others involved in the $2 billion arms purchase scandal perpetrated during the last administration.
Addressing a news conference in Abuja yesterday, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Prince Dayo Adeyeye urged Buhari to live above board by instituting proper investigation into the scam.
“As a political party, we expect that the President, who prides himself as an indefatigable corruption fighter, would for once try to live above board, by genuinely allowing one of his own, accused of corruption, get properly investigated and prosecuted as a show of his impartiality in the war against corruption.
“He should do this to correct the open impression Nigerians have about his so called anti-corruption war; that it’s just a tool of persecution of perceived enemies”, Adeyeye said.
The PDP spokesman added: “We view the allegations levelled against Baru by Kachikwu as too grave to be swept under the carpet and we insist that the NNPC GMD must be treated like an accused who should not have the opportunity to influence investigation into his alleged misdeeds.
“In this light, we demand an immediate suspension of the NNPC GMD so that proper investigation can be carried out by the relevant anti-corruption agencies.”