The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, and the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Maikanti Baru, have been at loggerheads. Now their animosity has filtered into the open, with the leak of an August 30 letter written by Kachikwu to President Buhari accusing Baru of sundry offences.
Thisday newspaper has a report on the battle between the two men.
Below are our takeaways from the letter:
- It did not start today: Kachikwu was first appointed GMD of NNPC in 2015 and later given the position of Minister of State for Petroleum Resources. Baru was then made the Group Executive Director, Exploration and Production of the NNPC. Baru allegedly began a behind-the-scenes campaign to have Kachikwu removed as GMD as it was not proper for him to hold the posts of minister and NNPC boss simultaneously. Eventually, Pres. Buhari removed Kachikwu as NNPC GMD and appointed Baru in his place.
- No access to the president: Kachikwu said he wrote the letter because attempts to have a one-on-one appointment with him at the State House were unsuccessful since his return from the UK for medical reasons. Buhari returned on August 19 and the letter was written on August 30.
- The anti-North card: One thing which upset Kachikwu so much in his letter was how Baru (who hails from Bauchi) reportedly labels him as “anti-North” so as to convince the president on the need to sideline him in the NNPC’s decision-making process. Kachikwu (who hails from Delta) said he believes in merit and is a detribalised Nigerian who grew up in Kano and had worked in various parts of the country.
- On collusion with Niger Delta militants: Kachikwu said in the letter that rumours are also being peddled that he is in collusion with militants. He argued that the blueprint of all his engagements with the militants was discussed and approved by Buhari and done in collaboration with the Office of the Vice-President, Department of State Services (DSS) and the National Security Adviser (NSA). He said the reason he took on the issue “at great risk” to his life was because the militancy was the main reason oil production declined from 2.2 million barrels per day to 1 million barrels per day in November 2016. “I have never betrayed the trust that you placed on me. I did not deploy any public financial resources to achieve the results of the Niger Delta region,” he said.
- On being sidelined (changes in the NNPC): Kachikwu said he only reads about changes in the NNPC on the pages of newspapers, whereas such changes ought to pass through the NNPC board which he chairs.
Kachikwu alleged that Baru awarded about $24 billion major contracts without his input or review by the NNPC board. “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 said.
- On being sidelined (contracts): Baru has also sidelined the NNPC board in the award of contracts, Kachikwu alleged. The reason he is able to get away with that is because he claims Pres. Buhari, is the Minister of Petroleum, and his approvals were obtained. “However, the correct governance is that the Minister of State and the board review the transaction and give their concurrence prior to presentation to you.”
- Breaking the law: What the law says is that all contracts above $20 million should be reviewed and approved by the NNPC board. However, no contract has passed through the board since Baru became GMD. “This is despite my diplomatic encouragement of Dr. Baru to do so to avoid wrongfully painting you as a president who does not allow due process to thrive in NNPC. Given the history of malpractices and the public perception of NNPC as having a history of non-transparency, the NNPC Tenders Board (NTB) cannot be the final clearance authority for contracts it enters into. “The NTB, which is a collection of top-level NNPC executives and COOs, with the GMD as chairman, cannot continue to be the final approval authority for multi-million dollar contracts and transactions involving NNPC to the exclusion of the board. Board members have singularly and collectively raised these issues to no avail,” Kachikwu explained. The minister listed major contracts awarded by Baru without the input of NNPC board to include $10 billion crude term contracts; $5 billion direct sales direct purchase (DSDP) contracts; $3 billion AKK pipeline contract; financing allocation funding contracts worth $3 billion; and NPDC production service contracts valued at $3-$4 billion.
- The humiliation of Kachikwu: The minister said his relationship with Baru has been “fraught with humiliation, sidelining, and campaigns of character defamation against me”. He wondered why the GMD refuses to report to his office or the NNPC board if truly the NNPC is a parastatal under his ministry. He said even when he calls for meetings, Baru sends his subordinates without the courtesy of a call to explain his absence. He said he had managed the bad perception created by Baru’s blatant insubordination and disrespectful attitude and had also worked hard to avoid being seen as petty and meddlesome.
- Culture of fear: The minister alleged that Baru has created a fear culture in NNPC, against the open administration he had introduced with the president’s support in their first year of pushing reforms. “NNPC staff are afraid of contacting me to avoid being punished, sidelined in appointments and targeted. Indeed, the key factor for growth and advancement in NNPC of today is to avoid the Minister of State’s Office,” Kachikwu added.
- Prayers: Kachikwu requested four things from the president – (a) to save the NNPC and the country’s oil and gas industry from collapse arising from non-transparent practices and empower the NNPC board to do what is required; (b) to save him from the humiliation and disrespect by compelling NNPC to submit to oversight regulatory mandate and supervision, which he is supposed to manage on behalf of the president; (c) to order the suspension of the recent appointments and promotions in NNPC until he and the NNPC board have made their inputs, noting that this would send a clear signal of process and transparency; (d) to encourage joint presentation meetings by the heads of parastatals and himself to Buhari in order to foster a culture of working together and implant discipline in the hierarchy.