By Odunewu Segun
In a bid to defend the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Maikanti Baru, following series of allegation by the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, more intricate and potentially divisive matters are being brought to the fore.
The claim by the NNPC that it got approval to award the disputed contracts from a then-ill Muhammadu Buhari while Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was acting President has brought to the fore discordant tunes in the Presidency.
The drama got more deepened when Vice President Yemi Osinbajo accepted given the approval, tactically shedding his principals from further embarrassment, but with a proviso- that he only gave approval for financing arrangements not contracts.
In a series of tweets from its official twitter handle, the Presidency shed more light on the approvals made by Vice President Osinbanjo while he acted as President. According to the Presidency, the approvals given were not for contracts but for financing arrangements.
Osinbanjo, while speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the ground breaking of the Bonny Road project, said the JV financing approvals were for two companies (one of which was Chevron).
“In some cases, NNPC and their joint ventures partners have secure loans and they need authorisaton to secure those loans while the President was away, so I did grant two of them and those that were presidential approvals, but they are specifically for financing joint ventures and they are loans not contracts,” Osinbajo had said.
The crisis had started last week when a memo written to President Muhammadu Buhari was leaked to the press. In the memo, Kachikwu accused the GMD of unilaterally reorganizing and reposting staff without informing himself or other board members.
He also alleged that Baru awarded about $24 billion major contracts without his input or review by the NNPC board, adding that the contract procurements were done without recourse to the board.
But immediately President Buhari met with both parties, the story changed. Baru, who had been quiet since the memo became public released his own side of the story, allegedly sanctioned by the presidency.
The corporation called the allegations baseless as the NNPC tender board and not the NNPC board were responsible for award of contracts.
The NNPC also stated that apart from the AKK project and NPDC production service contracts, all the other transactions mentioned in the memo were not procurement contracts. The NPDC production service contracts have undergone due process, while the AKK contract had not reached the stage of contract award.
Some stakeholders who spoke with National Daily did not buy the NNPC side of the story, they argued that despite the clarification by the Presidency, several questions still remained unanswered. One the puzzle, according to them was why the Vice President did had to wait till the disagreement between the two officials before disclosing these ‘approvals?’
What is more, the President could be seen as one of the reasons for the tussle between the 2 officials which seems to have been in the pipeline for some time as Baru had simply not gotten along with Kachikwu.
When Buhari was away, Osinbajo had to send Baru back to Kachikwu for input into personnel changes Baru sought to make. Even then, Baru did not consult Kachikwu, preferring to wait until Buhari’s return before making those changes- without Kachikwu’s knowledge.
With all these revelations, it seems that a can of worms has been opened with the leaked letter. The accusations and counter-accusations and the leaked letter itself all serves to show that big problems remain in the Executive.