Leaked memo rekindles scandal around NNPC

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Despite the meeting between President Muhammadu Buhari and his Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu over a leaked memo indicting the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation of gross misconduct, the memo has shown the irregularities in the NNPC.

Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu wrote to President Muhammadu Buhari to report on questionable practices in the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Five NNPC contracts, with a total value of $25 billion, “were never reviewed by or discussed with the board,” according to the letter published in local media.

One of the biggest graft scandals in Nigerian history came to light in 2014, when former CBN governor Lamido Sanusi revealed that the equivalent of $18 billion had disappeared from state coffers between 2012 and 2013.

Sanusi was removed from office, but the scandal and disclosures of large-scale looting of national assets were instrumental in the electoral defeat of President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015, in favour of Buhari, who fought on a clean-hands ticket.

Buhari’s critics say his anti-corruption campaign is targeting only opposition figures — a charge that is likely to carry weight in the light of the leaked letter.

The letter appears to point to Kachikwu’s deepening frustration. “I have been unable to secure an appointment to see you despite very many attempts,” Kachikwu wrote to Buhari, who is oil minister as well as president.

No visible action has been taken, and the NNPC’s chairman, Maikanti Kacalla Baru, whose governance of the oil giant is clearly in the memo’s firing line, remains in office.

According to Benjamin Auge, a researcher associated with a French think-tank, the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI), the machinery which enabled corruption in the NNPC has not been switched off. “The only thing that has changed is the networks of influence,” he added.

ALSO SEE: NNPC’s $25bn scam exposes hypocrisy of Buhari’s anti-corruption war – PDP

Baru, said a Nigerian financial analyst specializing in the oil sector, is part of an old guard from northern Nigeria, Buhari’s own home, and through his long career at NNPC had built a network of political contacts.

The 58-year-old was named in 2016 “just because he was from the north,” the analyst said. “Buhari has a northern agenda, you can’t rule that out.”

Jonathan’s party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which is now in opposition, on Thursday called for Baru to be suspended, adding that a “loud silence” weighed on Buhari for the implications of sleaze hanging over the NNPC.

“I don’t think Kachikwu will be fired, it would be a very bad move for the investors, but he might not be part of the government after the 2018 cabinet reshuffle,” said the analyst, who requested anonymity in order to be able to speak freely.

“We are still sitting on the same corrupt system that existed before Buhari came into power,” the analyst said. “Nothing has changed.”

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