The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project has asked the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission as well as the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission to investigate the controversy surrounding the award of $25bn contracts in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.

The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, and the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Maikanti Baru, have been at loggerheads over the process of awarding the contracts.

Speaking with one of our correspondents on the telephone on Tuesday, the Executive Director of SERAP, Adetokunbo Mumuni, said the EFCC and the ICPC would be able to determine if such contracts existed or if the contracts followed due process.

Mumuni said, “I don’t want to take sides with anybody but the oil sector needs to be put straight and due process must be followed in the award of contracts.

“The investigators such as the EFCC and the ICPC must come into this matter. They must investigate transparently and release the report of that probe.

“This is necessary so that Nigerians can know what has transpired. Was due process followed? Was the process of awarding the contracts free of corruption? It is only when this has been determined that this government can prove that its anti-graft war is real.

“The NNPC has been in existence since 1977 under Olusegun Obasanjo as military head of state and Muhammadu Buhari was the first minister of petroleum and there was provision for a governing board. So, investigators will be the ones to tell us if there was corruption or not.”

Junaid, CD tackle Buhari on President’s ministerial portfolio

Meanwhile, a northern elder statesman and Second Republic lawmaker, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, and a civil society organisation, Campaign for Democracy, have knocked Buhari for his “defective role” in the ongoing controversy in the NNPC.

Junaid said, “What is best for the country is true independence of the NNPC. The first irresponsibility is the President appointing himself as the petroleum minister. This is why any time he was ill, the industry also was ill and the fortunes of Nigerians suffered. Starting with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the idea that the president is also the minister of petroleum resources is bad for the country and this is my concern.”

Also, the CD President, Usman Abdul, said, “During Buhari’s absence from the country, some of us protested that he should either resume or resign. Some people felt we were being used by political elements. But we were factual.

“We knew the rot going on in most of the government ministries and departments. “So, if the President, as the petroleum minister, was away, who did the NNPC boss confide in when awarding the contracts? There is so much lack of control under the Buhari’s government.”

But the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership said if the NNPC was perceived to be executing its responsibilities well, it did not matter who Baru was reporting to.

CACOL Director, Debo Adeniran, said, “The personality clash is not as important as the business of the NNPC. Statutorily, the NNPC boss knows who he should report to. If the allegations levelled against him are confirmed, then he may be punished. But as long as the job gets done, the person he reports to should not be made a sentimental issue.”

A civil society group, Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy, asked Kachikwu and Baru to resign to pave the way for an independent probe of the corporation.

The group’s coordinator, Ariyo Atoye, said, “It is now obvious that President Buhari cannot fight corruption. A top chieftain of the All Progressives Congress confided in me during a tour that the corruption going on under this government is mind-boggling.

“The only semblance of hope we have is that the National Assembly might do something differently from what the executive might do. The only way we can unearth the true picture of the situation is the investigation by the National Assembly.”

Kachikwu/Baru: Making comments may offend Buhari, say APC chiefs

The leadership of the All Progressives Congress has not intervened in the dispute between the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, and the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Dr. Makanti Baru, in order not to offend President Muhammadu Buhari, The PUNCH has learnt.

Multiple party sources confided in our correspondent in Abuja on Tuesday that the matter was purely a matter for the executive and it should be left at that.

The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and the Group Managing Director of the NNPC have been engaged in a war of words over the process for the award of contracts totalling $25bn.

Kachikwu had written a memo to Buhari, accusing Baru of insubordination and disrespect for due process in handling the affairs of the NNPC.

The memo was eventually leaked to the media about five weeks after it was sent to the President, who, however, failed to act on the minister of state’s memo.

When asked why the governing APC had yet to react to issues raised in the memo, the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, said, “There is no official comment of the party at this time, but when we are able to comment, I will let you know.”

However, some members of the party’s National Working Committee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, explained that they could not go public with their views on the matter for fear of a possible backlash from the Presidency.

A party source said as leaders, they were treading softly so as not to be on the wrong side of the President.

He stated, “Yes, we are leaders at the level of the party but as party leaders under this dispensation, we are fully aware of our limitations.

“I dare say no one among us would want to be seen as confronting the President on an issue that is purely within his domain.

“Both Kachikwu and Baru are his appointees; he has the power to deal with them as he deems fit, the party had no imput into their appointments.

“We can’t be telling him how to handle members of his staff because he is the substantive Minister of Petroleum and the people you are talking about work directly under him.”

Another party leader of northern extraction likened what is happening at the NNPC to a civil war.

He said, “Civil wars are more difficult to handle. I consider what is happening between the junior minister and the NNPC boss as a civil war. It would have been a different matter if one of them is a member of the party and the other is not.

“There is no way one can say something now and it would not appear as if one is taking sides. The only problem most of us have with this whole affair is the damage it is likely to do to the party in the eyes of the public.

“Even though Baru’s response has clarified a lot of the misgivings, a lot of people still think a matter of corruption is being swept under the carpet; which is not true.

“At the same time, I sympathise with Dr. Kachikwu; he might have been forced to go public after attempts to get through to his immediate boss were scuttled by you know who.”

A party leader from the South, who also spoke on the issue, said, “We must allow Mr. President perform his duties. He appointed these people and knows what he expects from them. Imagine if any of us said anything about the (alleged) scandal our former colleague, Babachir Lawal, got himself involved in.

“The only thing we can do is to join the queue of people waiting for the President to take a decision. If he decides to consult the party for advice, we will certainly give one; until then, we must wait.”

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