The Senate’s decision to thoroughly investigate the oil contracts award and lopsided appointments’ allegations leveled against the Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr Maikanti Baru, by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, is a good step in the right direction.
The probe will no doubt go a long way in revealing the truth or otherwise of the allegations and bring to fore the genuineness of the anti-graft crusade or zero tolerance for corruption of the ruling party, All Progressives Congress (APC).
It would be recalled that Kachikwu, had accused the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Dr. Baru, of alleged insubordination, due process abuse and malfeasance leading to the award of contracts worth over $25 billion.
In an August 30, 2017 Memo to President Muhammadu Buhari, the minister attributed the slow growth in the oil and gas sector to illegal practices by the departments and agencies under his ministry, especially the NNPC headed by Baru. He went further to accuse the latter of running a “bravado management style.”
In his response, Baru described the allegations by Kachikwu, as baseless and accused the minister of exaggerating and concocting figures to give vent to his claims, insisting that due process was followed in the various transactions the NNPC had undertaken.
Notwithstanding Baru’s counter allegations and the defence put up by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo that no contract was awarded in the Corporation, we still call for proper and thorough investigation of the alleged $25 billion contracts and lopsided employment in the NNPC by Baru.
Vice President Osinbajo’s admittance that he approved only some loans and not contracts when President Buhari was on medical trip did not hold water as Nigerians are eager to know whether the contracts followed due process in accordance with the NNPC Act. This must be investigated and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) should move in immediately and the culprits brought to book.
We support calls for stepping aside of both Kachikwu and Baru pending the outcome of the investigations into the matter. This will go a long way to ensure effective investigation of the matter and it will prevent anybody from hampering the work of the investigators.
We also urge the various committees of the National Assembly to live up to their responsibilities especially in the area of oversight functions, in which obviously they are lagging behind as the latest scandal at the federal level had revealed.
This is absolutely necessary because the National Assembly through its Senate Committee on Downstream headed by Senator Tayo Alasoadura, ought to have detected these alleged oil and gas contracts fraud if the Committee had done its oversight functions very well.
If this had happened, it should not have been Minister of State for Petroleum Resources that would have blown the whistle on the matter before the Senate and indeed the National Assembly realized that they should set up any committee for investigation.
However, since Kachikwu had blown the whistle on the questionable activities in the NNPC, we expect the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices and other related matters Commission (ICPC), the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies to commence probe immediately on the weighty allegations.
There should be no cover-up and the probe must be transparent and the report should not go the way of others like those of the sacked Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal, and Director- General, National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ayo Oke. We urge Mr. President not to hesitate in handing over the duo to the EFCC for further investigation and possibly prosecution if there is relevant and sufficient admissible evidence against them.
This is also necessary because the kind of the on-going energy unleashed on politically-exposed people by the Federal Government through its anti-graft agencies should also be devoted to these weighty allegations against NNPC helmsman so that Nigerians will not believe that the anti-corruption crusade of Buhari administration is not selective as many had claimed.
We submit that the inaction or delayed action of the Presidency on reports of the panel that investigated Lawal and Oke, among others, will not only kill Buhari’s anti graft war but will erode public confidence on the President’s integrity which will not augur well for his government.
While supporting President Buhari’s anti-corruption crusade, we also support the stance of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) to stop non-executive officials from using top management positions in the Corporation to settle their friends or cronies at the detriment of members of staff.
We also believe that definitely, any attempt to do so will spell doom for the country and create a window for abuse, which will rubbish if not totally destroy the now questionable zero tolerance to corruption stance of APC administration.
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