On Tuesday, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu and Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Dr. Maikanti Kacalla Baru met at the 23rd Nigerian Economic Summit in Abuja. The duo plumped hands, smiled together and almost hugged like excited friends who had not seen for some time. Photographers clicked away and it was no surprise that almost all newspapers in the country yesterday had both men on their front pages.
Was that the first time the duo would meet at events and were photographed together? Certainly not! But what made them candidates for the front pages is the row between them over the running of the NNPC. Kachikwu, who is the chairman of the board, feels left out. Baru thinks Kachikwu is being dramatic and showing signs of not understanding the workings of an agency he once oversees.
In response to six posers raised by Kachikwu’s loyalists, the NNPC yesterday released a fact-sheet claiming that the minister nominated seven firms for contracts, among others.
For stakeholders in the industry, the time to end the feud over allegations of insubordination and lack of adherence to due process by Baru in execution of activities in the ministry is now.
The stakeholders had divergent views on whether Kachikwu or Baru is right or wrong. Not a few agreed that the conflict calls for speedy passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), which, they say, contains solutions to the gaps in the NNPC Act. The NNPC Act, according to them, has several gaps that make actions of Baru right and the grouses right, especially as the President doubles as the substantive Petroleum Resources Minister, making Kachikwu and Baru to report directly to the President.
To them, in absence the PIB, the NNPC Act should be reviewed with roles, action and lines of report properly stated and streamlined.
Nigerian Association of Petroleum Explorationists (NAPE) President Abiodun Adesanya said Kachikwu and Baru have done well in the oil and gas sector with very tangible achievements to show for it and should not allow political issues destroy these good deeds.
He said: “What is happening between the minister and NNPC chief is administrative issue and as both of them report to the President, it is important that the President call them and resolve the issues amicably. This will make them accomplish ongoing and planned good works in exploration and other areas of the sector.
“First and foremost, two of them have done very well as human beings. Chemistry of working together between two people sometimes cannot be as expected. But there must be sincerity and alignment with the aspirations and programmes of the government of the day regardless of their views. If you are called to serve, you align your thoughts to work with the government’s objective.
“The cardinal goal of this government is anti-corruption. Therefore, all your dealings must align with this objective. All the accusations are in this case are about not following due process and procedures. Nobody has said someone is corrupt.
“Kachikwu has made a substantial progress in reducing the Niger Delta issues. The nation’s oil production is stable now with the attendant revenue increase for the government. He has resolved the persistent problem with the Joint Venture cash calls. He has also helped to influence the extension of exemption of Nigeria from the production cap by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
“Baru has also ensured unhindered petroleum products supply. Nigerians don’t queue to buy fuel anymore. There has been stability in the downstream subsector with positive impact on the economy. Exploration efforts in the frontier basins especially those in the north are now being professionally and purposefully pursued.
“If we are making progress in all these, and if someone is perceived to jump procedure, it has to be carefully handled. The issues raised in the conflict are administrative issues under the President and he can manage it.
“There is need to look at the NNPC Act well, so this kind of issue doesn’t arise again. If the Act provides that the NNPC on one hand reports to the Minister of Petroleum Resources and on the other the President and a case arises where the President is the Minister of Petroleum Resources, the situation should be reviewed and roles streamlined.
“Governing Board is part of NNPC, so management and board should be on the same page. This can be amicably resolved. On how the NNPC carries out its duties can also be streamlined. The National Assembly is looking into that, to streamlines roles and lines of reporting.
“This issue brings to the fore the issue of passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB). PIB has solution to this problem and it becomes surprising why the House Representatives is sitting on the Bill while the Senate is giving it speedy treatment.
“Let us not allow political issues to destroy the good deeds achieved in the sector. The President should call Kachikwu and Baru, resolve the issue amicable and ensure such issues are treated and resolved internally and kept away from public consumption in future.”
For the Lead Director, Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), Mr. Eze Onyekpere, the issue calls for need to speedily and totally pass the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) into law. He said the managers of Nigeria’s oil and gas resources should be more concerned with maximizing value from the resources for the benefits of Nigerians especially as oil and gas are being threatened by shift to use of renewable energies.
Onyekpere said he was yet to see any company law that doesn’t present its activities to the board before implementation, adding that the issue is test case for the reforms for the sector.
“The situation presents a water-tight case for the enactment of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) because the world is not waiting for Nigeria. The nation is currently facing the challenges posed by the increasing production and choice for renewable energy worldwide.
“The world is moving away from use of fossil fuels and we should be concerned as a nation what to do with the hydrocarbon resources we have before it becomes totally useless. The world is leaving Nigeria behind.
“The allegations against the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) are critical because they border on lack of transparency and lack of due process and should be taken seriously irrespective of who is involved.
“I want to look at the company law that says a company doesn’t report its activities to the board. It is nonsensical to classify firms that lift crude oil as off-takers. Also at what point did the NNPC present the report to the Federal Executive Council (FEC), and who presented the report to FEC when the Minister of Petroleum was not aware? Is it the President the presented it to FEC or was it the Vice President when the President was away?
“What is happening is an aberration and a watertight case for reforms for the oil and gas sector that is the mainstay of the country.”
On the proposed suspension of the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and the Group Managing Director of NNPC by the Senate to enable the upper legislative chamber carry out its probe into the allegations against the NNPC without difficulty, Onyekpere said the suspension should be for the person that ran contrary to the law and due process.”
Lonadek Oil and Gas Limited Principal Consultant Dr Lola Amao said: “Corruption allegations would continue in Nigeria until anti-corruption systems, processes and procedures are incorporated into governance. I am yet to see any NNPC leader who has not been implicated, caught or accused of being a suspect.
“The institution was neither established to benefit the masses nor be transparent. I am not sure that Minister, Minister of State and the Group Managing Director can discharge their duties as innocently as they would want to without being implicated in one process, incident, agreement, transaction, contract or another, among others.
“The sooner we make NNPC a public company for the benefit of all Nigerians and have Incorporated Joint Ventures (IJVs) source for funding based on Return on Investment (RoI), the better for Nigeria. I hope this case highlights the need for NNPC to go public (privatized).”
Another stakeholder, who pleaded anonymity, said: “What is happening between the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the NNPC is political. The battle for the life of Nigeria in 2019 has just started in NNPC Towers.
“Nigerians should be on the alert and watch events unfold. They will recognise the cabal and characters of the soap opera.
“NNPC needs to be privatised so the Corporation will be subject to Nigerians and not Nigerians subject to NNPC.”