THE sour relationship between the Minister of State, Petroleum Resourc- es, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu and the Group Managing Di- rector of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Maikanti Baru, did not start the day Kachikwu’s memo leaked to public, Daily Sun investigation has revealed. Indeed it actually started when Baru was appointed the NNPC boss by President Muhammadu Buhari in July 2016.
Prior to his appointment as NNPC GMD, Baru was Group Executive Director, Exploration and Production, at the Corporation. Even before assuming the exhaulted office, industry insiders believe he was eyeing the GMD seat, which many say was the natural dream of any top NNPC executive. But surprisingly, Kachikwu, his predecessor (an outsider) was made NNPC GMD in August 2015 and in November same year, he became both the NNPC boss and Minister of State, Petroleum Resources.
Following his far reaching restructuring at the state oil firm in March 2016, Kachikwu swept away Baru from NNPC and landed him the post of Special Adviser, Upstream to the Minister (Kachikwu).
Insiders believe that the appointment did not go down well with Baru and he used his connection to work himself back to reckoning. Indeed, soon after that exercise, stories started flying periodically through social media that Baru had been appointed to replace Kachikwu.
Eventually, the rumour came true when Buhari appointed Baru to succeed Kachikwu last year July. With this setting, it was clear that there will be sour relationship between Baru and Kachikwu, who had commenced reforms at NNPC when he held sway before President Buhari ‘elevated’ him to Minister of State, Petroleum Resources and Chairman of the NNPC board.
For instance, Kachikwu, while in NNPC, had engaged experts to help re- structure the national oil company to make it more efficient and profitable, as its books were always in the red, with humongous debt on its neck.
When Baru took over, he ignored some of the things Kachikwu started and began implementing his own programme, bypass- ing the minister and the board. One of the things he did, which is at the root of the feud, was the hurried resumption of crude oil search in the North, despite the fact that the government, for over three decades, spent about $340 million and additional N27 billion, in seismic expedition an elusive search for hydrocarbon in the Chad basin.
Sokoto State government has also called on the NNPC to search for hydrocarbon reserves in its domain in spite of warnings of petroleum engineers, investment experts and geologists who say the geography of the zone may not guarantee a commercial find. The last attempt to explore oil in the
Chad basin turned bloody, as Boko Haram terrorists attacked, killed and kid- napped NNPC officials, including geologists from the University of Maiduguri on the expedition.
Also, Baru reportedly ignored queries from Kachikwu on his actions, which amounted to gross insubordination.
Key allegations as revealed by Kachikwu include: the award of $10billion crude term contracts; $5billion direct sales direct purchase contracts; $3billion AKK pipeline contract; financing allocation funding contracts worth $3billion and NPDC production service contract of $4billion.
In all, these contracts worth $25billion were awarded in breach of legal and procurement requirements and the NNPC Board was never involved.
Again, key management positions were filled without the input of the NNPC Board. If the “legal and procedural requirement is that all contracts above $20million would need to be reviewed and approved by the board of NNPC and in over one year of Baru’s tenure, no contract has been run through the board,” Kachikwu said in his petition to Buhari.
Newsmen learnt that Baru had the total support of the Presidency and that was why it was very easy for him to call Kachikwu’s bluff. He reportedly got approval for weighty government deals, including oil block contract approvals without Kachikwu’s input.
Insiders say some of Baru’s letters were addressed
directly to the Presidency without recourse to the su- pervising ministry.
Although, some influential politicians and other top government function- aries, it was gathered, are planning to broker peace between the two warring top civil servants, as the rift remains a bad develop- ment to the industry and nation at large. Indications are that it is sure to take a toll on foreign direct invest- ment in th sector.
“We knew things will go south between them be- cause Baru has always op- erated like someone with- out an immediate boss or supervising minister. They were close initially but not for long before Baru showed he had higher con- nections,” a source said.
Tongues are wagging that the rift may consume Kachikwu, who is seen as an outsider in Buhari’s kitchen cabinet. Baru may also be affected, as the gov- ernment feels embarrassed by the development. At present, the Senate has set up an adhoc committee to carry out “holistic investigation” into allegations of corruption against him. The Senate, in setting up the probe panel, charged it to investigate the letter written by Kachikwu, to President Muhammadu Buhari accusing the NNPC GMD of illegal actions and insurbodination.
The committee is to be chaired by Aliyu Wamako, while its members include Tayo Alasoadura, Akpan Bassey, Samuel Anyanwu, and Ahmed Ogembe.
Others are Chukwuka Utazi, Rose Oko, Baba Gar- ba and Kabir Marafa.
Barely 24 hours after a letter addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu was leaked, the Senate has set up a committee to conduct a comprehensive investigation on the alleged insubordination, due process abuse and maleficence leveled against the Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr Maikanti Baru. The committee will also investigate the alleged award of a contract worth over $25 billion without due process.
Adopting a motion jointly sponsored by Senators Samuel Anyanwu and Kabiru Marafa, the upper chamber directed that the investigation be extended to allegations of series of shady deals in another NNPC subsidiary, the NNPC Trading Company.
The Red Chamber constituted a seven-member ad hoc committee, led by a former Sokoto State governor, Aliu Wammako, to carry out the investigation. Other members of the ad hoc committee are Tayo Alasoadura, Kabir Marafa, Albert Bassey, Sam Anyanwu, Ahmed Ogembe, Chukwuka Utazi, Rose Okoh and Baba Kaka Garbai.
Marafa had, in an amendment to Anyanwu’s original motion, drawn the attention of the Senate to the weight of Kachikwu’s allegation, which was contained in an official memo to President Buhari.
He noted that the issues in the memo could not be glossed over by the Senate and maintained that they touched on the issue of corruption, which the Buhari administration was supposed to be fighting.
In the August 30, 2017, memo, Kachikwu attributed the slow growth in the oil and gas sector to illegal practices by the departments and agencies under his ministry, especially NNPC headed by Baru. He told President Buhari that the country’s petroleum industry would have recorded tremendous progress, but for Baru’s alleged inaction.
Kachikwu, who also presented five prayers to Buhari to save the oil sector from collapse, said he was always being blocked from seeing the president. He said he was disturbed that $25 billion contracts were awarded by Baru without his input and that of the board.
The memo reads in part: “The legal and procedural requirement is that all contracts above $20 million would need to be reviewed and approved by the board of the NNPC. Mr. President, in over one year of Dr. Baru’s tenure, no contract has been run through the board. This is despite my diplomatic encouragement to Dr. Baru to do so to avoid wrongfully painting you as a president who does not allow due process to thrive in the NNPC.
“Given the history of malpractices and the public perception of the NNPC as having a history of non-transparency, the NNPC Tenders Board (NTB) cannot be the final clearance authority for contracts it enters into.
“Board members had singularly and collectively raised the issues to no avail. In most of these activities, the explanation of the GMD is that you are the Minister of Petroleum, and your approvals were obtained. However, the correct governance should be that the Minister of State and the board review the transaction and give their concurrence prior to presentation to you.
“I know that this bravado management style runs contrary to the cleansing operations you engaged me to carry out at the inception of your administration. This is also not in consonance with your own renowned standards of integrity.”
Meanwhile, Baru, yesterday, was prevented from answering questions on the accusations levelled against him in Kachikwu’s letter to President Buhari.
He avoided answering the questions shortly after he paid a courtesy call on the Oyo State Governor, Abiola Ajimobi, in his office at Agodi, Ibadan, ahead of the re-commissioning and flag off of loading operation in Ibadan depot of NNPC.
The reporters accosted him and asked him a few questions before they threw to him the one that bordered on the issues between him and Kachikwu. Immediately, the Group General Manager, Public Affairs Division, Mr. Ndu Ughamadu, stepped forward and prevented him from answering the question, saying: “All your questions must be restricted to why we are here.”