Consequent upon the dust raised by the minister of state for petroleum resources, Ibe Kachikwu, against the group managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Maikanti Baru, the presidency is considering taking actions against the minister having cleared the NNPC boss of any infraction.
Kachikwu had alleged that Baru unilaterally awarded hefty oil and gas contracts totaling about $25billion, ran a bravado management; and made appointments without consultations.
However, the presidency found Baru not guilty of corrupt practices and subsequently gave him the clearance to release a fact-sheet in the matter to the public.
According to The Nation, the fate of the Petroleum minister in the current administration is currently hanging in a balance following the allegation he levelled against the NNPC GMD, Maikanti Baru.
The newspaper stated that President Muhammadu Buhari is said to be weighing options on Dr Kachikwu’s fate following Baru’s exoneration.
Meanwhile, the minister on his part, is reportedly strategising with his associates, stakeholders and colleagues on his next line of action.
But a source, who pleaded anonymity because of “the sensitivity of the matter”, said Kachiukwu has been cautioned against any act capable of being seen as confrontational.
One of the alternatives being suggested by his friends, according to the news media, is the possibility of voluntary exit from the cabinet “to preserve his integrity”. It is presently not clear though, the step Kachikwu would take since it has become clear that the Presidency might have backed Baru.
It was learnt that the president felt scandalised by “unfounded allegations of corruption bordering on phantom $25billion contracts”.
The allegations allegedly attracted concerns from other nations and some oil producing countries.
President Buhari, who is said to have felt hurt, by the development, “refused to act on the spur of the moment because his image and the reputation of his administration were involved”.
A top government source said:
“The Presidency directed the GMD of NNPC to provide facts and figures, which it got from Baru.
“Thereafter, the NNPC Act, the NNPC Handbook and Public Procurement Act were consulted on the responses of Baru to find out if infractions were committed by the corporation.
“Having been convinced that there were no infractions, the Presidency then directed NNPC to lay the cards on the table for Nigerians to see and judge.
“What was uppermost in the responses of the GMD was the fact that ‘there was no evidence of sharp practices, bribery, looting of funds and diversion of transaction cash’.
“The allegations of Kachikwu were rated as ‘wild, intentional and political in nature’ against the administration he is serving.”
There were information that president Buhari had a meeting with Kachikwu last week Friday to “be fair to the Minister and for record purposes”.
Nevertheless, “the President has not spoken on the next action. No one knows his mindset”, said a Presidency source, who spoke in confidence with a correspondent of the Nation.
Speaking on the minister’s travails, a highly-placed stakeholder said:
“I am aware that the minister has been holding consultations and telling some vital players in the oil sector what transpired.
“Of importance to him is the allegation of alleged plot to sabotage the government of President Buhari with the leakage of the August 20 memo. He has maintained his innocence that he did not leak the letter.
“But it is tragic that no one believes Kachikwu’s story anymore in the Presidency.”
Meanwhile, unions in the oil and gas sector on Monday, October 9, pledged support for the ‘transformation stride’ of the Group Managing Director (GMD) NNPC, Dr Maikanti Baru.
The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) made the pledge in Abuja in a statement by Mr Ndu Ughamadu, NNPC Group General Manager Group Public Affairs Division.
Ughamadu said at a solidarity visit to the GMD, that the National President of PENGASSAN, Mr Francis Johnson, said the unions and its members considered it appropriate to rally round Baru and the NNPC Management to pledge their support.
”The unions’ support for the GMD was based on his ability to walk his talk since assuming office last year.
”The National body of PENGASSAN and all the NNPC in-house unions are here today to show our support for you.
”You have brought stability to the NNPC and we are happy today that staff morale is high. You were Chairman of NNPC Anti-Corruption Committee for over five years and that was what informed your appointment as GMD of NNPC.
”Today, all the bullets you are taking are on behalf of members of staff. We will continue to pray for you, God will continue to guide and shield you,” Ughamadu quoted Johnson.