JOHN ALECHENU, ENIOLA Akinkuotu and OKECHUKWU NNODIM
Sources close to the Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Maikanti Baru, have revealed the reasons the NNPC boss ignored the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu in the running of the corporation.
The sources told SUNDAY PUNCH that the Act establishing the NNPC stipulates that the chairman of the corporation’s board is the Minister of Petroleum Resources and not the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources.
President Muhammadu Buhari is Nigeria’s Minister of Petroleum Resources while Kachikwu is the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources. However, Buhari had named Kachikwu the chairman of the NNPC board.
According to them, Baru did no wrong by reporting to the President on issues of the oil firm, as he was only obeying the NNPC Act.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a source who is highly-placed in the corporation said, “The NNPC Act does not recognise a minister of state. The act is explicit that the petroleum minister is the chairman of the NNPC board.”
When asked if Buhari was not aware of the NNPC Act before announcing a chairman for the corporation’s board, the source replied, “These were some of the issues raised at the meetings the President is holding.
“The NNPC GMD reports to the corporation board chairman, who of course, is the President. He (Baru) goes to the chairman because that is what the Act says.”
Another source stated that the allegations that Baru did not follow laid down rules in awarding contracts were not true, as some of the contracts were awarded some four to five years ago by the Federal Executive Council.
The source added, “There is a lower tender’s board at the NNPC and there is another which is higher and is referred to as the NNPC Tenders Board. The Bureau of Public Procurement is aware of this. The NTB handles or awards contracts of up to $20m.
“Anything beyond that goes to the Federal Executive Council. This is what has been happening at the corporation in the last three to four years.
“The AKK pipeline contract, valued at about $3bn, for instance, has been there for the past five years. Baru did not award it, as well as some others listed in the allegations, rather he inherited it.
“That the NNPC has not come out to make any official comment does not mean that it does not know what to say. Some of these contracts were awarded years back. The corporation will come out to say something, but for now, silence is a strategy.”
When contacted for an official comment on the allegations levelled against the GMD, the Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, NNPC, Ndu Ughamadu, told our correspondent that he is not a member of the NNPC board and was not in the right position to know or speak on matters discussed at the firm’s board meetings.
“With due respect, I am not a member of the NNPC board. The board has a secretary. I speak for the NNPC and cannot be better placed to speak for the board. If it is something that has to do with the NNPC directly, please contact me for official comments,” he said.