$25B NNPC Contract: Thirty-eight days after the Senate resolved to investigate the alleged abuse of due process in the award of contracts worth $25b by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the investigation is yet to commence in earnest.
The only meeting held by the ad hoc committee investigating the matter was an inaugural one, which took place on October 24, 2017. That was exactly two weeks after it was constituted.
The four-week deadline given to the ad hoc committee by Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki, when it was constituted expired over a week ago without a word from either the committee, or the Senate leadership.
Chairman of the committee who is a former Sokoto State governor, Aliu Wamakko, has refused to speak on the investigation.
But a member of the Committee and Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources, Downstream, Senator Kabiru Marafa, (APC, Zamfara Central,) had tried to adduce reasons for the delayed probe.
According to Marafa, the committee could not start because the three chairmen of Senate Committees on Petroleum Resources (Upstream, Downstream and Gas) were all away with Saraki to attend a function in Russia.
However, Saraki and all those members returned to the country three weeks ago. Marafa also claimed that the search for a clerk for the ad hoc committee was also responsible for the delay in take-off.
Marafa had said: “ We had to wait for communication on the directive by the Senate to the committee. When the Senate sets up an ad hoc committee, there are some procedures the mandate has to pass through, including the appointment of a clerk, and provision of a secretariat. An ad hoc committee is different from a standing committee- a standing committee has everything in place, but an ad hoc committee does not.”
It would be recalled that the Senate had on October 4, announced the composition of a committee to carry out a holistic investigation into allegation of insubordination and abuse of due process leveled against the Group Managing Director (GMD) of NNPC, Maikanti Baru, by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu.
The Senate had also resolved to investigate Kachikwu’s call for the cancellation of the recent appointments in the NNPC, just as it had resolved to carry out a probe into the finances and activities of the NNPC.
The decision to probe the allegations raised by Kachikwu against Baru was sequel to additional prayer by Senator Kabir Marafa (APC, Zamfara Central) during a discussion on a motion by Senator Samuel Anyanwu (PDP, Imo East) titled, “Allegation of Corruption against NNPC Trading: Time to Conduct a Holistic Investigation.”
Anyanwu’s prayer, which was taken by the Senators read, “Constitute an ad-hoc committee to Investigate the Policy Introduced by the Current NNPC Trading Limited.”
The Committee, which has Senator Aliyu Wamakko as chairman, also has senators Bassey Albert Akpan (PDP, Akwa Ibom North East); Tayo Alasoadura (APC, Ondo Central); Kabir Marafa (APC, Zamfara Central); Samuel Anyanwu (PDP, Imo East); Ahmed Ogembe (PDP, Kogi Central); Rose Oko (PDP, Cross River North); Chukwuka Utazi (Enugu North), and Baba Kaka Garbai (APC, Borno Central) as members.
But checks around the Senate reveal that the committee might redirect its focus to its second terms of reference, which is the investigation of allegation of corruption against NNPC Trading Company.
The Trading Company comprises of Duke Oil (a subsidiary of the NNPC), Hyson/Carlson (JV), NAP Oil (JV); and West Africa-Gas LTD (JV).
After the Senate announced its decision to probe the alleged contracts, the Presidency came out to deny their existence.
That denial was followed by a curious suit instituted by an Abuja-based lawyer, Johnmary Chukwukasi Jideobi, against the investigation at the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, to restrain the Senate from inviting Baru over the allegations.
In his suit, Jideobi asked the court to set aside the October 4, 2017 proceedings of the Senate on the ground that its planned investigation was based on the contents of an unconfirmed document of doubtful origin.
Meanwhile, The Guardian reliably gathered that the plot to remove Kachikwu from office is thickening by the day.
The Minister of State is said to have incurred the wrath of some highly placed individuals within the Presidency, over his face-off with Baru.
The allegations leveled by Kachikwu have generated outrage among Nigerians, who have called on President Muhammadu Buhari, who oversees the Petroleum Resources Ministry to take decisive action on the issue, in view of his stance on the anti-graft war in the polity.
A member of the House of Representatives, who asked not to be named said contrary to notions held in certain quarters, the face-off between Kachikwu and Baru is yet to be resolved.
Despite the Senate putting in place an ad hoc committee, the House of Representatives Committee on Petroleum (Upstream), which is following the matter with keen interest has perfected plans to summon Kachikwu, Baru and other key actors to shed more light on the award of the controversial contracts within the week.
According to the source: “The matter is still very much on ground. As we speak there are plots by Baru’s friends in the Presidency to remove the minister of state from office. They are not happy with him and have not forgiven him over what he did. We equally have our issues with Kachikwu because of the way he conduct himself as minister and when he was GMD of NNPC. “
“There would be no need to raise it as a motion at the plenary session, but we would look into the issue. We appreciate the fact that the Senate had already set up an ad hoc committee, but we are not going to leave it at that. In the legislature, which is bicameral, every arm can carry out their independent investigation just as is happening in both the US Senate and the House of Representatives, which are investigating Russia’s involvement in the last US election.
“And it is important for both chambers to independently do so, so that we can have varying levels of information required to help the country. It would help the National Assembly to be more objective and to avoid any bias or any influences.”
Meanwhile, the Anioma Media Professions (AMP), a group of senior members of Nigeria’s mass media establishment from the Delta North Senatorial District of Delta State, has decried what it described as surreptitious moves by some entrenched interests to rubbish Kachikwu’s integrity.
The group in a statement signed by its publicity secretary, Ken Ugbechie, took swipe at the treatment being meted out to Kachikwu, a native of the region, by authorities of government concerning Kachikwu’s recent leaked memo to Buhari, in respect of alleged infractions by Baru in the award of contracts amounting to $25b and appointments of key personnel in the Corporation.
The AMP pointed out that the development could amount to tarnishing Kachikwu’s long-earned integrity and also downgrading the professionalism and brilliant contributions he brought to NNPC, which provided the platform for the stability and increased oil revenue being harvested by Nigerian government today and largely responsible for the country’s recent exit from the worst recession in a quarter of a century.
It therefore expressed worry over what it termed a calculated attempt by some entrenched interests to rubbish Dr. Kachikwu in his capacity as Minister of State for Petroleum, “who came into the Buhari-led government as a highly recommended technocrat for his outstanding record of integrity, intelligence, boldness and high standards of work ethics in the oil and gas sector, where he had risen to become a Vice-Chairman of Exxon Mobil Oil Company (Africa & Middle-East) operations”.
Part of the statement read: “We are particularly concerned over the suspicious role being played by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the whole saga by ‘dusting up’ a petition written against Mr. Dumebi Kachikwu, the half-brother of the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, to create the impression that Dr. Kachikwu had integrity issues before the EFCC.
“The EFCC by its action deliberately wants to mislead unsuspecting members of the public by presenting Dr. Ibe Kachikwu as one and the same person as Chief Dumebi Kachikwu, his half-brother. We also have it on good authority that some officials of EFCC are surreptitiously circulating and sponsoring damaging documents about Mr. Dumebi Kachikwu to conventional media houses and online platforms, for publication.”
The group said it did not intend to hold brief for Dr. Kachikwu in his personal or official capacity in public service, but felt compelled to issue the statement against what it sees as “a campaign of calumny, mischief and witch-hunt by vested interests against a man who by both local and international benchmarks is a symbol of openness, competence and integrity.”