The Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream) Senator Tayo Alasoadura, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately suspend the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, and the Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Dr. Maikanti Baru.
Alasoadura specifically stated that Baru’s continued presence at the NNPC could jeopardise the Senate investigation into the allegations that he allegedly approved contracts to the tune of $25bn without the approval of the corporation’s board.
The senator said this during a live programme on Channels Television titled, Sunday Politics.
When asked if they should be suspended, Alasoadura said, “I believe so; especially the man who is doing the day-to-day running of the organisation. In order not to hinder or hamper that investigation, because records will be needed and even from the date of the leakage of that letter, I think action should have been taken to ensure that nothing will be missing when investigations start
“So, I think the two of them should be asked to step aside and when investigation is over, whoever is culpable will go and whoever is not culpable, will continue with his duties.”
The lawmaker, who represents Ondo Central Senatorial District, said one of the causes of the problem was the fact that Buhari doubled as the Minister of Petroleum Resources.
Describing the arrangement as faulty, Alasoadura said Buhari should step down and appoint a substantive minister who would be able to do the job more effectively.
He added, “Judging from the many problems plaguing our country today, I believe Mr. President should devote more time to other things and let an independent person run the petroleum resources ministry who will then report to him twice or once a week.’’
Alasoadura confirmed an exclusive report by Sunday PUNCH that 40 firms, which received the $25bn contracts would be invited by the Senate.
He added, “We are probing them because we want to get to the root of this matter. If you are doing an investigation, even those who have not been mentioned may have to be invited, but as of today, these are the people that we think should be invited and from there, we may need to invite many more organisations as the probe continues.”
Meanwhile, The PUNCH learnt that the firms to be invited by the Senate include Oando, Sahara Energy, MRS Oil and Gas, AA Rano, Bono, Masters Energy, Eterna Oil and Gas, Cassiva Energy, Hyde Energy, Brittania U, North West Petroleum, Optima Energy, AMG Petroenergy, Arkiren Oil and Gas Limited and Shoreline Limited.
Others are Entourage Oil, Setana Energy and Prudent Energy, Trafigura, Enoc Trading, BP Trading, Total Trading, UCL Petro Energy, Mocho, Tevier Petroleum, Heritage Oil, Levene Energy, Litasco Supply and Trading, Glencore, Hindustan Refinery, Varo Energy, Sonara Refinery, Bharat Petroleum and Cepsa.
The companies are listed on the NNPC website as benefiting from crude term contracts.
In a related development, the OurMumuDonDo group, led by popular musician, Charles Oputa, aka Charly Boy, said it would meet on Tuesday to conclude on how, where and when to stage protests over the $25bn contracts allegedly awarded without due process.
The Publicity Secretary of the group, Raphael Adebayo, revealed this to The PUNCH during a telephone interview on Sunday.
Adebayo said the group was also planning a protest against Buhari’s delay in taking action on the report submitted to him by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo on the probe of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, and the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, Amb. Ayo Oke.
When asked if the protest would be taken to the NNPC, Adebayo added, “We are looking at staging one this week. We are looking at combining this one and the SGF issue into one protest.
“We can already see the reaction of the Presidency. The Presidency is trying to reconcile both parties (Kachikwu and Baru).
“On Friday, the President and Baru still prayed together at the National Mosque. So, you can see the response. Between now and Tuesday, we will reach a decision on the next line of action.”
Relinquish your post as oil minister, Falana urges President
Human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), on Sunday, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to refer the $25bn contract scam allegations levelled against the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Mr. Maikanti Baru, to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for investigation.
In a statement, the senior advocate of Nigeria stated that during the EFCC’s investigation “into the grave allegations of the reckless contravention of the provisions of the Public Procurement Act”, the President should place Baru on an indefinite suspension.
Also, Falana called on Buhari to relinquish the position of the substantive Minister of Petroleum Resources due to the President’s “busy schedule” and appoint another Nigerian of proven integrity and competence to take up the position.
He added that if his advice was heeded, relinquishing the said ministerial position would “remove undue pressure on the health of the President and allow him to attend to urgent matters of the state”.
Falana made these suggestions following what he described as “the embarrassing petition of the Minister of State in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, to Buhari pertaining to Baru’s failure to consult the President and substantive Minister of Petroleum Resources” and “the unilateral award of $25bn contracts” by the NNPC’s GMD.
He stated that the $25bn contracts should be revoked once the EFCC investigation confirmed that they were awarded without the approval of the NNPC Board.
Falana stated, “However, apart from sanctioning the officers responsible for creating the wide gulf between Dr. Kachikwu and the President, the allegation of the unilateral award of contracts worth $25bn by Dr. Baru ought to be investigated in line with the anti-corruption policy of the Buhari administration.
“In order to conduct a thorough investigation into the grave allegations of the reckless contravention of the provisions of the Public Procurement Act, Mr. Baru should be placed on indefinite suspension while the Presidency should refer the case to the EFCC.
“And once it is confirmed that the said $25bn contracts were awarded without the approval of the NNPC board they should be revoked while the recent appointment of the heads of the parastatals in the oil and gas industry should be reviewed in line with the constitution and the Federal Character Commission Act.”
On the need for Buhari to relinquish the position of the substantive Minister of Petroleum Resources, he said recent demand by the presidency for the minutes of the meetings of the NNPC Board “has confirmed that the meetings of the Board, which are statutorily required to be chaired by the Minister of Petroleum Resources, have not been held as and when due”.
He added, “Having regard to the enormous responsibilities of the office of the Minister of Petroleum Resources and Chairman of the NNPC Board, President Buhari is advised to relinquish the ministerial position in view of his busy schedule and appoint another Nigerian of proven integrity and competence to superintend the affairs of the ministry.”
Meanwhile, the Action Democratic Party has warned the Buhari-led administration against sweeping under the carpet the allegations of corruption contained in Kachikwu’s memo to the President.
The ADP’s position was made public by the party’s National Secretary, Dr. James Okoroma, in Abuja, on Sunday.
According to him, the party, like most Nigerians and friends of Nigeria, are watching the unfolding events closely and are of the opinion that the issue remains a matter of urgent national importance, which must not be swept under the carpet.
The party secretary stated, “Government’s loud silence on these allegations is most worrisome.
“We are convinced that there is a leadership collapse in the country as no one appears to be in charge. This can either be attributed to President Buhari’s ill-health or his inability to check the excesses of the cabal that is currently running his government. Obviously, this nation cannot continue in this manner.”
Okoroma also said the ADP demanded, among other things, the immediate suspension of the NNPC GMD to ensure an unhindered investigation.
It also advised the Minister of State for Petroleum to resign his appointment, arguing that Kachikwu had become a stranger in the current administration.
Also, the Director-General, Voice of Nigeria, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, said Buhari would not allow the scandal in the NNPC to tarnish his image.
Speaking in Enugu on Sunday, Okechukwu noted that if the allegations raised in Kachikwu’s memo were proven to be true, Buhari would do the ‘needful’ and would not disappoint Nigerians who see him as a man of integrity.
He said, “President Buhari will do the needful and will not allow anyone to dent his image or tarnish his integrity quotient if the allegations are valid.
“This (integrity) is his political capital upon which we followed him, upon which Nigerians voted for him and upon which the international community endorsed him.
“President Buhari has always placed public interest above self and cannot allow his integrity, which is his political capital, to be extinguished by anyone.
Even his traducers can attest to his selflessness.”