The relationship between Ibe Kachikwu, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, and Maikanti Baru, the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), may have gone frosty as the minister alleges insubordination against the NNPC boss.
Both Kachikwu and Baru are at loggerheads over issues bordering on the nation’s petroleum sector.
Kachikwu, it was gathered, reported Baru to President Muhammadu Buhari in a letter, urging the president to take urgent actions on issues he raised against the NNPC boss, which range from illegal practices to insubordination.
The minister, in a letter he addressed to Buhari on August 30, said that it was pertinent to call the president’s attention to the misgivings at the NNPC, which he alleged were capable of hindering progress in the nation’s petroleum sector.
“Parastatals in the ministry and all CEOs of these parastatals must be aligned with the policy drive of the ministry to allow the sector register the growth that has eluded it for many years.
“To do otherwise or to exempt any of the parastatals would be to emplace a stunted growth in the industry,” Kachikwu said.
The minister further explained that he wrote the letter to the president after several efforts to have a one-on-one appointment with him at the State House failed. Kachikwu also claimed in the letter that he had suffered humiliations from the NNPC boss.
The letter, which emerged on the Internet on Tuesday, was widely circulated on Twitter. It was, however, not immediately clear how it got to the public domain.
As at the time of going to press, there was no official reaction to the letter from the NNPC.
Also, Ndu Ughamadu, NNPC Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, could not pick his calls for reaction.
However, the Ministry of Petroleum Resources confirmed the letter written by Kachikwu, alleging illegal practices and insubordination to him by Maikanti.
Confirming the letter, Idang Alibi, Director of Press, Ministry of Petroleum Resources, said in a statement that the communication under reference is a normal procedural correspondence by the minister to the president relating to developments in parastatals under his supervision.
He stated that it is most distressing to the Ministry of Petroleum Resources that a confidential communication to the president on the performance of one of its parastatals can be made public.
He explained that the focus of the communication was on improving efficiency and deepening transparency in the oil and gas sector for continued investor confidence.
“It is noteworthy that the president has been fully supportive of the efforts of the ministry to entrench good governance and accountability in the oil and gas sector. The Ministry of Petroleum Resources remains focused on achieving measurable progress in the implementation of the ongoing oil sector reforms in line with the mandate of the president”, the statement noted.
The conflict between the duo had been well concealed from the media for a long time even though it was first hinted more than a year ago.
Kachikwu did not play up the Niger-Delta crisis in the latest letter to President Buhari, focusing instead on the consequences of reckless disregard for extant regulations in the wake of disruptive technological advancements, which could see fossil fuel become redundant in the years ahead.
Besides, the minister urged the president to order the NNPC GMD to make adjustments on five issues that range from strict deference to the NNPC board of directors, which Kachikwu chairs, to unfettered collaboration among all agencies in the petroleum sector.
“Like the previous reorganisations and repostings done since Mr. Baru resumed as GMD, I was never given the opportunity before the announcements to discuss these appointments. This is so despite being the minister of state for petroleum and chairman, NNPC board,” the letter read.
“The board of NNPC which you appointed and which has met every month since its inauguration, and which by the NNPC is meant to review these planned appointments and postings, was never briefed. Members of the board learnt of these appointments from the pages of social media and the press release of NNPC.
“Indeed, in anticipation of vacancies that would arise from retiring senior executives of NNPC, I wrote the GMD a letter requesting that we both have prior review of the proposed appointments. Not only did he not give my letter the courtesy of a reply, he proceeded to announce the appointments without consultation on board concurrence.
“Mr. President, please note that there is a board service committee whose function is to review potential appointment and termination of senior staff prior to implementation. This committee was also not consulted.
“The open administration I introduced with your support in our year of pushing reforms, has been completely eroded. NNPC staff are afraid of contacting me for the fear of being punished, sidelined in appointments and targeted.
“The effect of the attitude of the GMD and the sidelining of the board is that there is a fear culture in NNPC.”
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Kachikwu appealed to Buhari to intervene and “save the NNPC and oil industry from collapse arising from above non-transparent practices and empower the board you inaugurated to do the needful.
“That you save the office of the minister of state from further humiliation and disrespect by compelling all parastatals to submit to oversight regulatory mandate and proper supervision which I am supposed to manage on your behalf,” he wrote.
“You kindly instruct the GMD to effectively leave the NNPC to run as a proper institution and report out along due process lines to the board and that your Excellency instructs that all reviews be done with the minister of state prior to your decision.
“That to set right examples, you approve that the recently announced reorganisation changes be suspended until the GMD, myself and the board have made relevant input to same. This will send a clear signal of process and transparency.
“That Your Excellency encourages joint presentation meeting between head of parastatals and the minister of state to you as to encourage a culture of working together and implant discipline in the hierarchy”, the minister noted.
Presidential spokespersons, Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu, did not respond to requests for comments.