In a statement posted today on its website, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) replied allegations contained in a leaked memo by the Minister of State for Petroleum Ibe Kachikwu. The corporation called the allegations baseless as the NNPC tender board and not the NNPC board were responsible for award of contracts.
The NNPC also stated that apart from the AKK project and NPDC production service contracts, all the other transactions mentioned in the memo were not procurement contracts. The NPDC production service contracts have undergone due process, while the AKK contract had not reached the stage of contract award.
Nairametrics sampled opinions from analysts familiar with the petroleum industry and these were their recommendations on what should be the next step by Kachikwu
The NNPC in its reply to the allegations called them baseless. This suggests that the relationship between both parties is almost irreparable. The rebuttal by the NNPC questions the ability of Kachikwu to exercise any authority over it as Minister of Petroleum, and essentially renders him a lame duck minister. Unions in the petroleum industry have already paid the NNPC GMD a solidarity visit.
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Stay on and fight on
Kachikwu should remain in office and call a board meeting requesting an independent review of the actions taken by the NNPC GMD. Remaining in office will also enable him support the on going probe by the Senate into the matter. Resigning might expose him to ridicule, and put the reforms started by him on hold. While President Muhammadu Buhari doubles as the Minister of Petroleum, he has been weighed down by ill health, and the reforms in the industry have largely been driven by Kachikwu
Play the cabal card and allege blackmail
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Kachikwu can also stay on board and blame the disagreements between him and the GMD on the cabal in the petroleum industry. Several operators in the industry have alleged that a cabal had prevented essential reforms from taking place. Attempts to privatize the nation’s refineries as well as pass the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) were resisted by the cabal, which fears the status quo in the NNPC could change.
Kachikwu can apologize to the GMD and blame the memo on miscommunication between both parties, as well as the ambiguous nature of the law setting up the NNPC. This is unlikely to happen given that the NNPC GMD is his subordinate. Apologizing could also affect his relationship with the Senate going forward.
Kachikwu may very well decide to sit tight, and hope the storm blows away. The President could carry out a cabinet reshuffle and place him in another ministry. Removing Kachikwu from office, could spark off militant attacks as the differences between himself and Baru has begun to take an ethnic colouration. Then Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala was moved to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the twilight of Obasanjo’s regime.