The ongoing saga between the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu and the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Maikanti Baru, has effectively split stakeholders and the general populace into two sides with supporters of Baru becoming more in number as well as louder and clearer in voicing their views. However, in the bid of defending the GMD, more intricate and potentially divisive matters are being brought to the fore.
For example, in its publication of its side of the story, the NNPC explained that it had obtained approval of the President, Muhammadu Buhari, on deals worth about $1.8 billion or about N640.8 billion. However, what is perplexing is that the NNPC claims to have gotten these ‘presidential approvals’ from a then-ill Muhammadu Buhari, who had even handed over presidential powers to the Vice-President and then Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo.
This revelation will come as perplexing but explanatory of the silence of the Presidency over the whole debacle. If true, while the legality of the President’s actions is still debatable, what becomes even more controversial is the ethical validity of the approvals. How will Buhari convince Nigerians that the approvals were made with full knowledge of the surrounding circumstances? He had left the country for several weeks and was down with an illness that kept him out about three and a half months. Yet, he had the ability to sign such huge contracts. Even if the contracts are all clean, these question will taint them.
What is more, the President could be seen as one of the reasons for the tussle between the 2 officials which seems to have been in the pipeline for some time as Baru had simply not gotten along with Kachikwu. This is evident from his refusals to acknowledge Kachikwu even in personnel matters. According to Premium Times, when Buhari was away, Osinbajo had to send Baru back to Kachikwu for input into personnel changes Baru sought to make. Even then, Baru did not consult Kachikwu, preferring to wait until Buhari’s return before making those changes- without Kachikwu’s knowledge.
With all these revelations, it seems that a can of worms has been opened with the leaked letter. The accusations and counter-accusations and the leaked letter itself all serves to show that big problems remain in the Executive. Whether this will be a call for the President to clarify matters and appoint a Minister for Petroleum or it would be another case swept under the carpet may well determine how sincere the country will view Mr. President’s anti-corruption efforts.