President Muhammadu Buhari is said to be in support of the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Maikanti Baru, in spite of the allegations leveled against the NNPC Boss by the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe kachikwu, The Nation reports.
It was learnt that having found Baru not guilty of corrupt practices, the Presidency gave the GMD the clearance to release a fact-sheet in the matter to the public.
Kachikwu is said to be consulting his associates, stakeholders and colleagues on his next move. He has been cautioned against any act capable of being seen as confrontational, according to a source, who pleaded not to be named because of “the sensitivity of the matter”.
Kachikwu’s associates, it was learnt, cited the travails of ex-Minister of Petroleum Resources Prof. Tam David-West’s rough deals with the military administration of ex-President Ibrahim Babangida.
One of the alternatives being suggested by his friends is the possibility of voluntary exit from the cabinet “to preserve his integrity”. It was not clear last night the step Kachikwu would take after it was clear that the Presidency might have backed Baru.
The GMD of NNPC described the $25billion contract figure raised by Kachikwu as “humongous” because “no money was lost and no process has been breached.”
The President, The Nation learnt, felt scandalised by “unfounded allegations of corruption bordering on phantom $25billion contracts”.
The allegations allegedly attracted concerns from other nations and some oil producing countries.
President Buhari, who is said to have felt hurt, by the development, “refused to act on the spur of the moment because his image and the reputation of his administration were involved”.
A top government source said: “The Presidency directed the GMD of NNPC to provide facts and figures, which it got from Baru.
“Thereafter, the NNPC Act, the NNPC Handbook and Public Procurement Act were consulted on the responses of Baru to find out if infractions were committed by the corporation.
“Having been convinced that there were no infractions, the Presidency then directed NNPC to lay the cards on the table for Nigerians to see and judge.
“What was uppermost in the responses of the GMD was the fact that ‘there was no evidence of sharp practices, bribery, looting of funds and diversion of transaction cash’.
“The allegations of Kachikwu were rated as ‘wild, intentional and political in nature’ against the administration he is serving.”
It was learnt that the President met with Kachikwu last Friday to “be fair to the Minister and for record purposes”.
Yesterday’s statement by the NNPC, which was described as an “assault” on Kachikwu by some of his associates, fuelled minister’s thoughts on his Option B which he did not state.
Some of Kachikwu’s confidants have, however, cautioned against any “hasty” decision, given the travails of a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Prof. Tam David-West, during the military regime of ex-President Ibrahim Babangida.
The GMD yesterday dismissed the allegations of award of contracts without regard to due process as “unfounded” and “unfortunate”.
He described the $25billion contract figure raised by Kachikwu as “humongous” because “no money was lost and no process has been breached”.
He explained that as a former chairman of the NNPC Anti-Corruption Committee, he would be the last person to breach the procurement process by disregarding extant laws and rules.
The GMD said the NNPC Act and the Public Procurement Act vested procurement powers in the NNPC Tenders Board, the President and the Federal Executive Council (FEC), depending on the cost threshold.
He said the NNPC Board had no role whatsoever in the process.
He said: “I know for those of you who are following what we are doing here, you know that there’s no money lost and no process has been breached.”
Baru made his views known while receiving the National President of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), Comrade Francis Johnson, PENGASSAN members and members of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG).
The leaders of the unions were on a solidarity visit to Baru.
The unions’ visit came on the heels of the controversy sparked by Kachikwu’s letter to the President alleging non-adherence to due process by the Management of NNPC in some contract administration.