9 October 2017

Nigeria: NNPC Scandal - Buhari Should Quit As Petroleum Minister, Say Falana, Adp

Abuja and Kaduna — A human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to quit as petroleum minister.

Buhari has held on to the position of petroleum minister but named Ibe Kachikwu as the Minster of State for Petroleum.

Falana's call is coming after Kachikwu accused the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Maikantu Baru, of violating due process in the award of $25 billion contract.

In a petition to President Buhari, which eventually leaked to the media, Kachikwu also accused Baru of insubordination.

In his statement yesterday Falana, according to Premium Times, said it was better for Buhari to appoint someone else to supervise the ministry.

"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.

"If this advice is accepted in good faith and acted upon without any delay, it would remove undue pressure on the health of the president and allow him to attend to urgent matters of the state," he said.

. Buhari and Kachikwu held a closed door meeting last Friday over the matter.

Baru, who is yet to speak publicly on the matter, was also at the presidential villa where he met with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

Falana also, however, called for Baru's suspension while calling for an investigation into the matter by relevant agencies including the anti-graft EFCC.

Falana's statement read: "The people of Nigeria were surprised last week to read the embarrassing petition of Kachikwu addressed to President Buhari pertaining to his inability to consult with the President and substantive Minister of Petroleum Resources and the unilateral award of $25 billion contracts by Baru.

"Although it was reported that Kachikwu has since been given access to the president, the details of the discussions between the duo have not been made public.

"However, apart from sanctioning the officers responsible for creating the wide gulf between Kachikwu and the president the allegation of the unilateral award of contracts worth $25 billion by Baru ought to be investigated in line with the anti-corruption policy of the Buhari administration.

Also, the opposition Action Democratic Party (ADP) has asked President Buhari to immediately resign as the presiding Minister of Petroleum.

The party also demanded the immediate suspension of the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Baru, to enable investigations commence, while Kachikwu "should come out boldly and honourably resign his appointment."

While addressing a press conference yesterday in Abuja, ADP National Secretary Dr. James Okoroma, who spoke on behalf of the party, described the scandal as a "national embarrassment in the oil sector, which remains the mainstay of our economy and the cauldron of corruption in Nigeria."

According to Okoroma, government's loud silence on these allegations was most worrisome.

"It is also a clear indication that the APC-led federal government is paying lip service to its much-touted war against corruption, which has been largely selective.

"It is worrisome that this monumental fraud could be taking place under his watch (President). It is clear that there is collapse of leadership in the country. If he is incapable of providing leadership in that sector, we demand a change.

"There has been no official response. We expect the presidency to come out with a formal response to these allegations since he is the one presiding over the affairs of the petroleum ministry, the buck stops at his table. The president should own up and address Nigerians on these monumental allegations of misappropriation of our national patrimony.

"This government has continued to deceive itself with a laughable and dishonest war against corruption when it has refused to clear serious cases of corruption involving its major functionaries."

ADP believe that the leadership collapse in the country "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 country cannot continue in this manner.

"The ADP has already written to the BPE and the NNPC management demanding all the documents on the controversial contracts. This is in line with the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. We have no option, but to go to Court if they fail to make the documents availablewithin 14 days as stipulated in the FOI Act.

"The National Assembly should do the needful by engaging the president directly on this matter, since he is the substantive Minister of Petroleum. They should be guided by their oath of office and ensure that all those who are involved are not spared.

"Today in Nigeria, strikes have become common features of our national life as the government appears incapable of providing leadership and meeting up with the aspirations of Nigerians at all levels of governance. All sectors have virtually collapsed. They include: 'Health, Education, Transportation, Agriculture, Security etc.'

"Petroleum is the life-wire of our economy. Infractions, breaches and corrupt practices have become common characteristics of this sector. Nigerians who are holding the short-end of the stick have continued to suffer while the managers of our common patrimony wallow in offensive opulence."

However, Arewa Youth Forum (AYF) said President Buhari's continuous silence on corrupt government officials would erode his reputation as a man of integrity, a factor that contributed to his victory in the 2015 election.

The group in a statement in Kaduna yesterday, said "the sluggishness" of the Buhari administration in tackling silent issues of governance had left much to be desired.

The statement signed by the president of the group, Gambo Gujungu, decried the failure of the president to act on the report on Babachir Lawal, the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation, (SGF) and Ayo Oke, Director General of the Nigerian Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ayo Oke since the report was submitted to him.

The group also noted that the recent allegations by Kachikwu against Baru, was a sore point for the administration.

The group lamented that the president and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) were yet to bring about the change they promised Nigerians two years after assumption of office.

The statement entitled, "time for change is now before it is too late", lamented the increasing poverty among Nigerians and high rate of violent crimes occasioned by a growing population of jobless youths.

The statement said: "The alarming situation, however, is that there seems not to be any concrete or genuine solutions coming from government and its agencies on how to ameliorate the present quagmire that is threatening to take the country to the precipice

"As the umbrella organisation of all youths in the north which is committed to the wellbeing of Nigerian youths as a whole, we are worried about the prevailing situation in the country.

"But instead of solutions we are daily inaudated with news on alleged graft, in house fighting and at other times mundane issues from this government that was given so much by Nigerians who are yet to see the fruit of their sacrifice and battle to root out the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that failed to live up to expectations of the people after 16 years in power.

"While we are not unaware of the rot and desolate situation that the president met on ground, we also make bold to say that we, nay Nigerians expected better performance from the Buhari -led administration after two years on the saddle.

"Two years down the road, many things have refused to change and instead the downward slope from the previous administration that Nigerians so much abhorred and voted massively for the APC and Buhari as an individual has continued unabated.

"Up till now Nigerians are still waiting for the report of the Osinbajo committee that investigated the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation, (SGF) and Nigeria Intelligence Agency (NIA) boss, government has continued to keep mute.

"The recent allegation by the minister of state for petroleum , Ibe Kachikwu against the GMD of NNPC, Maikanti Baru is trending and government has not deemed it necessary to speak to Nigerians on the matter.

"This is a sour point for this administration and the president who many had so much faith in.

"We want President Muhammadu Buhari to know that his cherished reputation and integrity which was a major factor in the victory of the APC in the 2015 general election is gradually being eroded.

"This is because his government is not coordinated and majority of Nigerians who hitherto believed so much in him are suffering more than ever before."

The group called on the president to reshuffle his cabinet with a view to removed non performing ministers and appoint competent people that would bring about the desired change promised Nigerians.

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