Asaba — Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, yesterday, criticized the Presidency over the manner it handled the rift between the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Emmanuel Kachikwu and Group Managing Director, GMD, of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Dr. Maikanti Baru.
PANDEF said it knew that Kachikwu would step on toes when he decided to challenge the old order of doing things, but thought President Muhammadu Buhari, who professed that he wanted change would give him necessary protection to sustain the fight.
The group in a statement by its Coordinating Secretary, Dr. Alfred Mulade, said "We are dissatisfied with the way and manner the matter is being handled by the Presidency. We expect a rebuke of the NNPC czar for flouting established procedure. Instead, what we have seen is a tacit permission of illegalities and media blunders that have been generated so far."
PANDEF, which also reviewed the separate reactions by the NNPC to the issues raised by Kachikwu in his leaked memo to the President, faulted the claims of the GMD and NNPC.
It said, "Our confidence in the revamping and cleaning of NNPC was rising by the day. We knew that he was stepping on toes, but we were confident that since he was on the right path and Mr. President was ready to see a positive change in the oil industry and in the Nigerian economy, he would enjoy the protection of Mr. President from the people who wanted business as usual in NNPC.
"In our view, what Mr. President is saying is that both Dr. Kachikwu and the Niger Delta are irrelevant and that he does not appreciate the good work done by Dr. Kachikwu toward restoring peace to the Niger Delta resulting in revenue boom from oil and gas resources. In other words, the President is implying that he can afford to further marginalise and alienate the Niger Delta," the group said.
On the issues posed by Baru and NNPC, PANDEF said, "The GMD is not a member of the Federal Executive Council, FEC and therefore, not in a position to present memoranda from the Ministry to FEC.
"We were therefore, taken aback when we read that the GMD stated that 'The above clarifications of the provisions of the procurement process shows that approval resides within the NTB and where thresholds are exceeded, the NNPC refers to FEC for approval. Therefore, the NNPC Board has no role in contracts approval process as advised by BPP.' Being not a member of FEC, we do not think that the GMD was right when he asserted that "The detailed evaluation was carried out and the shortlist of the successful off-takers was presented to the approving authority (Mr. President) for consideration and approval.
"It is PANDEF submission that that list of successful companies must be taken to the full Board of NNPC which meet once every month for approval before being submitted to Mr. President for final approval by the Minister, perhaps accompanied by the GMD, not by the GMD alone.
"We are therefore, amazed for the GMD to say that 'What is required is the processing and approval of contracts by the NNPC Tenders Board, the President in his capacity or as Minister of Petroleum or the FEC as the case may be. They are therefore, situations all that required is the approval of the NNPC Tenders Board while in other cases based on the thresholds, the award must be submitted for President's approval. Likewise, in some instances it is FEC approval that is required. '
"The question begging for answer is how the memorandum gets to FEC without the knowledge of Dr. Kachikwu. Why by-pass the Minister of State if the GMD does not have anything to hide? It is our strong position that the accusation by the GMD of NNPC, Dr. Kachikwu is very well established and this has been clearly shown, even by the response of the GMD so far.
"The reasons adduced by the NNPC and Dr. Baru for sidetracking the Minister of State and the Board of the NNPC was untenable and only tantamount to what some stakeholders would describe as 'choosing what laws to obey and what law to ignore.' Industry watchers and stakeholders are in unison that, the establishment Act of the NNPC and the Companies and allied Matters Act (CAMA), both provide for a Board of Directors which approve key decisions of the Corporation.
"The actions of NNPC clearly as render the Board of NNPC incapacitated and this is a clear breach of the Establishment Act and CAMA. It also in record that procurement decision taken by the NNPC Tenders Board and the BPP above approved limits must be remitted to the Board for approval before transmission to Mr. President, who in this case also doubles as the Minister of Petroleum Resources.
"It must be noted clearly that the management of NNPC cannot be, for all intents and purposes, circumvent the Board and the Minister of State and embark on a journey to see the President, even as Minister of Petroleum Resources, without recourse to the Minister State Petroleum Resources, Dr. Kachikwu."