President Muhammadu Buhari on Saturday announced the reconstitution of the Governing Board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), retaining the nine-member structure in alleged breach of the NNPC Act, which provides for a six-member board. The reconstitution, according to a brief statement by Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, followed the expiration of the term of the board appointed by the president in 2016.
Adesina listed members of the new board as Mohammed Lawal (North-west), Tajudeen Umar (North-east), Adamu Mahmood Attah (North-central), Senator Magnus Abe (South-south), Dr. Stephen Dike (South-east), and Chief Pius Akinyelure (South West). According to Adesina, the new board would serve for a period of three years.
The appointments came as Buhari mourned the death of the immediate past Group Managing Director (GMD) of NNPC, Dr. Maikanti Baru, who passed on yesterday. The late GMD served in the 2016 board, and he was rumoured to have died of complications from the coronavirus.
The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) also mourned Baru, saying his death is a huge loss to the oil and gas sector in Nigeria. This was contained in a condolence message released on Saturday in Abuja by OPEC Secretary-General, Dr Mohammed Barkindo.
In a related development, the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) welcomed the reconstitution of the NNPC board. In a statement yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Hon. Ken Robinson, PANDEF also hailed the appointment of Rivers-born Senator Magnus Abe into the board to represent the South-south. But the forum called for the rejigging of appointments into the corporation in the interest of the country.
The appointment of the six members of the new board, as announced yesterday, did not include three other statutory appointments into the board. These include the nominations of the board chairman, who must be the Minister of Petroleum Resources or Minister of State for Petroleum, the incumbent GMD of NNPC, and a Director-General in the Ministry of Finance. The three automatic board members bring the total membership of the governing board of the corporation to nine, in alleged breach of Section 1(2) of the NNPC Act, which provides for a six-member board of directors.
The development implies retention of the status quo that has been criticised by experts, including Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, as a violation of the provisions of the Act establishing the board.
Falana had alluded to Section 1(2) of the Act, which stipulates that the affairs of NNPC "shall, subject to Part II of this Act, be conducted by a Board of Directors of the Corporation which shall consist of a Chairman and the following other members, that is- (a) the Director-General, Federal Ministry of Finance and Economic Development; (b) the Managing Director of the Corporation; and (c) three persons to be appointed by the National Council of Ministers, being persons who by reason of their ability, experience or specialised knowledge of the oil industry or of business or professional attainments are capable of making useful contributions to the work of the Corporation."
The provision for the sixth member of the board is contained in Section 1 (3) of the Act, which stipulates that the Chairman of the NNPC Board of Directors "shall be a Minister in the Government of 1979 No. 44 the Federation to be known and styled as the Minister of Petroleum Resources."
Given the appointment of the six members announced yesterday by the president, and the statutory membership of the petroleum minister, a representative of the Ministry of Finance, and the GMD of NNPC, the total members of the newly reconstituted board will remain nine.
On July 4, 2016, Buhari had constituted the NNPC board with the then Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, as chairman, with Baru and the then Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Finance as members. The other six members appointed into the board were the president's late Chief of Staff, Mallam Abba Kyari, Dr. Thomas John, Dr. Pius Akinyelure, Dr. Tajudeen Umar, Mallam Mohammed Lawal, and Mallam Yusuf Lawal.
The trio of Akinyelure, Umar, and Lawal have been reappointed into the reconstituted board.
Upon the exit of Kachikwu, who ceased to be Minister of State for Petroleum and chairman of the board on June 27, 2019, Buhari appointed John, who had been a member of the board since 2016, as the acting alternate chairman of the NNPC Governing Board to run the activities of the board.
Other members of the board, who ran the body since June 27, 2019 until the latest reconstitution, included the current NNPC GMD, Malam Mele Kyari; the late Abba Kyari; Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Finance, Alhaji Mahmoud Isa Dutse; Akinyelure; Umar; Mohammed Lawal; and Yusuf Lawal.
At the time John was appointed as the alternate chairman of the board in June 2019, there was no Minister of Petroleum and when Buhari reconstituted his cabinet on August 21, 2019, Chief Timipre Sylva, the incumbent Minister of State for Petroleum, assumed the position of the board chairman.
Falana had criticised the constitution of the former board by the president for not only violating the NNPC Act, with nine members instead of six, but also for violating the Federal Character Commission (Establishment) Act of 1995.
According to Falana, the former board comprised three members from the North-east, two from the South-south, one from the North-central, two from the North-west, and one from the South-west, without any representation from the South-east. He said this was in violation of the Federal Character Commission (Establishment) Act, 1995, which stipulates that there must be balanced representation across the six geopolitical zones.
The geographical representation in the former board was as follows: Timipre Sylva (South-south), Thomas John (South-south), Mele Kyari (North-east), Abba Kyari (North-east), Tajudden Umar (North-east), Isa-Dutse (North-central), Mohammed Lawal (North-west), Yusuf Lawal (North-west), and Dr. Pius Akinyelure (South-west).
In view of the alleged geopolitical and numerical infractions, Falana warned that unless the board "is properly constituted, its decisions may be set aside with dire consequences for the national economy." He called for an amendment of the NNPC Act to raise the number of the board members from six to nine "to avoid a situation whereby decisions of the board are challenged in court."
Reacting to the reconstitution of the board yesterday, Falana said the board remained nine, in breach of the NNPC Act.
However, he acknowledged that the president had by the new appointments addressed the issue of geographical imbalance in the former board. He said unlike the previous board, which had six members from the North as against three from the South, there were now five members from the North and four from the South, with every geopolitical zone represented.
According to Falana, "The reconstitution of the NNPC board is a partial response to the allegation of ethnic imbalance in breach of the Federal Character Commission Act. It is partial in the sense that the Buhari administration may be said to have complied with Section 14 (3) of the Constitution, which provides that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in the composition of the government and its agencies.
"But by excluding women and oil workers from the board, the composition of the administration cannot be said to have complied with Section 42 of the Constitution and Article 2 of the African Charter Act which have prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex or class.
"However, it is pertinent to point out that previous regimes had illegally constituted the NNPC board with nine members. If the administration had decided to retain the nine-member board, it has to take urgent steps to stop the impunity by requesting the National Assembly to amend Section 1 of the NNPC Act as it has established a six-member board."
Buhari, OPEC Mourn Baru
Meanwhile, the former GMD of NNPC, Baru, passed on in the early hours of Saturday at the age of 60. Baru was a member of the board of directors of the corporation that served from 2016 to 2019.
Although, the cause of his death was not officially announced, there were speculations that the former NNPC boss might have died of complications from COVID-19 infection.
In a swift reaction to the death, Buhari who had appointed Baru to head the NNPC in 2016, condoled with the ex-GMD's family, friends and professional colleagues. He also commiserated with the government and people of Bauchi State, as well as the management and staff of NNPC over Baru's death, saying the deceased worked very hard to initiate reforms in virtually all departments of the corporation, bringing it up to speed with global trends and best practices.
According to a statement by Adesina, Buhari acknowledged Baru's efforts to ensure stability in Nigeria's oil sector, with a more guaranteed supply and predictable price regime, which he said weakened unscrupulous parallel marketers, especially during festive seasons.
Barkindo said Baru was a hardworking and committed person who believed in transparency and accountability. He said in the condolence message, "Dr Maikanti Baru was a good and hardworking professional whom l had absolute confidence in both as his colleague in NNPC and, later, as GMD.
"As GMD of NNPC he repositioned the corporation and the Nigeria's oil industry. He was workaholic, cerebral, humane, godly and kind-hearted."
Bauchi Gov Mourns Maikanti, Describes His Death As A Great Loss
On his part, the Bauchi State Governor, Senator Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed has expressed shock over the sudden demise of former Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation NNPC, Maikanti Kachalla Baru, describing the death as a great loss not only the people of Bauchi and Nigeria, but to the whole world at large.
PANDEF Hails Reconstitution, Insists on NNPC's Reorganisation
In a statement Saturday by its National Publicity Secretary, Hon. Ken Robinson, PANDEF stated, "The major concern of the Niger Delta Region is the skewed composition of the Executive Management of the NNPC, and appointment of chief executives of the corporation's cubsidiaries.
"It is simply abhorrent that the Group Managing Director (GMD), the Chief Finance Officer, Finance and Account, the Corporate Secretary/Legal Adviser to the Corporation, and Chief Executives of virtually all strategic divisions and subsidiaries of the NNPC are persons from the Northern zones of the country."
It urged Buhari to further "carry out a holistic rejigging of the lopsided NNPC management structure, and correct the imbalances, in the interest of equity, fairness, peace and national cohesion".
PANDEF added, "It is significant to recall that the position of Group Managing Director of the NNPC was traditionally and rightly, reserved for persons from the South-south geopolitical zone, which produces about 95 per cent of the nation's crude extraction. It won't be out of place, therefore, to ask for the restoration of that tradition."
But it said the latest NNPC board composition was a departure from the 2016 board arrangement, which had no representation from the South-east, an oil producing zone.
"PANDEF further implores those, particularly from the Niger Delta Region, newly appointed to the Board of the NNPC, to shun partisan and miniature interests in the discharge of their duties and responsibilities," the statement said.