Kachikwu: Crying Foul to His ‘Reforms,’ By Habib Gajam
President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 appointed Dr Ibe Kachikwu as the Group Managing Director (GMD) of the nation’s golden goose-the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)-to a wide public acclaim. This money-spinner had hitherto been riddled with monumental corruption, gross abuse of office, chronic inefficiency, and extreme practices of nepotism.
The appointment came with a glimmer of hope that the end to these multiple monsters was in sight, having a first class Harvard material with cognitive industry experience on the saddle.
Soon after he settled down, Dr Kachikwu embarked on radical reforms that would see the eight (8) directorates in the NNPC cut down to four (4) in a bid to have a lean organization whose ultimate goal is value addition; as too many cooks in the past have spoilt the broth. He single-handedly brought in, his team of ‘experts’ mostly from international oil companies (IOCs) to restructure and reposition the NNPC having been given the free hand to do so by the president.
Dr Kachikwu had unfettered access to the presidency. His weekly ‘pilgrimage’ to the villa for briefings with the president captured the headlines of major national dailies-both print and electronic. He unassailably asserted and consolidated his control in the petroleum towers with his eventual appointment and confirmation as State Minister of Petroleum.
Eleven months after, the constitution of a new Board for the NNPC saw the emergence of Dr Maikanti Baru as GMD who until his appointment, was the Group Executive Director Exploration and Production. The contentious issues in Dr Kachikwu’s letter were his claims of flagrant violation of due process in the award of contracts, humiliation, lack of respect, and acts of insubordination.
The NNPC Act is explicit, that the GMD of NNPC reports directly to the substantive minister of petroleum resources, president Buhari in this case. Reason why Dr Baru enjoys similar gesture extended to Dr Kachikwu when he was GMD. The violation of due process in the award of $26billion contracts as alleged by Kachikwu is incomprehensible. The approval limit of the Tenders Board according to the NNPC Act is pegged at $20 million. Any contract beyond this amount must be referred to, and be deliberated upon by the Federal Executive Council, of which the minister is a member. Therefore, how could $26billion worth of contracts be awarded without recourse to the FEC? Only the gullible will believe such abracadabra.
The Minister had in June 2015 (as GMD) sought clarification from the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) on the powers of the Governing Board and those of the NNPC Tenders Board in respect to award of contracts. The BPP responded with a clear distinction. “The NNPC Governing Board is responsible for approval of work programmes, corporate contract plans and budget while the Tenders Board is responsible for approval of day to day procurement implementation.”
The NNPC and the BPP procurement Acts have both vindicated the GMD in his dealings with the minister. Thus, the allegations in his letter could best be described as an attempt by Dr Kachikwu to achieve a hidden motive and cause disrepute to the very organization he is charged to reform. I conclude with the famous words of Winston Churchill “ To build may have to be the slow and laborious task of years. To destroy can be the thoughtless act of a single day.”