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KACHIKWU VS BARU: THERE'S MORE TO THIS THAN MEET THE EYES

October 05
11:03:58 2017
For avoidance of doubt, I don't know either Kachikwu or Baru from Adam. To me, they are both public officials that I accepted as morally qualitative by their ability to gain the confidence of President Buhari to be entrusted with the management of Nigeria's cash cow - the NNPC. That was my opinion until Minister Kachikwu's letter hit the Internet; supposedly 'leaked'.
For avoidance of doubt, I don't know either Kachikwu or Baru from Adam. To me, they are both public officials that I accepted as morally qualitative by their ability to gain the confidence of President Buhari to be entrusted with the management of Nigeria's cash cow - the NNPC. That was my opinion until Minister Kachikwu's letter hit the Internet; supposedly 'leaked'.

My first problem was with the supposed leakage of such a highly sensitive document. In my opinion, the letter was presumably leaked intentionally either to preempt foreseeable actions in regard to the case or generate sympathy and provoke ethno-religious bigotry to make a clean escape from anticipated backlash of some misdeeds. It makes little sense to me that of all the correspondences between the NNPC and the Presidency only this one could find its way into the hands of the media. I remain convinced the letter was planted in the media to achieve certain objectives that may be clear in the coming days.

Having said that, something just doesn't add up in Minister Kachikwu's allegations of insubordination against NNPC GMD Maikanti Baru. Let me try to be as neutral as humanly possible by subjecting the letter to tests of logic and common sense. However, this is not an attempt to throw the contents of the letter to the garbage bin in its entirety nor an attempt to judge the actors. I'm just trying to make sense of it within the context of administrative protocols viz-a-viz the intentionally made complex Nigeria's oil and gas industry.

I'm sure most people would agree this is an industry where black is not necessarily black and could even be white. It's also an industry where 2+2 doesn't necessarily equals 4 and could equal anything that catches the fancy of the incumbent "teacher". Perhaps, that may explain why, even a reputable banker like SLS had problem attaching a specific figure to a suspicious under the table activities in the industry even when it's obvious something was definitely wrong.

My worries begins with Kachikwu's lamentation about not being able to secure an appointment to see the President "despite very many attempts" as he claimed in his letter. Now, let me assume President Buhari was nepotistical and so protective of GMD Baru to deny Minister Kachikwu access to see him, why was it Kachikwu never made a single attempt to see VP Osinbajo who was the acting President while PMB was away? If all failed, Kachikwu should have used the fortnightly council meeting to intimate the President about such an unhealthy development yet, he didn't do so leaving a big room to debate the absurdity of his allegation. Certainly the insubordination drama couldn't have began after PMB landed at the airport where Kachikwu lamented thus:

"I would have wanted to come personally after receiving you at the airport to facilitate with you and discuss matters herein contained, however, I have been unable to secure an appointment to see you despite very many attempts."

For posterity, Kachikwu need to explain why he refused to take his case to the VP and had to wait for PMB's return before he initiated the process of acting against a serious misconduct from such high quarters. People would like to know, did Kachikwu queried the GMD on all the allegations contained in his letter to the President? His letter did not indicate any attempt to use the administrative internal checking mechanisms available to him much less, exhaust same and jump to, not only the next, but final level. Did the NNPC board in any of its sittings discussed being sidelined? If yes, what decision did they took to halt and reverse the trend. If no, why was the board not concerned with such an aberration? This is pertinent because for Baru to be guilty of insubordination, it must first be proven he has defied or neglected legitimate instructions from the Minister.

It's highly probable the GMD acted within his statutory powers and took decisions that doesn't require the Minister's input. Probably the 'massive changes' within the NNPC that GMD Baru implemented where legit and within his administrative powers, in which case he's not legally or administratively liable for the offense of insubordination against the Minister. Hon. Minister Kachikwu need to do more by highlighting the areas he was illegally sidelined to give teeth to his allegations against the GMD. That he did nothing to halt or reverse any of the 'illegalities' perpetrated by GMD Baru could mean only one thing - the GMD acted within the law in regard.

It doesn't make sense to me for Kachikwu to allege he couldn't secure an appointment to see the President. Kachikwu is not just any Minister, he is a junior minister of petroleum and President Buhari is the substantive Petroleum Minister. Considering the complexity of the Petroleum ministry and its alpha role in Nigeria's economy, one will like to know how PMB and Kachikwu operate as a team to get maximum control of the Ministry if he don't have unhindered access to the President.

The most absurd allegation was that of sidelining the NNPC board by GMD Baru. This allegation either answered one question or raised another. It could either puncture a 'national belief' that the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari is the most powerful figure in the presidency or puncture Kachikwu's allegation. How could GMD Baru dare sideline the NNPC when COS Kyari is a member of that board. And yes, how could Kachikwu, Chairman of the NNPC board fail to secure an appointment to see the President and complain about the board being sidelined when the Chief of Staff to the President is a member of the board and co-victim of Baru's 'excesses'? Does it make sense? Not to me!

In another shot, the Minister, after lamenting about some contracts awarded by the NNPC, wrote:

"There are many more Your Excellency, in most of these activities, the explanation of the GMD is that you are the Minister of Petroleum and your approvals were obtained.

However, the correct governance should be that the Minister of the State and the Board review the transaction and give their concurrence prior to presentation to you. As I many cases of things that happen in NNPC these days. I learn of transactions only through publications in the media. The question is why is that the Parastatals which I supervise as Minister of State or Chair of their Board are able to go through these contractual and mandatory governances processed and yet NNPC is exempt from these? I know that bravado management style runs contrary to the cleansing operations you engaged me to carry out at the inception of your administration. This is also not in consonance with your renowned standards of integrity."

To me this sound like a cowardly indictment of President Buhari by Kachikwu. This is more a challenge to PMB's integrity than an indictment of GMD Baru. I doubt if Kachikwu need to remind PMB what is in consonance with PMB's standards of integrity and what's not. It's more of a veiled attempt to blackmail the President than a cry for help. However, pertinent questions here are:

Was Kachikwu only told by GMD Baru that PMB has given his approvals or was he shown the approvals? Though Kachikwu indicated in his letter that board members had singularly and collectively raised this issue, why did he refused to proved so with documentary evidence thereby reducing the claim to mere hearsay intended to entertain and hoodwink the reading public for whose benefit the letter was leaked (read, planted). In any case, if the substantive Minister of Petroleum who doubles as the President has given his approval, does it require any additional lower level protocol or input before implementation? It would have been better had Kachikwu mentioned few of such cases when he was told the approvals of PMB had been obtained. Only then people will know if any wrong was done by either GMD Baru or President Buhari. As it is, I don't believe GMD Baru would arbitrarily award contracts worth billions of dollars without recourse to due process. Not even Andrew Yakubu will be this reckless under Buhari's administration.

Same goes for the allegation that as Minister of State for Petroleum he learned of transactions only through media publications. This is weighty to be lumped and passed as a single allegation. The Minister need to say which and which transactions of the NNPC he read only from media publications and why he waited this long to challenge such a serious desecration of his mandate. I doubt if GMD Baru would be so reckless as to deal with a junior Minister of Petroleum in such manners without reasonable cause - not when PMB is the President and substantive Minister anyway.

The clumsiness of the letter improved my suspicion that the leakage was deliberate and meant to embarrass PMB. The letter reeks of vendetta and a larger foggy agenda to upset the gained sanity in the industry. I may be wrong but, I'm willing to bet this charade is somehow connected to leaked documents indicting the minister in serious malpractices. Perhaps, the letter was a mere trick to divert attention from maladies being investigated in the oil and gas industry for proper medications. The next few days will shed more light on this and more.
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