Friday, 1st December 2023

Double standard integrity and the Buhari legacy 

By Akin Fadeyi 
21 January 2019   |   2:40 am
On the 4th of October 2017, Nigerians woke up to a very shocking letter from the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu. The letter, addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari read in part...

[FILE PHOTO] The Minister of State for Pretroleum Resources Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu PHOTO: TWITTER/NNPC

On the 4th of October 2017, Nigerians woke up to a very shocking letter from the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu. The letter, addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari read in part:  “In over one year of Maikanti Baru’s tenure as the GMD of NNPC, no contract has been run through the NNPC board”! The minister listed major contracts awarded by Baru without the input of NNPC Board, to include $10 billion crude term contracts; $5 billion direct sales direct purchase (DSDP) contracts and $3 billion AKK pipeline contract.”

After, Baru responded, questioning the minister’s authority to oversee his contract award processes. Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Femi Falana, countered his position on October 12, 2017 declaring Baru’s defence as puerile and his conduct, an illegality. 

Here was Falana’s submission: 
“The defence of the Group Managing Director (GMD), Dr. Maikanti Baru, that he has powers to award contracts to the exclusion of the Minister of State in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is illegal and violates the NNPC Act. Dr. Baru failed to recognise the provision of Section 6 (c) of the NNPC Act, which has vested the Board of the NNPC with the exclusive power to enter into contracts or partnerships with any company, firm or person which in the opinion of the corporation will facilitate the discharge of the said duties under this Act.”

Without clobbering this issue, it was clear that Baru was undermining the sanctity of transparency and accountability in an organisation that held pivotal responsibilities for critical oversight of the nation’s socioeconomic fabric. Coming from Buhari’s minister, Ibe Kachikwu’s letter was not just a petition; it was a bombshell insider account of irregularities in the NNPC. 

What did President Buhari do? Nothing. Baru is still GMD of NNPC. 
July 2018, Nigerian Governors Forum publicized their “suspicion that the NNPC was reporting excessive petrol consumption figure to facilitate deduction of undue petrol cost from domestic crude cost.” This, they contended explains the shortfall in what NNPC remits to the Federation Account. In other words, the governors were alleging that the NNPC was shortchanging Nigeria. I do not take the governors too seriously. After all, this outcry couldn’t have been in the interest of Nigerians. It might be informed about how much they could corner more for their states. You can pointedly ask how all they collected in the past helped to elevate the lifestyle of the masses?

It is nonetheless instructive to note that the President, who Baru reports to, did nothing. Surely Mr. President “belongs to some people.”July 6th 2017, the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole suspended the Executive Secretary of NHIS, Prof. Usman Yusuf from Katsina, Buhari’s home state on allegations and petitions of fraud, executive recklessness, nepotism and high handedness. President Buhari reinstated Yusuf to a bewildered nation. I pointedly asked the minister if the President sought one on one with him to demand explanations over why Yusuf was sacked. The minister in a collective responsibility show of loyalty said “My Principal means well for the whole nation.” I smiled. 

Did I actually have to bother since this also meant a flagrant thumb-down of the President’s own Deputy,  Yemi Osinbajo just to put back in play a combative, entitled and overindulged Yusuf?

October 18, 2018, eight months after his reinstatement by Buhari, the now emboldened Yusuf allegedly commenced an unprecedented scheming and divisive leadership. He also reportedly sidelined the Board in decision-making. The NHIS Governing Council, led by Dr. Enyatu Ifenne once again suspended Yusuf on the grounds of financial infractions. He was accused amongst other things of attempting to single handedly invest NHIS’ N25 billion fund in a curious transaction that undermined the scheme and the Nigerian nation. He was accused of same executive recklessness and nepotism. Rather than take a serious look at this repeated allegations with a view to putting his foot down to cut Yusuf to size, the President was foot-dragging until there was so much outrage from citizens.

As a matter of fact, Presidential Spokesman, Garba Shehu, made a quick dash to Channels TV in defense of Yusuf. On October 23, 2018, these were his words: “…did the Board follow due process in suspending this gentleman (Yusuf)?…No, they haven’t.” 

One cannot but ask why the Federal Government would employ meteoric speed to brush aside damning allegations against a public official raised against him by fellow appointees of the President? Curious isn’t it? The ensuing social media frenzy where sponsored foot soldiers of Yusuf and the government went to war with those who demanded Buhari’s big stick on Yusuf was a ridiculous show of the confusion,  dishonesty of purpose and contradictions that defined Buhari’s integrity mouthing and weak-fist fight against corruption. It was an ideological illusion of a house divided against itself. That Buhari’s appointed officials could even get into “street fight” over accusations of corruption succinctly symbolizes a team working at cross purposes.

And as the Federal Government grudgingly set up a panel of inquiry to look into the alleged infractions upon which a report was submitted on the December 24, the nation is waiting with bated breath Buhari’s decision to either end Yusuf’s turbulent career or indulge him further. 
To be continued tomorrow.
Fadeyi is executive director, Akin Fadeyi Foundation and convener, ‘corruption not in my country project.’