The calls for investigation of the contract debacle at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) have refused to abate. More groups, including the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiatives (NEITI), the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) and the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), added their voices to the growing list of pro-probe NNPC advocates.
The All Progressives Congress (APC), however, declined comment on the controversy. Its National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, told reporters: 'We can't comment on that now. In fact, we have no comment on it.'
NEITI Technical Adviser Dr. Dauda Garuba urged the President to wade into the crisis because $25 billion is too huge an amount to consummate its contract without due process.
He said: 'Whichever way one looks at it, N25 billion is too huge an amount to build contracts around without due process. We are supposed to be a country guided by rules and procedures. We must make Nigeria work.'
Garuba said that if it is established that there are infractions as alleged by the Minister of States for Petroleum Resources, the necessary sanctions must be deployed.
He insisted that Mr. President must demonstrate that he meant business when he promised Nigerians to reform the oil sector.
He said: 'I must say that it is unfortunate that the Nigeria public is being unenviably treated to unpleasant developments in the oil sector. If you ask me, this is coming at a wrong time in our history. Just when we are expecting a reform of the sector so that it can deliver the country out of the woods, we are having to deal with this.
'So much progress has been recorded in the reform of the oil sector in the last two years that Nigeria cannot afford to turn back the hand of the clock. I know Nigerians are yet to hear from the other side. It will be fair that those who leaked the memo by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources to President Muhammadu Buhari also live up to their sophistry in access to secret information by obliging Nigerians the response by the Group Managing Director of NNPC. President Muhammadu Buhari must step in and do the needful.'
The NLC said the issues raised in the communication between the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, and President Muhammadu Buhari should be properly investigated.
The President of the congress, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, in an interview, said the issues raised by the minister must be verified.
He said: 'The issue is under some investigation and I think there should be an opportunity to interrogate the process and at the end of the day, let us know the veracity and facts of the issue. We have made this issue quite clear and loud that part of our challenge is how we are able to imbibe the process of good governance, transparency and accountability.
'Some of the issues bothers on this critical idea of ensuring that there is good governance in place. Our hope is that this issue will be thoroughly investigated and concluded. At the end of the day. Let us hear what the issues are as well as the fact of the matter. Once we get the facts, we will then be able to make conclusion.
'I am aware that the process of investigation is on and I am sure that the Presidency will react appropriately since there is a communication on an issue that bothers on good governance.
'The normal thing to be done is for the issue to be addressed through the normal process. Once this type of information is thrown to the public, the normal thing is to have a process through which these issues can be looked into.
'I am aware that the Senate are already investigating the issue and so, the process of that investigation must be concluded so that we can have the fact and be able to make meaningful contributions. Whether the Presidency or the National Assembly, they can investigate because they have the power to do so.'
ANEEJ yesterday called on the National Assembly and President Buhari to conclude the passage and assent of the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill.
A conclusion of the enactment, according to the civil society organisation, will forestall the reoccurrence of the issues in the oil and gas sector that Kachikwu, raised against the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Dr. Maikanti Baru.
The petition was on arbitrary award of $25 billion contract, insubordination, among other infractions of the NNPC boss.
ANEEJ Executive Director Rev. David Ugolor, in a statement in Abuja, applauded the Senate for launching a probe into Kachikwu's allegations.
Ugolor said: 'Since the Senate has waded into the matter, we suggest that Mr. President as well must invite the Nigerian Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative, NEITI, to carry out a comprehensive and forensic audit of the allegations.
'Among statutory functions of the NEITI include the regulation of matters related to due process in the award of contracts in the extractive sector of the Nigerian sector.
'We believe that the inconsistencies being thrown up by the startling revelations from the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources include some of the issues which the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill seeks to address and redress.
'The present administration since inception has defined itself first through its corruption stance, and more by the reforms it has introduced in the oil sector. It scrapped the opaque oil swap which made it possible for individuals within government to line their pockets with millions of dollars and has replaced it with the Direct Sale, Direct Purchase scheme.
'That lofty plan of Direct Sale, Direct Purchase stands in jeopardy if all the contracts that have been awarded and the companies they have been awarded are not subject to thorough vetting and investigations by both the Senate and the NEITI.'
For SERAP, Buhari must use his 'good offices and leadership position to urgently refer the allegations of corruption and abuse of office against Mr Maikanti Baru, Group Managing Director Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) for investigation, and if there is relevant and sufficient admissible evidence, for him to face prosecution'.
The organisation urged Buhari to 'suspend Mr Baru pending the referral to the EFCC and ICPC, and the outcome of any investigation by the anti-corruption agencies in order not to create the impression that your government is treating Mr Baru as a sacred cow. We urge you not to allow the allegations against Mr Baru to go the way of past inconclusive investigations of allegations of massive corruption within the NNPC'.
In an October 2017 a letter signed by SERAP executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organisation said: 'The allegations by Dr Kachikwu constitute grave breaches of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Act of 2000; and the UN Convention against Corruption (UNAC) which Nigeria recently ratified. In particular, the UN Convention against Corruption imposes clear obligations on Nigeria to investigate allegations of corruption such as the present one; prosecute suspected perpetrators and ensure return and repatriation of proceeds of corruption.
'SERAP is concerned that years of systemic corruption within the NNPC and looting of Nigeria's natural resources have had uneven consequences against the vulnerable groups of the society, including the poor, women and children, perpetrating and institutionalizing discrimination, and jeopardizing the needs and well-being of future generations. If left unaddressed, the allegations by Dr Kachikwu have the potential of undermining your government's expressed commitment to returning Nigeria to the path of transparency and accountability.
'SERAP believes that Mr Baru's case presents your Administration with yet another rare opportunity to reassure a lot of Nigerians who may be worried about the direction of travel of your anti-corruption agenda. Rather than keeping silent on the matter, we advise you to use this case to show to Nigerians that no form of corruption will be tolerated in the NNPC under your watch.
'SERAP also believes the recommended approach would help to address the growing public suspicion and pessimism about your government's ability to fight high-level official corruption to a standstill, and to avoid any collateral consequences. It is absolutely important that the public should have complete confidence and trust in your Administration's oft-repeated commitment to fight corruption and the impunity of perpetrators.
'SERAP notes the recent allegations of corruption against Mr Baru by Dr Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, Minister of State of Petroleum and Chairman NNPC Board. In the letter to you Dr Kachikwu alleged among others appointments and postings in NNPC without due process; award of contracts above $20m without following the legal and procedural requirements for such contracts including the Crude Term contracts- value at over $10bn; the DSDP contracts- value over $5bn; the AKK pipeline contract- value approximately $3bn; various financing allocation funding contracts with the NOCs value over $3bn; and various NPDC production service contracts value at over $3bn-$4bn.'
© Pakistan Press International, source Asianet-Pakistan