Barring any last minute change in plan, President Muhammadu Buhari will, today, hold a crucial meeting with the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
This is the first one-on-one meeting Buhari will be having with the minister since a letter Kachikwu wrote to the President on the conduct of the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Dr. Maikanti Baru, was made public.
It will also be the first time the minister will be meeting the President, who is the substantive Minister of Petroleum Resources, since Buhari returned from his medical trip on August 19.
Kachikwu had stated in the letter that he resorted to writing the letter after several unsuccessful attempts to meet the President personally since he returned to the country.
The minister accused Baru of insubordination and sidelining him and the board of the NNPC in the award of contracts as well as failing to follow due process.
“Hopefully, the President will be meeting the minister on Friday. The meeting is scheduled to hold before Juma’at service. The meeting will hold between 11.30am and noon,” a source in the Presidency told one of our correspondents on Thursday.
Another government official, however, told The PUNCH that the meeting was originally conceived to afford Kachikwu the opportunity of briefing the President of general developments in his ministry.
The source added that although the meeting could have been scheduled before the content of the letter was made public, there was no way the President and the minister would meet and the issue would not come up.
“You can see that the Minister of Transportation met with the President today (on Thursday) to brief him (the President) on the activities in his ministry. The Minister of Mines and Steel Development also had his turn recently.
“That’s the same way Kachikwu was scheduled to have his turn. But of course, there is no way this burning issue will not be discussed at the meeting,” he said.
The source said he was not aware if Baru had been scheduled to meet the President any time soon.
Baru is one of the top government officials who regularly participate in Juma’at service in a mosque located inside the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Reacting to the face-off between the two officials, the Peoples Democratic Party has called on Buhari to suspend Baru immediately for the alleged $25bn contract award in the corporation, which Kachikwu alleged did not have the input of the NNPC board.
It also demanded that Baru be handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for investigation and prosecution.
The National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr. Dayo Adeyeye, stated this at a press conference at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja on Thursday.
Adeyeye said the PDP was shocked with what it described as revelations by Kachikwu concerning happenings in his office and the NNPC.
He said it was absurd that Buhari had refused to speak on the issue since the minister raised the matter in a memo to him (Buhari) on August 30.
He stated, “The PDP wishes to express its shock at the loud silence of President Muhammadu Buhari on the humongous corruption scandal and other illegalities currently being exposed at the nation’s cash cow, the NNPC, in which two of his henchmen, Ibe Kachikwu and Maikanti Baru are the dramatis personae.
As a political party, we expect that the President, who prides himself as an indefatigable corruption fighter, would, for once, try to live above board, by genuinely allowing one of his own, accused of corruption, get properly investigated and prosecuted as a show of his impartiality in the war against corruption.
“He should do this to correct the open impression Nigerians have about his so-called anti-corruption war; that it’s just a tool of persecution of perceived enemies.