Home Latest Kachikwu/Baru Face-off: President Buhari Meets With Minister Today

Kachikwu/Baru Face-off: President Buhari Meets With Minister Today

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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.

“We view the allegations levelled against Baru by Kachikwu as too grave to be swept under the carpet and we insist that the NNPC GMD must be treated like an accused person who should not have the opportunity to influence investigation into his alleged misdeeds.

“In this light, we demand an immediate suspension of the NNPC GMD so that proper investigation can be carried out by the relevant anti-corruption agencies.”

Ordinarily, he said if there was sincerity in the anti-corruption war, Buhari should not have waited for any prompting before taking a decisive action on this matter.

He said the PDP suspected that Buhari might be trying to shield Baru as he allegedly did for the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal.

The former ruling party added, “The sum involved in the NNPC scandal is $25bn. Less than 10 per cent of that ($2.1bn) is involved in the so-called arms fund allegedly converted by the former National Security Adviser, for which hundreds of Nigerians have been arrested and hounded. Nigerians can now see the hypocrisy in the so-called anti-corruption fight.

“We may as well say that the privileged class of All Progressives Congress members enjoys total immunity from the anti-corruption campaign.

“Tired of this double-faced corruption fight and cover-ups we demand an immediate commencement of investigation into this latest exposed sleaze by another of President Buhari’s men.”

He wondered what Nigerians would be fed with when the APC was voted out of power in 2019.

He said, “We wonder what the stench will be when the real and hidden atrocities being perpetrated under the watch of President Buhari are finally exposed when Nigerians throw the APC government out of power in 2019.

“The allegations raised by the minister of state for petroleum resources are a confirmation of our earlier stance that the APC administration is in tatters, an administration without coordination, but one planted firmly in the hands of a few cabal, stealing the nation dry while the President continues to feign ignorance of the sickening stench.

“We suspect and our suspicion is reinforced by the unfolding events that powerful people in the corridors of power are tacitly involved in this.

“If the President’s powerful Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, could sit on the NNPC board and such a calamity is taking place without an eyelid being blinked, we are forced to believe that the stealing is being done to the advantage of the President, who has shown by his body language that the only thing that matter most to him for now, is his second term ambition.

“Will it be considered ‘hate speech’ if we say the money being stolen by President Buhari’s men is being kept aside into a special pool for the prosecution of his second term ambition?”

Adeyeye challenged the President to prove Nigerians wrong by allowing his allies being caught up in alleged acts of “brazen stealing of our commonwealth,” to face punishment in accordance with the laws of the land.

PDP making wild allegations, says APC

But the APC dismissed allegations by the opposition PDP that the $25bn contracts awarded by the NNPC were to raise funds for the APC to prosecute “Buhari’s second term ambition” in the 2019 general elections.

The National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, while reacting to the PDP allegations in a telephone interview on Thursday, said the opposition party was making “wild and unsubstantiated” allegations.

Abdullahi told The PUNCH, “The PDP spokesman is not speaking from a position of knowledge. He is making wild allegations; if he has any evidence, he should provide it. If he is unable to provide any evidence, we have reason to say he was just making wild allegations.

“Number two, has President Buhari declared that he is going to contest in 2019? Since he has not done so, how did they come to the conclusion that such a thing is being done and that it is for 2019?”

NLC demands thorough probe, SERAP seeks Baru’s prosecution

In its reaction, the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Ayuba Wabba, has advised Buhari to ensure a proper investigation of Kachikwu’s allegations against Baru.

Wabba, in an interview with journalists in Abuja on Thursday, said Nigerians should have an opportunity to know the facts of the issues raised by the minister.

He stated that the NLC had made it clear that part of the challenges facing the country was how to imbibe the process of good governance and transparency.

Wabba added, “Some of the issues border 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 conclusions.

“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 is 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.”

Also, the lawmaker, representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District in the National Assembly, Senator Sheu Sani, has advised the President to appoint a substantive minister of petroleum resources.

Sani, who stated this on his tweeter handle on Thursday, said Buhari had limited time to attend to the ministry.

He added, “President Buhari should disengage from being a Petroleum Minister and appoint a substantive minister whom the nation can hold accountable to the happenings in the nation’s oil industry.

“The President’s position as a minister can drag him into issues in the oil sector of which he has limited time to attend to. A broom immersed in oil cannot sweep clean.”

But a human rights advocacy group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, demanded the immediate suspension of Baru for alleged abuse of office.

The group, in an open letter to Buhari on Thursday, demanded that Baru should be immediately suspended and referred to anti-corruption agencies for probe and possible prosecution.

SERAP, in its open letter to Buhari by its Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, argued that Kachikwu’s allegations against Baru qualified as grave breaches of the Corrupt Practices and other related Offence Act of 2000; and the United Nations Convention against Corruption, to which Nigeria is a signatory.

It said the allegations must not be swept under the carpet, but must immediately be referred to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission or the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission for probe.

It said, “SERAP is concerned that years of systemic corruption within the NNPC and looting of Nigeria’s natural resources have had uneven consequences for the vulnerable groups of society, including the poor, women and children, perpetrating and institutionalising discrimination, and jeopardising 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.

“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.”

 

 

 

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