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Suspend NNPC boss before probing him, experts tell Senate

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Experts in corporate governance and anti-corruption have called for immediate suspension of the Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Maikanti Baru.

This stemmed from the resolution passed by the Senate on Wednesday, to set up a panel to probe that will look into the allegations made against him in a petition to President Muhammadu Buhari by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu.

The panel will also investigate the policy introduced by the NNPC Trading Limited, a subsidiary of the corporation, among other issues.

Presenting analogy of how best to handle issues of this nature in a setting of good governance, Dr. Ken Idahosa, an anti-corruption crusader said the best thing to do is to suspend him from office so that proper investigations will be carried out.

He said “Awarding contract running into billions of dollars in an economy that is facing cash crunch without recourse to superior officers means abuse of code of conduct”.

“I don’t think that the powers of NNPC’s GMD cover giving contracts to the tune of $25bn without inputs from the minister. To me, this is the height of insubordination and abuse of office and it should be properly probed.

“I must say that let what happened or what is happening to the probe of the embattled Secretary of the Federal Government, Mr. David Lawal. I recall that simply because of receiving the report, a whole weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting was called off and still yet, nothing had been heard about it till today.

“To me, Baru should give way for a better probe. $25 billion is not a cheap fund to be given away in a contract without the input of the minister supervising the ministry. It is the height of official misconduct if it is true.

Also corroborating Dr. Idahosa’s position, a civil society crusader, Mr. Aliyu Ma’aji said “In real democracies, at the mention or just leakage of the news, it’s enough for the GMD of NNPC to honorably resign his position to first of all, register his innocence.

“However, where he fails to follow the respectful way, the onus lies on the President of the nation that appointed him to immediately suspend him, because NNPC is the engine room of Nigeria’s economy and anybody toiling with the engine is just number one enemy.

Continuing, he said “Baru should be suspended even before being probed by the Senate.

“First of all, the Senate should advise Mr. President to suspend him before going on with the probe.

However, explaining the scenario in a telephone interview, leading human rights lawyer and executive of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Barr, Monday Onyekachi Ubani said when critical allegations are made from a top government quarter on a parastatal, the nation should be worried.

He said even though the Senate has no such powers to suspend NNPC boss, they can go ahead to probe him while in office.

“But, at the end of their probe, if e is indicted, he should be asked to be suspended.

In his further submission, Ubani decried the growing levels of insubordination in government decision making, saying it amounts to abuse of ranks and due process for the GMD not to involve his immediate boss in critical decision making.

Trouble started earlier on Tuesday, when the Nigerian media got the scope that NNPC boss was sidelining the Minister, Dr. Ibe Kachukwu and the board, in critical decision making in the corporation.

Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, had written a petition to President Muhammadu Buhari, alleging acts of insubordination and humiliation by the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Dr. Maikanti Baru.

In the letter, titled ‘Re: Matters of insubordination and lack of adherence to due process by the GMD NNPC – Dr. Baru,’ written on August 30, 2017, with reference number HMS/MPR/001/VOL.1/100, Kachikwu alleged that the NNPC boss had repeatedly sidelined and disrespected the board of the national oil firm, which is chaired by the minister of state.

After felicitating with the President, the minister outlined the various alleged misdemeanours of the NNPC boss, urging Buhari to intervene by calling on Baru to respect due process.

In August 2015, Buhari appointed Kachikwu as the NNPC GMD, but replaced him with Baru in July 2016 and made the minister the chairman of the corporation’s board.

In the letter, which was sighted by our correspondent in Abuja on Tuesday, Kachikwu said, “Mr. President, yesterday (August 29, 2017) like many other Nigerians, l resumed work and confronted with many publications of massive changes within the NNPC.

“Like the previous reorganisations and ‘repostings’ done since Dr. Baru resumed as GMD, I was never given the opportunity before the announcements to discuss these appointments. This is so despite being the Minister of State, Petroleum, and Chairman, NNPC Board.

“The board of NNPC, which you appointed and which has met every month since its inauguration, and which, by the NNPC, is meant to review these planned appointments and postings, was never briefed. Members of the board learnt of these appointments from the pages of social media and the press release of NNPC.”

Kachukwu in the petition averred that it was in the spirit of service and absolute belief in the President’s leadership and integrity that he (Kachikwu), after one year of tolerating the disrespectful and humiliating conduct by Baru that he decided to bring the GMD’s acts to the President.