President Muhammadu Buhari has reportedly backed the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Maikanti Baru, who was accused of $25b contracts scam.
Minister of State for Petroleum Resources Ibe Kachikwu had alleged that Baru awarded $25b contracts without following due process.
He also accused him of running an intimidating management and making appointments without consultations.
According to The Nation, Buhari has directed Baru to publicly release the fact-sheet pertaining to the contracts having found that he is not guilty of any corrupt practice.
After learning that the Presidency is behind Baru, Kachikwu is said to be consulting his associates, stakeholders and colleagues on his next move.
It was gathered that his friends have cautioned him to tread carefully and to not be confrontational because of the sensitivity of the matter.
They were said to have cited travails of ex-Minister of Petroleum Resources Prof. Tam David-West‘s rough path with the military administration of ex-President Ibrahim Babangida.
The minister’s friends, therefore, advised him to resign “to preserve his integrity.”
Although it was not clear, as at Monday night, what move Kachikwu would make next.
In his reply to the minister’s allegations, Baru had described it as “humongous” because “no money was lost and no process has been breached.”
It was learnt that Buhari was very disappointed by the scandal but “refused to act on the spur of the moment because his image and the reputation of his administration were involved.”
“The Presidency directed the GMD of NNPC to provide facts and figures, which it got from Baru,”The Nation quoted a top government source as saying.
“Thereafter, the NNPC Act, the NNPC Handbook and Public Procurement Act were consulted on the responses of Baru to find out if infractions were committed by the corporation.
“Having been convinced that there were no infractions, the Presidency then directed NNPC to lay the cards on the table for Nigerians to see and judge.
“What was uppermost in the responses of the GMD was the fact that ‘there was no evidence of sharp practices, bribery, looting of funds and diversion of transaction cash’.
“The allegations of Kachikwu were rated as ‘wild, intentional and political in nature’ against the administration he is serving.”
Buhari’s meeting with Kachikwu last Friday was said to have been a mere formality to “be fair to the Minister and for record purposes”.
The newspaper also cited an anonymous Presidency source, who said “The President has not spoken on the next action. No one knows his mindset.”
On Kachikwu’s fate, a top stakeholder was quoted as saying that “I am aware that the minister has been holding consultations and telling some vital players in the oil sector what transpired.
“Of importance to him is the allegation of alleged plot to sabotage the government of President Buhari with the leakage of the August 20 memo. He has maintained his innocence that he did not leak the letter.
“But it is tragic that no one believes Kachikwu’s story anymore in the Presidency.”
The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) have also thrown their weight behind Baru.
The unions while on a solidarity visit to the GMD on Monday, declared their support for him, and they said their ultimate concern for the protection of the NNPC.