The Minister of Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, has described as “distressing,” the circulation of an internal memo he wrote to President Muhammadu Buhari about the conduct of Group Managing Director of NNPC, Maikanti Baru.
Mr. Kachikwu said the letter, which surfaced on the Internet Tuesday, was part of routine exchanges he regularly shares with the president about “developments in parastatals under his supervision.”
The minister conveyed the reaction through the spokesperson for the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Idang Alibi.
Mr. Alibi said the letter was aimed not at disparaging Mr. Baru but at “improving efficiency and deepening transparency in the oil and gas sector for continued investor confidence.”
The explanation comes hours after a three-page letter which Mr. Kachikwu wrote to Mr. Buhari on August 30 was leaked online.
PREMIUM TIMES reported the content of thememo in which Mr. Kachikwu criticised Mr. Baru over a slew of perceived illegal practices and appealed to Mr. Buhari to take urgent steps to address the concerns.
“Parastatals in the ministry and all CEOs of these parastatals must be aligned with the policy drive of the ministry to allow the sector register the growth that has eluded it for many years,” Mr. Kachikwu said. “To do otherwise or to exempt any of the parastatals would be to emplace a stunted growth for the industry.”
Specifically, the minister accused Mr. Baru of effecting changes in personnel at the NNPC without recourse to NNPC board or the ministry.
The minister said he suffered “disrespectful and humiliating conducts” from Mr. Baru, according to the memo, which he wrote after concerted efforts to have a one-on-one appointment with the president at the State House fell through.
At the centre of the feud was the August 29 changes that affected up to 55 key executives at the NNPC.
Mr. Baru said the move was to “reposition” the NNPC and “fill the gaps created due to statutory retirements of staff.”
Amongst the five requests which Mr. Kachikwu sought from Mr. Buhari was an immediate suspension of the exercise until the “GMD, myself and the Board have made relevant input to same.”
In his reaction, Mr. Idang said Mr. Buhari backed Mr. Kachikwu’s efforts to “entrench good governance and accountability in the oil and gas sector.”
But the statement was silent on if the president had acted on the minister’s memo since about five weeks after it was written.
Until now, Messrs. Kachikwu and Baru had largely concealed their feud from the media, although it was first hinted more than a year ago.
In September 2016, the Daily Independent in Lagos reported a friction between Mr. Kachikwu and Mr. Baru, which centred on the administration’s Niger Delta policy.
While Mr. Kachikwu, a native of Delta State, urged peaceful resolution and increased economic development for the restive region; Mr. Baru was in favour of a military crackdown on criminal elements vandalising oil pipelines, Daily Independent reported.
The NNPC GMD said the economic sabotage by militants had cut deeply into the country’s revenues, a situation he said was unsustainable.
Mr. Kachikwu did not play up the Niger Delta crisis in his latest letter to Mr. Buhari, focusing instead on the consequences of disregard for extant regulations in the wake of disruptive technological advancements which could see fossil fuel become redundant in the years ahead.
Mr. Kachikwu previously doubled as the Minister of State for Petroleum and GMD of NNPC until he was relieved of the latter post by Mr. Buhari on June 4, 2016, same day that Mr. Baru was named as a replacement.
It was not the first time Mr. Kachikwu would spar with another top official over Niger Delta since he was named minister in 2015.
In June 2016, the minister disagreed with his counterpart at the Ministry of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, over the completion of the Maritime University in Delta State.
While Mr. Amaechi demanded probe of some funds that had been allocated for the project but which were allegedly squandered by previous administration; Mr. Kachikwu said the probe could be done without abandoning the university site, which is situated in Gbaramatu Kingdom, Delta State.
Mr. Kachikwu’s feud with Mr. Baru also further underscores a troubling pattern of internal wrangling in the Buhari administration.
In July, Usman Yusuf, the suspended executive secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme engaged the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, in a tussle over supremacy.
A few days before then, Attorney-General Abubakar Malami had an open dispute with the acting chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, with Mr. Malami accusing Mr. Magu of failing to report to him as required by extant EFCC regulations.
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