The Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream) Senator Tayo Alasoadura, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately suspend the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, and the Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Dr. Maikanti Baru.
Alasoadura specifically stated that Baru’s continued presence at the NNPC could jeopardise the Senate investigation into the allegations that he allegedly approved contracts to the tune of $25bn without the approval of the corporation’s board.
The senator said this during a live programme on Channels Television titled, Sunday Politics.
When asked if they should be suspended, Alasoadura said, “I believe so; especially the man who is doing the day-to-day running of the organisation. In order not to hinder or hamper that investigation, because records will be needed and even from the date of the leakage of that letter, I think action should have been taken to ensure that nothing will be missing when investigations start
“So, I think the two of them should be asked to step aside and when investigation is over, whoever is culpable will go and whoever is not culpable, will continue with his duties.”
The lawmaker, who represents Ondo Central Senatorial District, said one of the causes of the problem was the fact that Buhari doubled as the Minister of Petroleum Resources.
Describing the arrangement as faulty, Alasoadura said Buhari should step down and appoint a substantive minister who would be able to do the job more effectively.
He added, “Judging from the many problems plaguing our country today, I believe Mr. President should devote more time to other things and let an independent person run the petroleum resources ministry who will then report to him twice or once a week.’’
Alasoadura confirmed an exclusive report by Sunday PUNCH that 40 firms, which received the $25bn contracts would be invited by the Senate.
He added, “We are probing them because we want to get to the root of this matter. If you are doing an investigation, even those who have not been mentioned may have to be invited, but as of today, these are the people that we think should be invited and from there, we may need to invite many more organisations as the probe continues.”
Meanwhile, The PUNCH learnt that the firms to be invited by the Senate include Oando, Sahara Energy, MRS Oil and Gas, AA Rano, Bono, Masters Energy, Eterna Oil and Gas, Cassiva Energy, Hyde Energy, Brittania U, North West Petroleum, Optima Energy, AMG Petroenergy, Arkiren Oil and Gas Limited and Shoreline Limited.
Others are Entourage Oil, Setana Energy and Prudent Energy, Trafigura, Enoc Trading, BP Trading, Total Trading, UCL Petro Energy, Mocho, Tevier Petroleum, Heritage Oil, Levene Energy, Litasco Supply and Trading, Glencore, Hindustan Refinery, Varo Energy, Sonara Refinery, Bharat Petroleum and Cepsa.
The companies are listed on the NNPC website as benefiting from crude term contracts.
In a related development, the OurMumuDonDo group, led by popular musician, Charles Oputa, aka Charly Boy, said it would meet on Tuesday to conclude on how, where and when to stage protests over the $25bn contracts allegedly awarded without due process.
The Publicity Secretary of the group, Raphael Adebayo, revealed this to The PUNCHduring a telephone interview on Sunday.
Adebayo said the group was also planning a protest against Buhari’s delay in taking action on the report submitted to him by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo on the probe of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, and the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, Amb. Ayo Oke.
When asked if the protest would be taken to the NNPC, Adebayo added, “We are looking at staging one this week. We are looking at combining this one and the SGF issue into one protest.
“We can already see the reaction of the Presidency. The Presidency is trying to reconcile both parties (Kachikwu and Baru).
“On Friday, the President and Baru still prayed together at the National Mosque. So, you can see the response. Between now and Tuesday, we will reach a decision on the next line of action.”
Relinquish your post as oil minister, Falana urges President
Human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), on Sunday, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to refer the $25bn contract scam allegations levelled against the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Mr. Maikanti Baru, to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for investigation.
In a statement, the senior advocate of Nigeria stated that during the EFCC’s investigation “into the grave allegations of the reckless contravention of the provisions of the Public Procurement Act”, the President should place Baru on an indefinite suspension.
Also, Falana called on Buhari to relinquish the position of the substantive Minister of Petroleum Resources due to the President’s “busy schedule” and appoint another Nigerian of proven integrity and competence to take up the position.
He added that if his advice was heeded, relinquishing the said ministerial position would “remove undue pressure on the health of the President and allow him to attend to urgent matters of the state”.
Falana made these suggestions following what he described as “the embarrassing petition of the Minister of State in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, to Buhari pertaining to Baru’s failure to consult the President and substantive Minister of Petroleum Resources” and “the unilateral award of $25bn contracts” by the NNPC’s GMD.
He stated that the $25bn contracts should be revoked once the EFCC investigation confirmed that they were awarded without the approval of the NNPC Board.
Falana stated, “However, apart from sanctioning the officers responsible for creating the wide gulf between Dr. Kachikwu and the President, the allegation of the unilateral award of contracts worth $25bn by Dr. Baru ought to be investigated in line with the anti-corruption policy of the Buhari administration.
“In order to conduct a thorough investigation into the grave allegations of the reckless contravention of the provisions of the Public Procurement Act, Mr. Baru should be placed on indefinite suspension while the Presidency should refer the case to the EFCC.
Governors, elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, are to play a significant role in the election of the next national chairman of the PDP, investigations by The PUNCH revealed on Sunday.
Already, the governors were said to have started informal discussions on the matter and have started looking at the credentials of those who have formally declared their intention to lead the party.
It was also gathered that the governors were not limiting their search to those who had started their campaigns alone.
They are also said to be looking at the antecedents of other notable politicians from the entire southern region where the position was zoned to at the party’s national convention.
The search, it was further learnt, was not being limited to the South-West, which some leaders of the party believed should produce the chairman out of the three geo-political zones in the entire southern region.
However, the governors were said to be focusing their search on the South-West and the South-South.
Leaders of the party in the South-East are said to have ruled the zone out of the race because it had produced occupiers of the office in previous dispensations.
Besides this, the zone is said to be eyeing the vice-presidential slot of the party based on the fact that the presidential ticket has been ceded to the North for the 2019 election.
Those who have declared their bid to lead the party at its national convention, slated for December 9 in Abuja, are a former Minister of Education, Prof. Tunde Adeniran; a former Minister of Special Duties, Prof. Taoheed Adedoja; a former Governor of Ogun State, Chief Gbenga Daniel; and a former National Chairman of the party, Chief Olabode George.
Those said to be consulting party bigwigs about their ambition are a former Acting National Chairman of the party, Uche Secondus; a businessman and media mogul, Dr. Raymond Dokpesi; a former member of the Senate, Dr. Bode Olajumoke; and a former Governor of Cross River State, Senator Liyel Imoke.
One of the governors, who is playing a prominent role in the search for a credible person to lead the party, told our correspondent on Sunday that he and his colleagues were already consulting on the issue.
The governor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it would be suicidal to allow “just anyone” to lead the party at this critical period.
The source explained that the party needed a honest man, who would be ready to play the role of opposition very well in order to enable the party to strongly compete with the ruling All Progressives Congress during the 2019 elections.
The governor added, “This is the first time that the PDP has found itself in opposition since 1999 when the country returned to democratic rule. Until 2015, when we were defeated, the PDP had always been in government at the centre.
“Because we didn’t know and had never been in opposition, see what we passed through of recent. We need to guard against that in the future. We need a chairman who we all know and can relate with.
“The PDP doesn’t need a chairman who would be afraid of the Federal Government during the day and be the friends of its agents at night. We need a chairman we can totally call our own.
“That is why we are discussing among ourselves. That is why we will also have a say, just like all other organs of the party. We must agree on a suitable candidate. We need not just anyone to lead us; we need a credible and acceptable person.”
He said there was no way the governors would sit by and watch without showing interest on who would emerge as the next national chairman of the party.
The governor also revealed that he and his colleagues were planning to meet in Abuja and discuss the issue and other related matters very soon.
“We will be in Abuja soon where we shall meet and discuss the issue and other matters. Convention is still about two months away,” he added.
Speaking on the influence of governors in the party, one of the chairmanship contestants, Adedoja, had said, “PDP governors should be commended for their roles. It has been a big financial burden for governors to keep bailing out the party because members are not paying their dues.
“Rather than saying the governors are not doing the right thing, I must commend them for coming to the aid of the party.”
He added that he was already consulting the governors because of the roles they were expected to play in determining the next chairman of the party.
“The governors have a role to play because they are major stakeholders in the party and they are also delegates with voting rights.
“By implications, they are the leaders of the party in their states. That is why I’m already consulting them because I need their support,” he added.
In his reaction, Adeniran also said the governors and all other organs of the party, had roles to play in the election of the next party chairman.
Adeniran, who spoke though his Director of Media, Mr. Taiwo Akeju, told our correspondent on Sunday that he was already discussing with the governors and other caucuses of the party.
“The governors can’t be said not to have any role to play. They are products of the party and should, just like other members of other caucuses of the party, be regarded as the conscience of the PDP.
“They are closer to the grass roots, shapes opinions and also leaders of our party,” Adeniran stated.