By Israel Okenwa
The Scripture as rendered in that immutable chapter (3:1-8) in the Book of Ecclesiastes resonates supremely in my subconscious as I struggle to rationalize and contextualize the ragging ‘’$25 billion’’ NNPC contract imbroglio.
The Chapter counsels that indeed ‘’There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven. A time to give birth and time to die… a time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted’’…..
This inspiring musing by the biblical King Solomon as he navigated and reflected through life’s journey, which is typically fraught with vicissitudes, provides a philosophical platter for our brilliant but embattled Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu to engage in deep soul searching.
Granted, there may be arguments for and against the roles thus far played by the main actors in the prevailing national drama namely; President Muhammadu Buhari, Dr. Kachikwu and Dr. Maikanti Baru, who is the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, there is little doubt that the avoidable public dance of infamy was scripted, choreographed and produced by the minister who is also an acknowledged Nollywood executive producer.
Sadly for Dr. Kachikwu, the dart thrown lost steam and fell on the floor without hitting target. While it may appear needless to attempt to rejig or recast the cross ventilation of polemics that has rented the media space since the outbreak of this apparently phantom $25 billion NNPC contract saga, it is useful to state the fact.
As the fable goes; Kachikwu after a wink of tempestuous sleep, dispatched an epistle to the President and Commander-in-Chief detailing a deluge of misdemeanour allegedly committed by the GMD of NNPC. The offences range from the operation of a bravado management style, which ultimately led to the arbitrary award of contracts valued at over $25bn without inputs from the Board or the its Chairman; the improper appointments of top Management of the Corporation without adherence to due process.
To arrive at the figure the Minister by sleight of hand attributed $10 billion as value for the 2017/2018 Crude Oil Term contracts; $5 billion as value of the ‘direct sales, Direct Purchase (DSDP) agreement; another $3b billion to the yet to be finalized Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano (AKK) pipeline contract another $3bn to the various financing allocation funding contracts with the IOCs and $3bn -$4billion for what he described in the letter as various NPDC production service contracts.
In black and white, Dr. Kachikwu also took time to accuse Dr. Baru of disrespect and insubordination.
The Harvard trained lawyer also provided reason why he opted for letter writing noting that he was denied access to him thus depicting the president as a shadowy leader out of reach to members of his own government.
The epistle as expected drew the ire and indignation of the Presidency, the NNPC Management, NNPC in-house unions as well as the national leadership of all the industry unions and stakeholders who individually and collectively gave the minister thumbs down.
Greater knocks came the way of Dr. Kachikwu as the response from the corporation clearly proved beyond doubt that he was on a mission to create a storm in a tea cup.
After providing clear evidence of misrepresentation against Kachikwu, the NNPC literarily hit the bull’s eye when it was made public that the minister was not only consulted on the 2017/2018 Crude Term contract but actually recommended nine companies, which he claimed represent ‘’Niger Delta interest’’. And subsequently the companies were considered among the 40 off-takers shortlisted for the programme after due diligence on their competency level.
As at the last count the following critical oil industry stakeholders have reportedly joined in asking Dr. Kachikwu to approach the exit door in good time before it is too late.
The stakeholders include: The National Association of Road Transport Owners, NARTO, the Petroleum Tanker Drivers branch of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association, PENGASSAN, the Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association of Nigeria, DAPPMA as well as the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, IPMAN and the Major Marketers Association of Nigeria, MOMAN.
It was reported that the consensus among the leadership of the group is that based on the point- to- point clarification provided by the Presidency, which undoubtedly cleared the air and indicted Kachikwu as a rabble- rouser, the minister has lost all moral and credible integrity to lead or supervise the oil and gas industry as Minister of State for Petroleum Resources.
Whatever that was left of Kachikwu’s claim to credibility was equally pulverized with the clear statement from the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo that he indeed gave approval to the said NNPC $25b contract, which he correctly explained as loans obtained to facilitate outstanding Federal Government counterpart funding of Joint Venture exploration activities in the upstream oil and gas industry.
With the entire oil and gas industry clearly swimming against his own current and his employers, the Presidency singing from a different hymn sheet, the appropriate time for the swashbuckling minister to honourably seek the exit door is nigh.
And like King Solomon counseled in the Book of Ecclesiastes, the time for Kachikwu to depart is now.
Okenwa, a Public Affairs Analyst, resides in Abuja