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Tuesday , 21 November 2017

Pressure on Senate to drop $25b contracts probe

The Senate Ad Hoc Committee probing the “$25billion transactions” by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is under pressure to drop the enquiry.

Some prominent citizens have been asking committee Chairman Aliyu Wammako to either stay action on the probe or work towards a “soft-landing” investigation and report.

Others, who are influential stakeholders in the oil and gas industry, have been lobbying the Senate leadership to suspend the probe in the light of “convincing clarifications” by the Presidency.

Besides, they maintain that there are “no issues” to investigate again, a source said.

But some members of the committee are said to be adamant, insisting on the investigation of the issues in the August 30 memo of the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu.

The pressure is believed to have accounted for why the panel has not started sitting since it was constituted by the Senate on October 4.

It was learnt that in the past two weeks, lobbyists have been trailing Wammako to his residence in Asokoro District.

One of such high-profile lobbying sessions took place last Wednesday.

A source said: “These bigwigs actually wanted the Senate to suspend the probe. But the chamber said since the issue was already in the public domain, it will not be good for the image of the Senate.

“The battle has shifted to the Senate Ad Hoc Committee. Some of these lobbyists have either asked Wammako to either stay away from the probe or work towards a “soft-landing” investigation and report

“In one breath, they claimed that since the Presidency and NNPC had made convincing clarifications that there was no contract awarded, going into the allegations contained in the Minister’s memo will be chasing shadows.

“They alleged that since the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu and the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Dr. Maikanti Baru have reconciled, there is nothing to probe.”

“Some of the lobbyists are believed to have cautioned the Senate Committee against causing a fresh distress in the oil sector.

They told some members of the committee that even Kachikwu and Baru did not want the investigation to go on because it might affect the oil and gas industry. About 40 oil firms are likely to be summoned.

“This is the real reason why the committee has not been able to sit. The chairman and members are really under pressure,” the source said.

But some members of the committee have insisted that the investigation must go ahead “in the interest of Nigerians” and to protect the integrity of the Senate.

The logic, according to a member of the committee, is that “since the committee has been mandated by the Senate to look into issues between Kachikwu and Baru, we have no choice than to carry out this legislative duty.

“To me, I believe the interest of Nigeria is paramount than any other consideration. I believe the probe will go on; what we are working out is logistics,” he said, pleading not to be named.

Apart from Wammako, other members of the committee are Senators Tayo Alasoadura; Kabiru Marafa; Albert Bassey; Sam Anyanwu; Ahmed Ogembe; Chukwuka Utazi; Rose Okoh and Baba Kaka Garbai.

The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Edmund Ibe Kachikwu and the Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Dr. Maikanti Baru, have been locked in a big row over alleged award of $25b contracts, insurbodination and lack of respect for due process.

Kachikwu asked President Muhammadu Buhari to call the GMD to order.

He said he was always being blocked from seeing the President.

Kachikwu, who made his views known in an August 30th, 2017 memo to President Muhammadu Buhari, claimed that five major contracts were never reviewed by or discussed with him or the Board of NNPC. He listed the contracts as follows:

  • The Crude Term Contracts – value at over $10b
  • The DSDP contracts – value over $5b
  • The AKK pipeline contract – value approximately $3b
  • Various financing allocation funding contracts with the NOCs – value over $3bn
  • Various NPDC production service contracts – value at over $3bn – $4bn

Both the NNPC and its Group Managing Director, Dr. Maikanti Baru have insisted that the transactions were validly conducted within the agency’s expenditure limits.

They claimed that the board of NNPC cannot approve contracts but they can review and give advice.

They insisted that the NNPC only carried out transactions and did not award contracts

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