Ask rock may sacrifice Ibe Kachikwu for underling, Maikantu Baru Emmanuel Kachikwu may have stirred the hornet’s nest. Reports reaching The Capital indicate that the country’s Minister of State for Petroleum Resources may be sacrificed by the presidency in a high-handed political chess game currently playing out on the power corridors.

Plans are allegedly in top gear, by the presidency, to toss Kachikwu under the rampaging chariot of the northern cabal, due to his inability to stomach his miseries and keep quiet while his subordinate and Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) boss, Maikantu Baru, run rings around him.

For daring to report Baru’s gross insubordination and disrespect for due process to President Muhammadu Buhari, Kachikwu risks losing his seat as the country’s petroleum minister. Sources close to the presidency revealed that President Buhari and his handlers are unhappy with Kachikwu because he dared to protest anomalies within the country’s petroleum ministry.

Kachikwu had been in the spotlight since his memo to Buhari over goings on in the NNPC got leaked by unidentified persons to the media.

In the letter, Kachikwu had accused Baru of humiliating him and being insubordinate. He had alleged that the NNPC boss had repeatedly sidelined and disrespected the board of the national oil firm, which is chaired by Kachikwu as the minister of state.

The minister, in the leaked letter, had informed Buhari that against the rules, some over $25bn (about N9 trillion) contracts were never reviewed or discussed with him or the board of the NNPC before Baru gave them out.

The presidency was allegedly embarrassed by the content and import of Kachikwu’s memo. Among other things, it establishes the incumbent president’s mediocrity in governance of the affairs of the oil industry; it portrays Mr. President as ill-suited for his role as number one Minister of Petroleum, according to sources close to the presidency.

Thus Buhari is allegedly unhappy with the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources. Soon after Kachikwu’s letter was leaked, he met President Buhari in a closed door meeting and had remained silent ever since. But days after Kachikwu’s memo and his meeting with Buhari, Baru, who had maintained stunning and disconcerting silence, has suddenly found his voice.

The group managing director of the NNPC, Baru, has given his reasons why he did not seek the Kachikwu’s permission or the NNPC board’s before approving some contracts at the corporation.

In a recent press statement, Baru stated that there was no law requiring him to review or discuss with the minister of state or the NNPC board, matters relating to the approval of contracts.

He said what the law stipulated was for the processing and approval of contracts by the NNPC Tenders Board, the president in his executive capacity or as minister of petroleum, or the Federal Executive Council (FEC).

The following are excerpts from Baru’s response to Kachikwu’s claims.

“Following the publication of alleged lack of adherence to due process in the award of NNPC contracts, the President ordered the Group Managing Director (GMD) and Management of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to consider and respond expeditiously to the allegations.

“The substance of the allegations made by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, in a letter to the President dated 30th of August 2017, is that a number of “major contracts were never reviewed or discussed with me (sic) the NNPC Board.

“It is important to note from the outset that the law and the rules do not require a review or discussion with the Minister of State or the NNPC Board on contractual matters. What is required is the processing and approval of contracts by the NNPC Tenders Board, the President in his executive capacity or as Minister of Petroleum, or the Federal Executive Council (FEC), as the case may be.

“There are therefore situations where all that is required is the approval of the NNPC Tenders Board while, in other cases, based on the threshold, the award must be submitted for presidential approval. Likewise, in some instances it is FEC approval that is required.

“It should be noted that for both the Crude Term Contract and the Direct Sale and Direct Purchase (DSDP) agreements, there are no specific values attached to each transaction to warrant the values of $10billion and $5billion respectively placed on them in the claim of Dr. Kachikwu. It is therefore inappropriate to attach arbitrary values to the shortlists with the aim of classifying the transactions as contracts above NNPC Tenders Board limit,” said Baru.

But while Baru responded to the allegation on the award of contracts, clearing the air that only the approval of the Minister of Petroleum Resources – who, in this case, is Buhari – and that of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) was required, it kept silent on the equally weighty allegation of Baru making important appointments without the knowledge of the NNPC board of which Kachikwu is the chairman.

Baru’s response has gained prominence in the wake of backlash and massive outcry against perceived injustices meted out to his boss, Kachikwu, on the watch of President Buhari.

More worrisome is his claim that President Buhari instructed him to issue a quick response to Kachikwu’s claims, argued industry analysts. Not a few people believe that Baru is playing out a script written and handed to him by the presidency.

Some are however of the opinion that the presidency has no hand in the ongoing impasse. They believe that Baru and Kachikwu are simply caught in a cutthroat power play and clash of egos involving the petroleum sector’s most powerful puppeteers and Aso Rock’s invisible cabal.

-The Capital-