Comrade Peter Esele, a former president of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), speaks with KUNLE ODEREMI on the NNPC crisis and the politics of oil, among other issues. Excerpts:
AS a major player in the oil and gas industry, what can you make out of the $25 billion contract award claim made by the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr Ibe Kachikwu and the counter-claim by the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr Maikanti Baru?
I think the bottom line is, what is it that led to the whole issue? The first thing we need to do is that now that it has happened, we look at the original processes. We should go back to the law, because what the NNPC is saying is that the Board does not have anything to do with the award of contracts. If that is true, that is not right, because one of the reasons why you have a Board of Directors is also to check the Managing Director; to perform oversight and find out what he does in his day-to-day activities. That is where the MD has a limit of approval, then anything above the limit will now go to the board and from there, it now goes to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and it gets the final approval from the President. When you look at all of these, we now need to ask ourselves, what they are saying, is it true in good governance? You now go ahead, and say this is not proper and we are going to make correction.
There was a time you cited the case of [Odein] Ajumogobia when the current controversy began. What precisely were you trying to explain?
The current scenario is the third time such would be happening. In the case of a former Minister of State, Petroleum, Dr Edmund Daukoru, he was able to manage the situation at that time. But it was not so with Henry Odein Ajumogobia, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources between 2007 and 2009 and a former Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr. Mohammed Barkindo. And now, you have Baru and Kachikwu. Why is this happening? Why is there always a conflict? In the case of Barkindo and Ajumogobia, Barkindo had a substantive minister to report to. So, when you have a minister and minister of state, and you have a GMD, the latter would naturally want to report to the minister, because the minister is his direct boss. So, the issue of minister of state wasn’t a problem then, because the minister of state’s role is not defined. You cannot have a gatekeeper like the Chief of Staff (CoS) also as a member of the NNPC Board of Directors only to be dominated by the minister of state. You can also see another reason why some form of friction or conflict will occur, because the minister of state is the chairman, while the CoS is an ordinary member. Meanwhile, there is no access to the president except through the office of CoS. So, a lot of ego and personality clash will often come into play. What we need to look at in all of these is the best way to work. Some have been talking about corruption; I’m not looking at it from the perspective of corruption. I am looking at it from this perspective. Is the process right? No! For me, the process is not right. Is it in the spirit of good governance? The answer is no!topics from