As the controversy over the recent events in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation continues to rage, more experts have had their say, keeping the debate over right and wrong alive.
On Thursday, the Lead Director of the Centre for Social Justice, Mr Eze Onyekpere, and the Group Vice President and Head, Energy Division of Platinum Vault Group, Mr Muazu Mogaji, disagreed over the controversy.
The spoke about the issue when they appeared on Channels Television’s Politics Today with Seun Okinbaloye.
While Mr Onyekpere who is a lawyer faulted NNPC Group Managing Director Dr Maikanti Baru for skipping the Minister of State for Petroleum Dr Ibe Kachikwu in taking major decision and seeking approvals for contracts, Mr Mogaji argued that due process was followed.
The NNPC became caught up in another scandal last week when a letter written by Dr Kachikwu accusing Dr Baru of insubordination, illegality and of instilling a fear culture in the NNPC was leaked and went viral.
Although the NNPC and Dr Baru had denied the allegations, the Senate is investigating the allegations and debates have continued to rage over who is right and who is wrong as well as what is best practice.
“If you look at the powers of the board under the NNPC Act Vis a Vis the powers and duties of the NNPC Managing Director, and then you come back to where they talked about agreements that are going to be contacts where the authentication has to be done by the signature of the chairman of the board. Then you ask yourself, ‘If the board chairman is not aware of this, if he didn’t sign off, hasn’t the law been breached?’” Onyekpere said.
But Mogaji, an energy expert, countered, saying that the President being the Minister of Petroleum and “substantive chairman of the board” gave his approval.
He said, “Basically, the issue here is that there is the responsibility of the GMD as the chief operating officer of the NNPC and there is the responsibility of the minister and in this case we have to ministers – the substantive minister who happens to be the President and the minister of state. The chairmanship of the board has been delegated to the minister of state by the substantive chairman who happens to be the senior minister.
“What is the procedure required for the approval? Ordinarily, a senior minister will chair the board and the senior minister can by virtue of the law delegate his responsibility to somebody else to chair the board – and in this case, he has done it to the minister of state but that does not preclude the senior minister from taking decisions on behalf of the board. It is very clear in the legal instrument of the NNPC.”
The NNPC had in denying the allegations against it said it secured requisite approvals from the President, but that led to more questions as the President was in London on medical vacation when the corporation said it secured the approvals.
Earlier on Thursday, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo explained that he had given the NNPC approvals for two Joint Venture financing loans.
“While the President was away, I granted authorisation which is what the law provides. The law actually provides for those authorisation, so I did grant all of those, in fact, there were two of them but those are presidential approvals specifically for financing joint ventures and they are loans not contracts,” the Vice President said.
For Mogaji, approvals given by Osinbajo as acting President are also in order and no wrong was done.
“Clearly, there is legality in terms of the authority that is deployed to consummate this transaction,” he said, adding, “Protocol of approval, I think, has been followed; NNPC was involved, the minister has been involved, the Acting President has been involved and these are the authorities required to approve any transaction.”
Onyekpere, however, disagreed arguing that even if the President give the NNPC approval, he doesn’t have the power to unilaterally give approval.
He also said that if the President could write to the National Assembly to seek approval for a $5.5bn loan, it meant arguments claiming he could unilaterally approve the NNPC contracts which were worth billions of dollars more were flawed.
He said, “If he (Mogaji) says the substantive board chairman is the President, he may not be right because the President has delegated that power. Ideally, under Section 5 of the Constitution, all the powers of ministers, special assistants belong as executive powers to the President.
“Knowing that Mr President is a human being who is not ubiquitous, who is not everywhere as God, that’s why the Constitution provided for ministers and special assistants and the President, in recognition of that, has asked Mr Ibe Kachikwu specifically to superintend over the board. And superintending as chairman, Mr Kachikwu on his own cannot replace the board, he needs to convene the board. And the board will take the decision as a board and if there is a tie (in voting) that is where the chairman has a second vote.
“So, trying to say that Mr President approved per se does not obviate the need for the board to meet. Mr President is not the board. If he were still around he would have been a member of the board and he cannot on his own unilaterally take a decision. If there was no board meeting, what he (Mogaji) is saying is wrong in law, with utmost respect. I am talking law here, not sentiments.”