Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana has described as illegal, the “unilateral award” of contracts worth $26 billion by the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Maikanti Baru.
Falana said Baru’s response to the petition written against him by Ibe Kachikwu, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, cannot be justified.
The NNPC GMD had in his response to Kachikwu said he did not contravene any law by bypassing the state petroleum minister to award the contracts.
But Falana, in a statement on Wednesday, said:
“It is pertinent to state, without any fear of contradiction, that by virtue of section three of the NNPC Act the GMD as the chief executive of the corporation shall be responsible for the execution of the policy of the corporation and the day-to-day running of the corporation’s activities and its associated services,” he said.
“But contrary to the erroneous impression conveyed by the management of the NNPC, there is no conflict whatsoever between the provisions of the NNPC Act and the public procurement Act, 2007 to justify the usurpation of the powers of the NNPC board by the tenders board of the NNPC headed by the GMD.
“Therefore, the unilateral award of multi-billion dollar contracts in the NNPC by Dr. Baru or the tenders board is illegal, null and void in every material particular.
“With respect, the totality of Dr. Baru’s defence was anchored on the mistaken belief that the NNPC Act does not require him to report to the minister of state but to President Buhari in his capacity as the minister of petroleum resources.
“Dr. Baru must have forgotten that upon the removal of Dr. Kachikwu as the NNPC GMD in 2016 the president appointed him as the chairman of the reconstituted Board of the NNPC in line with section 3 of the NNPC Act. Therefore, the decision of Dr. Baru to bypass the chairman of the board in the award of the contracts and appointment of NNPC staff cannot be justified either under the NNPC Act.”
“The NCPP is not chaired by the president but by the minister of finance. The other members of the NCPP include some officials of the federal government and representatives of relevant professional bodies and civil society organisations.
“Apart from constituting the NCPP and the BPP the president has not been empowered to approve any contract whatsoever. In fact, there is no reference whatsoever to the federal executive council in the entirety of 61 sections of the PPA.
“To that extent, the FEC presided over by the president cannot approve the award of contracts which is the exclusive duty of the NCPP and BPP. Although the PPA was enacted in 2007 the president or the federal executive council (FEC) has been approving multi-billion dollar or naira contracts, albeit illegally.
“Such illegality was perpetrated by the Yar’Adua and Jonathan regimes. Even the Buhari administration which has loudly undertaken to fight corruption has ignored calls from many civil society organisations to set up the NCPP,” said Falana.