Last week, a memo written by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources Ibe Kachikwu to President Muhammadu Buhari over alleged irregularities and unruliness by the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Maikanti Baru was leaked to the public.

Kachikwu’s memo, dated August 30, drew Buhari’s attention to the alleged misgivings at the NNPC, which he said were capable of hindering progress in the oil sector.

Kachikwu accused Baru of reckless disregard for extant rules, which bothered on appointments, award of contracts, and referring matters to the President without going through the Board.

He stressed that the letter became necessary after futile efforts to have a meeting with the president.

He expressed worry that some Aso Rock officials blocked him from seeing Buhari over the issues.

Kachikwu appealed to Buhari to intervene and save the NNPC and oil industry from collapse arising from non-transparent practices.

Last Friday, Buhari met with Kachikwu.

But the details of their closed-door meeting, which lasted over one hour, were not made public.

Baru in his response on Monday, described the allegations that he awarded contracts without due process as unfounded and unfortunate.

He said humongous figures were put out to incite the public. He dismissed Kachikwu’s position that the NNPC board ought to be consulted before contracts were awarded.

He  noted that the corporation’s law and the rules do not require a review or discussion with the Minister of State or the NNPC board on contractual matters.

He explained that as a former chairman of the NNPC Anti-Corruption Committee, he would be the last person to breach the procurement process by disregarding extant laws and rules.

Is Buhari To Blame?

Tongues are wagging that the rift may consume Kachikwu, who is seen as an outsider in Buhari’s kitchen cabinet.

Baru may also be affected, as the government feels embarrassed by the development.

However, a Lagos based lawyer and civil right activist, Husein Omikunle believes Buhari is responsible for the rift in the first place.

“Who exactly does the GMD report to? Is it the President or Minister for State?

He told Bounce News that information gathered showed that Buhari has been dealing with Baru without regard for Kachikwu.

“This was confirmed by Baru in his statement on Monday. Baru said he received approval from the President, and Kachikwu had no role to play in NNPC’s affairs.”

"Buhari himself constituted the NNPC board headed by Kachikwu, so why should he sideline it or usurp its powers."

He noted that the President holding onto that seat as Minister of Petroleum Resources is creating more problems and less efficiency in the sector.

He asked Buhari to act decisively in the rift and look into the allegations to restore confidence in the government and its fight against corruption.