Prof. Tam David-West, a former minister of petroleum and energy when President Muhammadu Buhari was head of state, has aimed a thinly-veiled dig at the current minister of state for petroleum resources, Ibe Kachikwu, saying that the minister (Kachikwu) does not have a portfolio.
Speaking in an interview with The Punch, the elder statesman, while attacking the minister over a petition he wrote to Buhari, called for the scrapping of the office of the “minister of state for petroleum resources” or sought that it be called “minister without portfolio.”
The minister had written a memo to the president, in which he accused the Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, (NNPC), Dr. Maikanti Baru of corruption.
In the petition, Kachikwu had alleged that Baru was sidelining him and the NNPC board from important decisions affecting the corporation.
Kachikwu had also accused Baru of insubordination, claiming he awarded contracts without due process.
However, David-West, while taking sides with Baru, accused Kachikwu of embarrassing the country.
What is your comment on the recent $25bn oil contract controversy at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation?
When I first read it in the newspaper, I was flabbergasted. It is out of the question completely. I have said I will never comment on NNPC, but it would be irresponsible of me to keep quiet. It is dangerous. Despite the fact that I am no longer the oil minister, I know what is happening in the oil industry every day. I am still in touch with the system in Nigeria and even the North Sea Oil, Brent, I get the price every day.
I am interested in the oil industry just like any other Nigerian, for obvious reasons. Oil accounts for 80 per cent of the Nigerian budget and 90 per cent of its assets outside. The money we have outside and foreign reserves are mainly from oil. As someone from an oil-producing state, I am interested in what goes on in the industry. Thirdly, I have been there before and I know what is happening there.I don’t know the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, or the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Maikanti Baru, but what is going on is very embarrassing to Nigeria. This has never happened before.
I had a misunderstanding with my managing director when I was oil minister, but it was well managed, although that case was different compared to what is happening currently. Fortunately for me, we both attended the University of Ibadan, so we were friends. But what is happening between Kachikwu and Baru is a misunderstanding over claims and circumstances that are beyond them.
When you say that a minister of state is the boss of the GMD of NNPC, it is wrong. That cannot be. People are making those claims because of misconception. The minister of state in the First Republic was a minister without a portfolio. He cannot be a boss of the GMD of an oil industry, who is the livewire of that sector.
Each time I read the newspapers about this issue, I am upset. An editor called me and asked me, ‘What is the duty of a minister of state?’ Some of these problems are caused by personality problems. Some of them have both bloated and ballooned egos. No one is indispensable in Nigeria because for every Nigerian holding a position, there are many others who are better qualified. No public servant can threaten the country. Nigeria is bigger than anyone, so whoever is in a top position should thank God and the country for the opportunity to serve. One million Tam David-Wests cannot threaten Nigeria.
When I read Kachikwu’s letter, I was flabbergasted. But I was relieved when the NNPC replied that nothing like that happened. There is a danger in having Kachikwu loyalists and Baru loyalists in the same sector. It is very dangerous for the nation.
Is Buhari not doing too much as a president and minister of petroleum?
People have forgotten what he said when he resumed as president. He said that he would hold that position for 18 months, during which he intended to straighten things up in the place. Actually, Buhari should be the chairman of the NNPC board and not Kachikwu, who is a minister without a portfolio in reality. It would be better if we scrapped the ‘minister of state’ which is superfluous and redundant.
Shouldn’t Buhari step down as minister since the 18 months have passed?
He will decide when to take that decision but that title of minister of state should be scrapped or called ‘minister without portfolio.’