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$25bn NNPC CONTRACTS: Osinbajo backtracks, says he only approved ‘loans’, stoking further controversy

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Barely hours after Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo’s aide, Laolu Akande, appeared to confirm Osibanjo’s approval of the controversial contracts awarded by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) sparking a wave of reactions, Osinbajo backtracked from the statement, stating instead that what he authorized were “financing loans” and not contracts.

Osinbajo who was in Bonny Island where he flagged off the Bodo-Bonny Road, Rivers state, stated that he only granted loans and not contracts.

In a statement with the title, “NNPC: AG. Presidential approval were for financing arrangements not contracts says VP Osinbajo”, Akande said he was issuing a clarification to correct his earlier tweet.

He said, “Approached by reporters after the ground-breaking multi-billion Naira historic Bonny-Bodo road project, in Bonny, Rivers State, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, explained specifically that the approvals he granted to the NNPC while he was Acting President were for financing arrangements for the Joint Ventures between the corporation and IOCs, and not approvals for contracts.

Read also: KACHIKWU, BARU FEUD: It was me who approved the NNPC contracts –Osinbajo

“These were financing loans. Of course, you know what the Joint Ventures are, with the lOCs, like Chevron, that had to procure. In some cases, NNPC and their Joint Venture partners have to secure loans and they need authorisation to secure those loans while the President was away.

“The law actually provides for those authorisations. So I did grant two of them and those were presidential approvals, but they are specifically for financing joint ventures and they are loans not contracts.

“Earlier today, I had tweeted on the same matter thus: In response to media inquiries on the NNPC Joint Venture financing arrangements, VP Osinbajo, as Acting President, approved the recommendations after due diligence and adherence to established procedures. This was, of course, necessary to deal with huge backlog of unpaid cash calls which the Buhari administration inherited and to incentivize much needed fresh investments in the oil and gas sector”.

Earlier in the day, Akande had in a series of tweets apparently claimed that Osinbajo confirmed approving the contracts.

Akande had via his twitter handle, @akandeoj, said, “In response to media inquiries on NNPC joint venture financing, VP Osinbajo, as Ag President approved recommendations after due diligence & adherence to established procedure. Action necessary to deal with huge backlog of unpaid cash calls which Buhari adm. inherited and also to incentivize much needed fresh investments in the oil & gas sector”.

This development will only further fuel the scandal surrounding the contracts which Ibe Kachikwu, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, alleged were illegally awarded by Maikanti Baru, Group Managing Director (GMD) of the NNPC, saying they were done without the NNPC board’s approval as required by law.

But Baru’s response, via an official statement from the NNPC, was that the minister’s authorization was not required, and that presidential approval was obtained, raising some pertinent questions.

Some wondered whether it was Osinbajo who authorized the contracts or Buhari who was in London on medical leave at the time when some of the listed contracts were said to have been awarded.

Many will argue that these questions still require further clarification and will contend that the controversy will not see a resolution soon until sufficient answers are provided.

 

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