In a move apparently designed to convince the public that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) contract scandal was now a thing of the past, and that the differences between the two main actors were now fully resolved, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo Wednesday met with Ibe Kachikwu, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, and Maikanti Baru, Group Managing Director (GMD) of the NNPC at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
Addressing State House correspondents at the end of the meeting, Kachikwu said issues around oil fields as well as the opening of escrow accounts and cash call were discussed at the meeting.
“It’s a meeting on the upstream. It was largely AGIP bringing some information to the vice-president on where they had been in terms of Okpai, in terms of Zabazaba Deepwater oilfield field, in terms of the cash call exit which they are doing with NNPC,” he said.
“Agip was basically updating him, asking for areas where they need some assistance from government officials to sort of fast track. It was normal upstream meeting.”
On the issue of cash call, he said, “We discussed only to the extent that a few completion items on NNPC, largely the opening up of the escrow accounts and that type of stuff which they need to fasten up on.
“But we are far gone on that. Installment payments are already going on, I think NNPC is undertaking by October or early next month to complete that whole process. So is going on very well.”
Recall that both Kachikwu and Baru had attended 23rd Nigerian Economic Summit where they displayed friendly disposition towards each other and even took same position on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), following fallout from Kachikwu’s leaked memo in which he accused the Baru-led NNPC of serious breaches in contracts award and personnel appointments.
Kachikwu had also come out to minimize the weight of his allegations in the memo, stating that he was not in any way suggesting that fraud had taken place, but was merely point to a breach in process.
There have been some reports that President Muhammadu Buhari had instructed both men to put their differences aside and work together. The reported instruction has been part of a larger effort by the administration to absolve itself of any culpability in illegal contracts award, as Osinbajo had only recently claimed that all the listed items on the alleged contract list were not actually contracts but debt financing for joint-venture agreements, claiming he rightly approved them after two successive contradictory positions on the matter.
The recent effort to move past the scandal without an established process for review and recommendation of appropriate actions, has elicited critical reactions from some prominent members of the public like former education minister, Oby Ezekwesili, who strongly urged President Buhari not to allow the scandal to be “buried” like the case of the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal, whose corruption allegation investigation had been concluded months ago and the report submitted to the president without any action.
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