Femi Falana, human rights lawyer, says the decision of Maikanti Baru, group managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), to bypass Ibe Kachikwu, minister of state for petroleum resources, in award of contracts and appointments cannot be justified by law.
After Kachikwu wrote a petition against him, Baru said he did not break any law.
But in a statement on Wednesday, Falana said the “unilateral award” of multi-billion dollar contracts by Baru “is illegal”.
He said President Muhammadu Buhari should not have encouraged Baru to treat the minister “with such pompous disdain and arrogance”.
“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,” it read.
“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.”
He said it was misleading for Baru to claim that he followed due process in the award of contracts since he had briefed the president on it.
Falana argued that apart from constituting the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) and National Council of Public Procurement (NCPP), the president has “not been empowered to approve any contract whatsoever”.
“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,” it read.
“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.”