$25b Contract: Suspend Baru Now, Falana Tells Buhari

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Human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to suspend the Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Dr Maikanti Baru.

Falana also advised the President to order the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate Baru for alleged contravention of the Public Procurement Act in the award of five major contracts worth $25 billion.

He urged the President to, without delay, quit as Petroleum Minister and appoint someone else with integrity and competence to superintend the affairs of the Ministry.

This, he said, would remove undue pressure on the President’s health and allow him to attend to urgent matters of state.

Falana spoke in the wake of accusation by Minster of State for Petroleum, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, that Baru violated due process in the award of the contracts.

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In a petition to President Muhammadu, which eventually leaked to the media, Kachikwu claimed that the contracts were never brought before him or the NNPC board. He also accused Mr. Baru of insubordination.

Last Friday, the President met with Kachikwu and Baru, in separate closed door meetings in order to get to the root of the matter.

In his statement on Sunday, Falana described the situation as embarrassing and urged that the contracts should be revoked if they were found to be awarded without approval.

He said: “Apart from sanctioning the officers responsible for creating the wide gulf between Dr. Kachikwu and the President the allegation of the unilateral award of contracts worth $25 billion by Dr. Baru ought to be investigated in line with the anti-corruption policy of the Buhari administration.

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“In order to conduct a thorough investigation into the grave allegations of the reckless contravention of the provisions of the Public Procurement Act, Mr. Baru should be placed on indefinite suspension while The Presidency should refer the case to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.”

The lawyer suggested that revocation of the contracts, in the event that they are found to be irregular, should be followed by a review of recent appointments of the heads of the parastatals in the oil and gas industry in line with the Constitution and the Federal Character Commission Act.

He added: “Curiously, The Presidency has demanded for the minutes of the meetings of the NNPC Board. This demand has confirmed that the meetings of the Board which are statutorily required to be chaired by the Minister of Petroleum Resources have not been held as and when due.

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“More importantly, the demand has corroborated that aspect of Dr. Kachikwu’s petition alleging that the powers of the Board have been usurped by Dr. Baru.

“Therefore, the petition should provide an opportunity for the President to reorganise the NNPC with a view to ensuring that it is publicly owned in a manner that the Board is constituted by accredited representatives of the oil producing communities and credible civil society groups including the trade unions in the oil and gas industry.”

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