Lagos, Nigeria | AFP | A leaked memo from Nigeria’s minister of state for oil has shown that irregularities in the state-owned oil giant remain entrenched, despite official vows to root out the “cancer” of graft.
Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu wrote to President Muhammadu Buhari to report on questionable practices in the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Five NNPC contracts, with a total value of $25 billion, “were never reviewed by or discussed with the board,” according to the letter published in local media.
“There are many more, your excellency,” it added.
The NNPC is saddled with the reputation of being the historical slush fund of the country’s governments, whether democratically elected or military.
The company, working in joint ventures with foreign oil majors, accounts for more than half of Nigeria’s daily oil production of about two million barrels per day, estimates Benjamin Auge, a researcher associated with a French think-tank, the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI).
– Massive corruption –
One of the biggest graft scandals in Nigerian history came to light in 2014, when central bank governor Lamido Sanusi revealed that the equivalent of $18 billion had disappeared from state coffers between 2012 and 2013.
Sanusi was removed from office, but the scandal and disclosures of large-scale looting of national assets were instrumental in the electoral defeat of President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015, in favour of Buhari, who fought on a clean-hands ticket.
Buhari’s critics say his anti-corruption campaign is targeting only opposition figures — a charge that is likely to carry weight in the light of the leaked letter.
The letter appears to point to Kachikwu’s deepening frustration.
“I have been unable to secure an appointment to see you despite very many attempts,” Kachikwu wrote to Buhari, who is oil minister as well as president.
His missive was dated from late August, though until now the public was unaware of its existence.
No visible action has been taken, and the NNPC’s chairman, Maikanti Kacalla Baru, whose governance of the oil giant is clearly in the memo’s firing line, remains in office.
Auge suggested that Baru was appointed in 2016 in order to “isolate” Kachikwu.
Baru, an NNPC insider, is a complete contrast in personality and career profile to the outsider Kachikwu — a Harvard-educated southerner who came to the NNPC through the private sector, where he was ExxonMobil’s deputy chief for Africa, Auge said.
“The machinery which enabled corruption in the NNPC has not been switched off,” he said. “The only thing that has changed is the networks of influence.”