Kachikwu is a Minister Without Portfolio – Prof. Tam David-West





Kachikwu is a Minister without Portfolio – Prof. Tam David-West

 


What is your comment on the recent $25bn oil contract controversy at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation?
When I first read it in the newspaper, I was flabbergasted. It is out of the question completely. I have said I will never comment on NNPC, but it would be irresponsible of me to keep quiet. It is dangerous. Despite the fact that I am no longer the oil minister, I know what is happening in the oil industry every day. I am still in touch with the system in Nigeria and even the North Sea Oil, Brent, I get the price every day.

I am interested in the oil industry just like any other Nigerian, for obvious reasons. Oil accounts for 80 per cent of the Nigerian budget and 90 per cent of its assets outside. The money we have outside and foreign reserves are mainly from oil. As someone from an oil-producing state, I am interested in what goes on in the industry. Thirdly, I have been there before and I know what is happening there.
 I don’t know the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, or the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Maikanti Baru, but what is going on is very embarrassing to Nigeria. This has never happened before.

I had a misunderstanding with my managing director when I was oil minister, but it was well managed, although that case was different compared to what is happening currently. Fortunately for me, we both attended the University of Ibadan, so we were friends. But what is happening between Kachikwu and Baru is a misunderstanding over claims and circumstances that are beyond them.

When you say that a minister of state is the boss of the GMD of NNPC, it is wrong. That cannot be. People are making those claims because of misconception. The minister of state in the First Republic was a minister without a portfolio. He cannot be a boss of the GMD of an oil industry, who is the livewire of that sector.

Each time I read the newspapers about this issue, I am upset. An editor called me and asked me, ‘What is the duty of a minister of state?’ Some of these problems are caused by personality problems. Some of them have both bloated and ballooned egos. No one is indispensable in Nigeria because for every Nigerian holding a position, there are many others who are better qualified. No public servant can threaten the country. Nigeria is bigger than anyone, so whoever is in a top position should thank God and the country for the opportunity to serve. One million Tam David-Wests cannot threaten Nigeria.

When I read Kachikwu’s letter, I was flabbergasted. But I was relieved when the NNPC replied that nothing like that happened. There is a danger in having Kachikwu loyalists and Baru loyalists in the same sector. It is very dangerous for the nation.
When I wanted to recommend a managing director for Buhari as his minister when he was the head of state, three people who were qualified were vying for the position. I called them to my office at night after close of work and told them that they were all qualified but that I would choose Aret Adams.

Why did you do that?
One of them had contested the position and the other one was also interested in the position at a time in the past. They both had loyalists in the company. It would not augur well for the industry. That was why I chose someone who was fresh.

As a minister, Rivers State indigenes organised a reception for me, but I told them that I would not attend and that they should cancel it. I did that because I did not want to make myself a sectional minister. I was a minister for everybody. Buhari appointed me as a Nigerian minister and not as a Rivers minister.

Something must be done quickly before it puts the oil industry in jeopardy. The whole world is watching what we are doing in Nigeria. No one should do anything that will put the nation’s oil industry in jeopardy. If there is a problem in an industry, how can we attract foreign investors? They will be scared to come to Nigeria to invest in the country. No one wants to come to a country that is not safe. There must be a favourable atmosphere for them to come. If you give an impression that NNPC is not conducive, no one will come.

If you predict a bad thing and it comes to pass, you will be sad. But if you predict a good thing and it comes to pass, you will be happy. I am sad because I have predicted that something like this would happen one day.

When Rilwan Lukman was the Minister of Petroleum Resources and he carved out about 11 to 12 subsidiaries out of the NNPC, I said it was dangerous. I was supported by a prominent Nigerian oil technocrat, Chief Feide. I pointed out that what Lukman was doing was not good for Nigeria. I said it would be dangerous because what we are going to have are pockets of autonomies. Now it has happened. How can you refer to the NNPC as a parastatal? It is a parent body for all the subsidiaries carved out from it. It should not be under any ministry. Even now, it is not under any ministry.


But there is the Ministry of Petroleum Resource. Is the NNPC not responsible to it?
It is a ludicrous thing. The NNPC is a parent body. Was there a Ministry of Petroleum Resources in (Shehu) Shagari’s time and during Buhari’s first term in government? Let me clarify this, what we have is the ‘Department of Petroleum Resources’ and not a ministry.

But Kachikwu is today the chairman of the NNPC Board. Is there not a mix-up?
Buhari made him the chairman of the NNPC board. The chairman of that board does not have to be a minister.

Is Buhari not doing too much as a president and minister of petroleum?
People have forgotten what he said when he resumed as president. He said that he would hold that position for 18 months, during which he intended to straighten things up in the place. Actually, Buhari should be the chairman of the NNPC board and not Kachikwu, who is a minister without a portfolio in reality. It would be better if we scrapped the ‘minister of state’ which is superfluous and redundant.

Shouldn’t Buhari step down as minister since the 18 months have passed?
He will decide when to take that decision but that title of minister of state should be scrapped or called ‘minister without portfolio.’

Would you recommend he choose a substantive minister?
Buhari is a competent man when it comes to the oil sector. I learnt a lot from him when I became minister.

Don’t you think that based on his complaint, Kachikwu has been sidelined?
If he is complaining about being sidelined, maybe there is a clash between what he expected and what he has found. There is a fundamental problem there. But are his expectations valid? There are a lot of misconceptions and lies.

Another important thing is that you cannot be oil minister or the GMD and be an oil merchant. The two individuals should search themselves. Is there a conflict of interest in their activities? Baru said that Kachikwu recommended eight companies to lift oil but Kachikwu said it was a lie. The President must set up a panel to investigate this. In my time, I was offered things by oil companies that I rejected. King Ado Ibrahim in the Ebira land can bear me witness.


Kachikwu is a Minister Without Portfolio – Prof. Tam David-West Kachikwu is a Minister Without Portfolio – Prof. Tam David-West Reviewed by Emeka Chiaghanam on Sunday, October 15, 2017 Rating: 5

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