A civil society group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to probe and prosecute the Group Managing Director Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Maikanti Baru, if the allegations of corruption were established against him.
Even ahead of the probe, the group asked Mr. Buhari to suspend the NNPC GMD from office so as to reinforce public confidence in the anti-corruption war.
SERAP made the call on Thursday in an open letter to the president over the leaked letter by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, in which he accused Mr. Baru of insubordination and breach of due process in contract awards and appointments.
In the letter signed by its executive director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, the group urged Mr. Buhari to “urgently refer the allegations of corruption and abuse of office against Mr. Baru to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, for investigation, and if there is relevant and sufficient admissible evidence, for him to face prosecution.”
It also urged the president to “suspend Mr. Baru pending the referral to the EFCC and ICPC, and the outcome of any investigation by the anti-corruption agencies in order not to create the impression that your government is treating Mr Baru as a sacred cow.”
It said: “We urge you not to allow the allegations against Mr. Baru go the way of past inconclusive investigations of allegations of massive corruption within the NNPC.”
According to the group, “the allegations by Dr. Kachikwu constitute grave breaches of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Act of 2000; and the UN Convention against Corruption (UNAC) which Nigeria recently ratified.
“In particular, the UN Convention against Corruption imposes clear obligations on Nigeria to investigate allegations of corruption such as the present one; prosecute suspected perpetrators and ensure return and repatriation of proceeds of corruption.
The letter reads in part: “SERAP is concerned that years of systemic corruption within the NNPC and looting of Nigeria’s natural resources have had uneven consequences against the vulnerable groups of the society, including the poor, women and children, perpetrating and institutionalizing discrimination, and jeopardizing the needs and well-being of future generations.
“If left unaddressed, the allegations by Dr Kachikwu have the potential of undermining your government’s expressed commitment to returning Nigeria to the path of transparency and accountability.
“SERAP believes that Mr. Baru’s case presents your administration with yet another rare opportunity to reassure a lot of Nigerians who may be worried about the direction of travel of your anti-corruption agenda.
“Rather than keeping silent on the matter, we advise you to use this case to show to Nigerians that no form of corruption will be tolerated in the NNPC under your watch.
“SERAP also believes the recommended approach would help to address the growing public suspicion and pessimism about your government’s ability to fight high-level official corruption to a standstill, and to avoid any collateral consequences.
“It is absolutely important that the public should have complete confidence and trust in your administration’s oft-repeated commitment to fight corruption and the impunity of perpetrators.”
“SERAP notes the recent allegations of corruption against Mr Baru by Dr Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, Minister of State of Petroleum and Chairman NNPC Board.
“In the letter to you, Dr. Kachikwu alleged among others appointments and postings in NNPC without due process; award of contracts above $20m without following the legal and procedural requirements for such contracts including the Crude Term contracts- value at over $10bn; the DSDP contracts- value over $5bn; the AKK pipeline contract- value approximately $3bn; various financing allocation funding contracts with the NOCs – value over $3bn; and various NPDC production service contracts – value at over $3bn–$4bn.”
The group said meeting its demand for the suspension, investigation, and if found culpable, prosecution of Mr. Baru would “assist the government to achieve this public confidence and trust, effectively spread the gospel of anti-corruption, and be on the right side of history”.
Mr. Kachikwu’s letter to President Buhari was leaked and has been widely published in the media since Tuesday.
The Senate has also reacted to the letter by setting up an ad-hoc committee to probe Mr. Baru against the content of the letter.
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