Anxiety At NNPC Ahead Of Buhari’s Massive Shake-up

There seems to be some disquiet in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) ahead of the imminent shake-up by the Muhammadu Buhari administration.

Legal Services and Company Secretary Ikechukwu Oguine has resigned, The Nation learnt yesterday.

Deputy Group Managing Director/ Group Executive Director (Finance and Account) Bernard Otti’s fate remained unclear last night, following his sudden trip abroad immediately after the inauguration of the President.

A source said he was away for medical reasons.

It was learnt that more officers may retire or voluntarily withdraw their services from NNPC to beat the imminent purge.

But an official said there was no cause for panic in the corporation.

Fears of a massive purge have gripped top managers of the NNPC, the Pipelines and Product Marketing Company (PPMC) and the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) over the controversial crude oil swap.

A source, who spoke in confidence, said: “Some top management staff of NNPC and its subsidiaries have opted to leave the system ahead of the likely reorganisation of the corporation by the President.

“Some of those affected include a few in high-profile offices, who were engaged by the immediate past Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, against the provisions of the NNPC Act.”

The source, who pleaded not to be named because of “the sensitivity” of the matter, did not name such “backdoor” employees.

He went on: “There are some professionals who also do not want their career rubbished by the looming shake-up of the sector by Buhari.

“The NNPC company secretary has resigned and he even paid three months salaries in lieu of notice. He said he wants to go back to his consultancy firm if he does not find the environment challenging.

“Actually, he gave himself a year target to take stock of things in NNPC and having been appointed on April 7, 2014, he decided to leave on personal grounds.”

Otti, according to some NNPC sources, took a sick leave; others merely said he had not been seen in office since Buhari was inaugurated as President.

Before the inauguration, there had been arguments on the legality of Otti’s appointment.

Another source said: “There had been unease in NNPC over Otti’s office. The appointment of a Deputy Group Managing Director is unknown to NNPC statute; it is illegal and whatever document or contract the man had signed as a holder of this office is untenable in law.

“The management staff have been having a sort of cold war because it is an aberration to combine the post of Group Executive Director, Finance and Account and the office of Deputy GMD.”

A source close to Otti said: “He went for medical check-up; he should be back on Thursday. But his job does not suffer because someone is acting for him.”

Some members of the management staff, who are believed to have been brought into the system through the backdoor, may leave before the proposed purge.

An official said: “More staff may go to beat Buhari to the game. They have also realised that they cannot fit into the system because they don’t have the technical capability.

“A few others who are linked to the crude oil swap in PPMC and NPDC may leave. In fact, some of them in NPDC have not been coming regularly to office.

“We operate in fear because we do not know the type of reforms the President may initiate.”

Another NNPC source said Oguine was on a year contract that elapsed last month.

“Oguine has a consulting firm he ran in the United Kingdom before his appointment. On the expiration of the contract, he chose to go back to UK to join his family and face his private consultancy firm wholly. The board of NNPC even offered to renew his appointment but he preferred to go back to his private business. There was no problem,” the source added.

Otti, according to the source, went to the United States to treat his eyes and will be back to office this week. The source also noted that there was no panic in the corporation as the board just sat yesterday and there was no information about officials who intend to resign before new appointments are made by the new government. There is also no information on any planned major shake-up in the corporation by the Federal Government, the source added.

President Buhari has on many occasions vowed to probe the NNPC.

During the campaigns, he promised to probe the $20 billion alleged to be missing from the coffers of the oil giant by Emir of Kano Muhammed Sanusi, a claim he made when he was the governor of Central Bank of Nigeria.

Former President Goodluck Jonathan sacked him from the CBN for the claim which he considered untrue aand embarrassing to his government.

Speaking in Yola as President-elect, Buhari said: “I heard that some people have started refunding money, but I will not believe until I see it.

“His royal highness, the Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi was removed from the Central bank because he said that about $20 billion was missing, instead of the government to investigate the matter, they refused, instead they sacked him.

“He has already written a detail report on it, the incoming government will not ignore it, even though we have promised to draw a line, but $20 billion is too big to ignore. This is Nigerian money and it must be investigated,” Buhari said.

Last week during the African Union Summit in South Africa, Buhari also gave another evidence of the rot in the NNPC when he described as “improper” the holding of many accounts by the NNPC.

Former British Prime Minster Tony Blair also advised the president to overhaul the NNNPC if he must succeed.

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