Femi Falana, lawyer and rights activist, has advised President Muhammadu Buhari to relinquish his position as the minister of petroleum resources.
On his assumption of office, Buhari took up the portfolio while he appointed Ibe Kachikwu as the sector’s minister of state.
Reacting to Kachikwu’s letter to Buhari in which he accused Maikanti Baru, group managing director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), of insubordination, Falana asked the president to reorganise the NNPC.
He said the reorganisation will bring about transparency and credibility in the operations of the corporation.
Falana also said issues raised in the letter and the presidency’s subsequent reaction show some of Buhari’s duties as minister of petroleum have been neglected.
He said apart from giving room for an unhindered administration of the ministry, the president’s resignation will also reduce the “undue pressure” on his health.
“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 statutory required to be chaired by the minister of petroleum resources have not been held as and when due,” he said in a statement on Sunday.
“More importantly, the demand has corroborated that aspect of Dr. Kachukwu’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.
“Having regard to the enormous responsibilities of the office of the minister of petroleum resources and chairman of the NNPC board, President Buhar is advised to relinquish the ministerial position in view of his busy schedule and appoint another Nigerian of proven integrity and competence to superintend the affairs of the ministry.
“If this advice is accepted in good faith and acted upon without any delay it would remove undue pressure on the health of the president and allow him to attend to urgent matters of the state.”
Falana also called for the indefinite suspension of Baru pending outcome of investigations into the allegations levelled against him.
“Apart from sanctioning the officers responsible for creating the wide gulf between Dr. Kachukwu 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,” he said.
“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.
“And once it is confirmed that the said $25 billion contracts were awarded without the approval of the NNPC board, they should be revoked while the recent appointment of the heads of the parastatals in the oil and gas industry should be reviewed in line with the constitution and the Federal Character Commission Act.”