One Week, One Trouble – Who Will Save NNPC Mele Kyari?

Wherever he is, Professor Anezi Okoro, one of Nigeria finest fiction writers and author of the seminal coming-of-age book, One Week, One Trouble, must be wondering at the uncanny similarities between his protagonist, Wilson Tagbo, and Mallam Mele Kyari.

Tales of financial improprieties emanating from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Limited continue to astound many Nigerians and make them question the patrician posturing and pious visage of Mele Kyari, the Chief Executive Officer.

Kyari has spent virtually all his adult working life at the NNPC. He joined a few years after graduating with a Geology and Earth Science degree from the University of Maiduguri. He served in various capacities over the years, culminating in his appointment in 2019 as the 19th Group Managing Director of the old NNPC. So, he knows the system and knows where its skeletons are buried. And this, sources say, explains why he can game the system successfully. It is rumoured that in the last three years alone, Kyari has allegedly amassed so much wealth that he might even be one of Africa’s wealthiest men in NNPC but the average Nigerian might never know.

Since his appointment, though, Kyari, the first group CEO of the reborn NNPC Limited, has waddled from one financial scandal to another. The recent allegation, according to SaharaReporters, was that he and UmarAjiya, the Chief Financial Officer of the NNPC, had paid themselves, alongside some other top officials, billions of naira as gratuity despite still being in service. The fear of being retired compulsorily by the incoming government of Bola Ahmed Tinubu reportedly precipitated the heist.

The tacit but invaluable support that Kyari allegedly gave Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, in the last presidential election, may also be why he decided to pay himself off before they turned the heat on him.

Indeed, Kyari and his co-travellers have much to fear as a new administration prepares to take over from May 29. Oil is Nigeria’s primary cash cow, and the NNPC was, for a long time, the ATM of many past Nigerian leaders, which explains why its activities have, at best, been opaque. Since 2015 when he was sworn in, President Muhammadu Buhari has served as the substantive Minister of Petroleum Resources.

He borrowed a leaf from the book of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who tripled as a President, substantive Minister, and Minister of State for Petroleum Resources. Buhari had been magnanimous enough to always have a Minister of State until recently when the last occupant, Timipre Sylva, resigned to go and contest the Bayelsa State governorship primaries. So, the Tinubu administration will beam a searchlight on the corporation and ask Kyari many questions.

Among which is a recent report by the Senate that the NNPC failed to account for the delivery of crude oil amounting to N102 billion to Warri and Kaduna refineries. The Senate has urged the NNPC boss to provide specific details of the crude oil delivered to the two refineries for audit. Similarly, the House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee on Oil Theft has announced plans to investigate the alleged loss of over $2.4 billion in revenue from the illegal sale of 48 million barrels of crude oil export.

The committee was also tasked to investigate all crude oil exports and sales by Nigeria from 2014 to date regarding quantity, insurance, revenue generated, remittances into the federation account or other accounts, as well as utilisation of the income for the period under review.

Scant or non-remittances was the alibi of Godwin Emefiele, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, for the recent forexcrisis. In a report entitled “The Forex question in Nigeria: Fact sheet,” the CBN said there had been “zero-dollar remittance to the country’s foreign reserve by the NNPC.”

Earlier this week, the Northern Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) called for Kyari to step aside to allow for an unfettered probe by the House of Representatives into the alleged payment of N20 billion to a ghost consultant while also accusing the NNPC of manipulating the fuel subsidy regime, as seen during the acute fuel scarcity that lasted over six months.

A statement by the group’s president, Comrade Isa Abubakar, averred, “During the dark period, Nigerians were buying fuel at about 400 Naira per litre while the Federal Government spending on subsidy was skyrocketing. We are, therefore, urging the House of Representatives to probe the NNPC beyond the 20 billion naira contract scam.” While urging other civil society organizations to join them in the struggle to hold the NNPC accountable for its actions, the group threatened a massive civil protest if Kyari refused to step aside.

Source: The CAPITAL

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