The Presidency yesterday denied being under pressure from any quarters trying to resist the recent re-organisation of the corporation and remove the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources and Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Ibe Kachikwu .
Speaking with The Guardian yesterday on the alleged pressure, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, said nobody could pressurise President Muhammadu Buhari on anything.
“Nigerians know the kind of President they have. He is not a man anybody can pressurise or one who can succumb to pressure. It is not in his character. He knows what is good for the country and what is expected of him all the time,” he said.
The Presidency’s reaction came on the heels of the allegation that the recent re-organisation in NNPC by the minister didn’t come easy, as a Presidency source told The Guardian that some people with vested interests in the oil sector, some NNPC management staff and some in the corridors of power, who are benefitting from the status quo, had mounted pressure on the Presidency to back down on the restructuring plan.
According to the source who pleaded anonymity: “The President’s appointment of Kachikwu and the few reforms he has introduced, which include publication of the corporation’s monthly account, re-organisation of the management team and others, have not gone down well with the cabal in the oil sector and their fronts in the corporation, because it is no longer business as usual.
“That is why they are leaving no stone unturned in trying to sabotage the GMD’s efforts at sanitising and repositioning the Corporation for effective operations.”
“When the cabal, made of up of the oil players, the workers and their godfathers, got a hint that the corporation’s management team, led by the GMD, had made a strong proposal to the Presidency for the urgent restructuring of the corporation, they quickly moved in and mounted undue pressure on the Presidency not to accede to the proposal.”
“The cabal approached some highly-placed Nigerians, who also have deep interest in the oil sector, to appeal to the President to back down on the proposal. They even tried to convince the Presidency to appoint a new GMD for the corporation, arguing that Kachikwu cannot function effectively in the two positions at the same time.”
“The cabal had also suggested a senior staff of the corporation as Kachikwu’s possible replacement.
“But to their disappointment, the Presidency resisted and acceded to Kachikwu’s re-organisation plan, arguing that since he assumed office, he has shown professionalism and transparency in running the affairs of the corporation,” the source disclosed.
The Guardian also learnt that the same senior management staff of the corporation might have engineered the strike action embarked upon by oil workers across the country on Thursday in protest against the re-organisation.
According to a staff of the corporation: “The strike was embarked upon following pressure from the senior management staff, who were afraid that with the re-organisation, they may soon lose their jobs.”
“The workers were divided over the strike. While some were in support of it, others were against it. That was why at the Lagos, Apapa facilities of the corporation, workers were at work on Thursday while the strike was on.
“The leaderships of the unions were aware of the division among the workers over the strike before it was called off.”
“Ordinarily, NNPC workers, especially the junior ones, who are in the majority, have never and can never embark on strike on their own, no matter the circumstances. It is only when they are being engineered by the management staff that they can embark on strike.”
“Majority of the workers are in support of the re-organisation, because it will create opportunity for them to grow in the job, having been static and redundant for years without promotion and defined responsibilities,” the staff said.
Speaking on the development, former president of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and immediate past president-general of Trade Union Congress (TUC), Peter Esele, said the restructuring is largely unprecedented in the history of the NNPC and would surely set a pathway for new national oil policy in the country.
“Kachikwu, his team and the Presidency have scored another first in the sector with this rare feat. It is long overdue, but the political will have been lacking in the past. It is good for the country’s oil sector.”
“Even the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) recommended the restructuring of the NNPC in line with the international best practice. There is no better time to implement the plan than now.”
“The management of the corporation should try to carry all stakeholders in the oil sector along through effective communication, transparency and cordial relationship.”
“They should take the corporation’s workers into confidence and assured the workers of job security,” he stated.
On the alleged pressure on the Presidency to resist the restructuring and remove the GMD, Esele said if it is true, such is not necessary at this point, because the corporation needs such re-organisation.
“The corporation and the government should not end up in announcing the plan; they should ensure that it is implemented to the letter. We have always had good policies in this country, but proper and effective implementations have always been a problem,” Esele said.
On the National Assembly’s position that the re-organisation was illegal, Esele said the issues concerning NNPC has to do more with executive functions, stressing the need for both National Assembly and the Executive to collectively look at the genuine concerns of the major stakeholders in the oil sector.
But the president of PENGASSAN, Francis Johnson, said it was not possible for the union to be used by anybody or group.
“If they were being sponsored, the strike would still be on. But after we had a meeting, we suspended it. If they were being sponsored, they would have asked for total reversal or nothing. We cannot be sponsored by any group. For what?”