BY OUR CORRESPONDENT
Diezani Alison-Madueke, Nigeria’s controversial Minister of petroleum resources management style, which is disrupting the governance structure of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, is causing concern in the state oil giant and the industry, joint investigations have sown
The powerful oil minister has rendered some administrative structures and personnel, including the position of permanent secretary, redundant with her penchant for using personal assistants in her office to conduct high level official duties.
Mrs Alison – Madueke rules the rich oil ministry like a personal estate, with lax work ethics, ignoring laid down rules and procedures and bypassing hierarchical order to achieve her goals.In the process, staff of the corporation allege, the minister has compromised professionalism and undermined discipline.
One of the most worrisome of the minister’s disruptions in the oil ministry is her style of working from home. Mrs Alison – Madueke has developed a knack for working mainly from her official residence in Asokoro District in Abuja, visiting the office only very infrequently.Even a perfunctory observation of activities at her residence shows that she runs things from there as the ceaseless activity and security presence show.
It was gathered that the minister goes to her office at the NNPC headquarters in the Central Business District in Abuja mainly on Wednesdays, after the Federal Executive Council, FEC, or when she has to meet foreign dignitaries or important Nigerian oil industry executives.
Concerned sources confided that because of her ‘operate from home policy’, she forces a lot of ministry – related meetings to be held in her house, thus disrupting official schedules of key personnel.
She holds such meetings up to three or four times a week in her residence, usually making key personnel, including the group managing director of the NNPC, and even whole departments of the corporation, to relocate to her house.
Many of the senior staff of the oil corporation who are forced to attend such meetings are fed up with the situation but dare not complain about it.
Apart from the administrative toll and man hour lost to having to move the corporations operations to her house, even more burdensome is the financial cost of the minister’s decision to operate from home. Each time she holds her usually big meetings in the house, the minister gets the catering department of the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja to serve a buffet.Our enquiries indicate that the hotel does not engage in such outdoor catering services for a client with less than 50 guests at a time.
With a total of three or four meetings a week, by our calculations, the minister spends between N2.5 million to N4million on food and drinks weekly on official meetings held at her residence. In a month, that costs between N10 million to N 16 million. And in a year, Mrs Alison – Madueke blows between N120 million and N192 million on such indelicate culinary extravagance. The bills are entirely picked up by the NNPC, meaning that the burden for such mindless spending is borne by Nigerian tax payers.
Another worrisome aspect of the minister’s style is her utter disregard of rules, guidelines and official protocols and procedures, bordering on highhandedness. Nothing more aptly explains this than her employment of Eric Ufo as a senior special adviser/consultant.
Mr. Ufo is the oil minister major domo, a veritable man Friday who does all kinds of odd jobs for his principal. With no experience in the oil and gas industry, his employment has all the ingredients of Diezani-Madueke’s disdain for administrative rules and protocols.
The minister initially signed on Mr. Ufo on as special adviser. However, out of the blues, she changed his engagement and rather engaged the services of the young man’s company to offer consultancy services for a fee of N37 million annually. This bill was hung on the NNPC, though Mr. Ufo in practice, works for and ought to be paid by the petroleum ministry.
As if the controversies surrounding his employment were not enough, Mr. Ufo has become a tin god in the oil corporation, calling the shots and undermining the positions of senior management staff, including the group managing director to whom he routinely issues directives.
Information by sources inside the NNPC show that Mr. Ufo, bandying the minister’s name around, tried his executive high handedness with former group managing director of the corporation, Austen Oniwon, who rebuffed him.
The former GMD is said to have seriously warned the special adviser to the minister never to write him directly but through proper channels, which is to go through the minister’s office.
Using his closeness with the minister, Mr. Ufo subsequently caused some tension between the oil giant’s chief executive and the oil minister, which persisted until the former was replaced in June.
However, the new GMD of the NNPC is said to be less assertive, thus allowing Mr. Ufo to have more than an elbow room to interfere in the daily running of the corporation.
A classic example of the enormity of the power Mr. Ufo now wields on account of being “madam’s errand boy”, is his overriding of the routine directive to transfer an employee of the NNPC from one department to the other.
The employee, Uzoh Ejidoh, had been sanctioned for some misdemeanor and transferred from the public affairs department to the human resources department; but Mr. Ufo overrode the transfer directive and instructed that she should instead be transferred to his office, a directive that was immediately carried out.
Ms. Ejidoh was employed in 2005 into the public affairs department of NNPC on grade SS 3 having claimed to have had some experience. It was gathered that NNPC employs two categories of staff at this level – fresh from school, for new graduates who are placed on grade SS6 and experienced higher for persons with at least five to 10 years’ experience who come in on level SS3. It is said that it takes about 10 to 15 years to move from SS6 to SS3.
A few years into her employment, Ms. Ejidoh wrote a petition to the corporation’s human resources department complaining that she was not properly graded. This, she did, after some other persons with longer years of experience had been employed and placed on SS 2, higher than hers’
Investigations into her work history however revealed to the management that having graduated only a couple of years before her employment, she did not possess the experience she claimed before she was hired.
Rather than elevate her above those she complained had been wrongfully promoted above her, she was demoted to SS 5 and redeployed from public affairs to human resources department. However, former head of the public affairs department, Livi Ajuonuma, who died in the Dana air crash in June, refused to release her.
However, after Mr. Ajuonuma died, Ms. Ejidoh ingratiated herself with Mr. Ufo, the minister’s trusted and powerful aide, who got her transferred to the minister’s office to work under him. To effect Ms. Ejidoh’s transfer, Mr. Ufo actually brazenly and against all rules of hierarchy and protocol, wrote a memo to the GMD of NNPC requesting him to redeploy her to the minister’s office where she now works with and reports to the special adviser.
Many senior management staff of the corporation are angry at the manner Mr. Ufo goes about dropping the minister’s name to get favours, but they are scared to complaining because of the young man’s closeness to his boss.
Another evidence of Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s high handedness and absolute disregard for rules is her employment of domestic staff on the bill of the NNPC. The minister has a retinue of domestic staff who work in her residence. Ordinarily, with her position as minister, she is allowed about two domestic workers in her residence. But Mrs. Alison-Madueke has several domestic staff. Rather than pay them from her pocket, she found a way to include them on the payroll of the NNPC.
Apart from this, the flamboyant minister also has a penchant for travelling abroad with her retinue of personal aides, including several domestic staff. When she goes on her frequent foreign trips, the NNPC is made to pay for the flight tickets and accommodation of these domestic staff.
What is more, she also makes the corporation pay estacode to the domestic servants each time she travels abroad. The public affairs manager of the NNPC, Fidel Pepple, who also doubles as the minister’s spokesman, refused to speak to us. Also, reminder text messages sent to him were ignored.