Why former NNPC GMD was sacked

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By Ohia Israel

On Friday August 1, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation witnessed another sacking of its Group Managing Director, Dr Andrew Yakubu.

According to a report from a national daily (not DESERT HERALD) irreconcilable differences between the dropped Group Managing Director and Petroleum Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke, cost him his job.

Yakubu and the Managing Director of the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), Mr. Victor Briggs, were unceremoniously dumped recently by President Goodluck Jonathan who immediately appointed Dr. Joseph Thlama Dawha at NNPC and Mr. Anthony Ugonna Muoneke at NPDC as replacements.

It would be recalled that Yakubu was the fourth NNPC GMD to work with the minister in a space of four years. Sources within the NNPC axis hinted that the relationship between the former NNPC boss and the minister was dogged by disagreements on several issues in the running of the organisation.

As gathered, these issues were constant sack of highly-skilled professionals in the corporation who were trained by the federal government; sharp differences on policies affecting oil and gas industry; alienation of International Oil Companies (IOCs); opposition to the minister’s court action against the House of Representatives to stop the probe into alleged N10billion spent on chartered jet; non-availability of the minister when crucial decisions are required; and pile up of files on matters affecting the industry.

Meanwhile, one other source also told a national daily (not DESERT HERALD) that; “You know Yakubu, a northern minority, was the fourth to get the boot in four years. We had Barkindo, Ladan, Oniwon and the latest victim, Yakubu. What happened was that the immediate past GMD was uncomfortable with the recurring sack of competent hands in NNPC to satisfy some cronies. For instance, a former GED of the NNPC in charge of exploration, Abiye, was sacked after he fought spiritedly to reconcile accounts on alleged missing oil funds with ex-CBN Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.”

The source also alleged that several policy proposals made by Yakubu never sat well with the minister. “The ex-GMD was not happy that the IOCs are divesting in the oil sector although the minister does not see anything wrong with the development,” the source said. “Above all, the former GMD detested the idea of running after a minister with files when crucial decisions were to be taken. Instead of being mutually consultative, the minister will rather give an order on what should be done when it is technically obvious as defective. All the management staff owe the minister is “Yes madam.”

Yakubu was said to be opposed to the minister’s decision to take the House of Representatives to court on the alleged N10billion spent on chartered jet. His position was that the corporation should go and explain to the House and lay the facts bare. “Yakubu was thinking of what would become of NNPC after the exit of the minister. He said a constitutional body should be accountable for the system to flow well. The frequent travels of the minister also affected or delayed issues which ought to be treated on time. This created a cold war between the minister and the former GMD.”

Another source however said some management staff saw Yakubu’s sack coming. The source said: “I can recall that some management staff had recently asked him if all was well with the supervising minister, the former MD said: ‘I have met with the president and he told me he had no problem with me. I have done that more than three times.’ You can imagine our feelings when our worst fear was confirmed on Friday night.

“None of us was in the picture, not even the aides of the minister. We were all shocked because the former GMD did so much to put the refineries in good shape. He was also too loyal to the Minister of Petroleum Resources.” The source said: “Instability is gradually creeping into NNPC, we are losing good hands to incessant sacks. The development has created fears in all of us.”

However, analysts have continued to fault the removal of the Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Engineer Andrew Yakubu, as they said that it raises critical questions about the readiness of Mr. President to right the wrongs bedeviling the management of our nation’s oil resources.

According to an analyst, the Group Executive Director (GED), Exploration and Production of the NNPC, Mr. Abiye Membere, who was sacked at the heat of reconciling NNPC oil revenues in March, unfortunately became the first casualty of the perennial fuel subsidy scam which later metamorphosed into the non-remittance of $20billion into the Federation Account by the NNPC. Yet the Oil Sector today is highly enmeshed in monumental corruption which has reduced our nation’s economy to shambles.

“It is trite that if a football team is consistently failing, the Coach should be held responsible because players play according to his directives and for the team to be revived the coach necessarily has to go. Why continue to sack team members when the coach is the real problem? I want to urge you Mr. President to sack Diezani with the same speed with which you sacked Yakubu because Diezani is the one accused of spending N10billion to hire private jets and not the GMD. She is the one that has not been able to account for $20billion missing oil revenue. She is the one responsible for spending the nation’s oil revenue on fuel and Kerosene subsidy without National Assembly approval. Why sack the GMD and leave the Minister whose table the buck stops?” said the analyst.

Speaking further on why Diezani should be sacked rather than being retained, the analyst Queried: “Why is Diezani still being retained as Minister when up to five committee reports have indicted her? It is a pity that now that Mr. President felt it was time to act, his action again fell short of the genuine desires of Nigerians for a clean and transparent oil industry in Nigeria. It takes two to tangle, they say. No man can clap with one hand. If all the four GMDs that have been sacked were found to have fallen short of expectation, Diezani too must be vicariously liable as the team leader.

More so the analyst asked rhetorically; “Can any top official of the NNPC do anything without the express approval of the Minister?  Why not clean the mess in the oil sector once and for all? Mr. President, are you not aware that the international community is watching everything that is happening? Mr. President, please sack Diezani now and save our nation from international embarrassment.  The time to act is now!”

The sacking of the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation on the recommendation of the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, is reckless and unfair. Instead of building the NNPC into a strong institution, the organisation has become a ring for personality contest.

However, another industry analyst also posited in his summation that the sacking of Andrew Yakubu is a reckless one, as according to him the state-owned oil company has been barren and has not made a dime in profit since the country returned to democratic rule in 1999. The only reason this kind of incessant sackings would happen is either because the organisation has no institutional foundation or the Ministry of Petroleum Resources has failed as managers of our commonwealth.”

As he asked: “Why don’t we try sacking the board of the NNPC and the oversight ministry to see if subsequent GMDs will last and perform better or just wind down the NNPC, after all it has been an unprofitable venture of government? Restructuring an organisation almost annually is a simple stupid exercise if the institution is not founded. The NNPC lost its status as an institution even before 1999, and our priority as a nation should be solid reforms. The Petroleum Industry Bill, I thought, was a step in the right direction until politics got in the way.”

To him he believed that; “These “shock” strategies will not work and only serve to destroy the NNPC. There is a strong nexus between institutional development and economic prosperity. Little wonder the NNPC has become perhaps the biggest source of embarrassment to the Jonathan administration. I am too sure these sackings are to settle personal scores and not in the interest of the nation or Mr. President.”

Lending its voice to the sacking is also the All Progressives Congress in Kaduna State who knocked President Goodluck Jonathan over what it described as the ‘unceremonious removal’ of the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Mr. Andrew Yakubu.

Under the aegis of the APC Justice Forum, the party said it viewed the removal of the former GMD as the height of betrayal of the people of Kaduna State, especially the Southern Kaduna Senatorial District that stood firmly behind the PDP since 1999.

The Secretary of the APC Justice Forum, Mr. Mohammed Musa Soba, in a statement in Kaduna on Sunday, said the party was aware of a planned rally for President Jonathan which was slated for last Saturday without the involvement of the Vice President Namadi Sambo and the Kaduna State Governor, Mukhtar Yero, noting that the removal of the ex-NNPC boss had further exposed the PDP as a party of godfatherism.

‘The unceremonious removal of Yakubu has exposed the contradictions within the PDP political family in which godfatherism and negative political backstabbing have taken the centre stage against equity, fairness and sense of political decency.

‘No reason was adduced for Yakubu’s removal because none could be justified in view of the fact that Yakubu has one more year for his tenure to expire either by reason of reaching the mandatory 60 years of age or putting in 35 years in service.

‘The Kaduna APC Justice Forum therefore condemns the premature removal of the son of Kaduna State, Mr. Andrew Yakubu, which portrays the PDP as unjust and insensitive to the political solidarity and patronage it enjoys from the good people of Southern Kaduna,’ the forum said.

It will be recalled that running the NNPC and the Petroleum Ministry by the oil Minister Allison Madueke like her own personal estate didn’t start today. For instance in November, 2012 an online news website, International Center for Investigative Reporting, icir.Org, carried out an investigation in which the medium accused the Minister of running the  NNPC, oil ministry, like her personal estate.

The online medium in its report said that the Nigeria’s controversial oil minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke’s 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, a joint investigation by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting   and PREMIUM TIMES has shown.

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, meeting 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. 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 July. 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 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 her’s.

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, 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 complain 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. Attempts by icirnigeria.org to react to our story were unsuccessful. The public affairs manager of the NNPC, Fidel Pepple, who also doubles as the minister’s spokesman, refused to speak to us.

Our reporter spoke to Mr. Pepple last week and it was agreed that questions relating to the story be emailed to him. However, since last week, the minister’s spokesman has refused to respond to the e-mail or answer the questions.

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