THE Presidency has declared that the newly constituted board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is not lopsided in favour of the North just as it advised anyone not satisfied with the appointment of Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, Minister of State for Petroleum, as the board chairman to challenge it in court.
The NNPC Act provides that the post of the corporation’s chairman be occupied by the Minister of Petroleum Resources, who in this case is President Muhammadu Buhari. Kachikwu is the minister of state in the ministry.
There have been criticisms that Kachikwu is merely holding the fort for Buhari on the board because, according to the critics, the law does not support his appointment.
But reacting to the criticisms trailing the arrangement, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, told Saturday Tribune that Kachikwu was sworn in as a minister of the Federal Republic and a member of the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
When asked why he was the one to hold the post which the law expressly gave to the substantive minister, Shehu queried: “And the minister of state is not a minister?”
He further stated: “Well, the president calls them ministers and he appointed them ministers. They took their oath of office as ministers and members of the Federal Executive Council as far as we can see.
“If anybody has a problem with that, let them go to court.
“Whatever it is. As far as the federal cabinet is concerned, Kachikwu doesn’t sit on the back row.
“You yourself have entered the Council chamber, you know how all of them are. They are all considered members of the FEC. They are all members of the FEC.
“As I said, anybody that has any issue can go to court and seek clarification.”
Also reacting to criticism on the perceived lopsidedness of recent appointments made by President Buhari into key government institutions particularly the board of the NNPC, Shehu said that there was nothing wrong with the appointments.
According to him, the NNPC board has four persons appointed from the North and three from the South.
The NNPC board announced last Monday showed the Minister of State as chairman and Maikanti Kacalla Baru was named the new Group Managing Director (GMD) and a member of the board.
Other members are the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Finance, Alhaji Mahmoud Dutse; Chief of Staff to the president, Mallam Abba Kyari; Dr. Thomas M. A. John, Dr Pius O. Akinyelure, Dr Tajuddeen Umar, Mallam Mohammed Lawal, and Mallam Yusuf Lawal.
Shehu said people should be more concerned about the quality the appointees could bring into their jobs rather than about primordial attachments.
When asked to react to the criticism of the lopsided nature of Buhari’s appointments, he said:
“What is the lopsidedness there? Four from the North, three from the South in a seven-man committee. So, what is the lopsidedness there?
“What is the lopsidedness? Because it should have been four South and three North? It could have been that way.
“I think people should be looking at what are they contributing in a country, what quality are they bringing to the board not this primordial kind of attachment.
“However, for a board that there are three (South), four (North), there’s balance.”
When reminded that it was not just the NNPC board that was perceived to be lopsided, the presidential spokeman said he did not want to speculate.
“Even the number of states in the country is not balanced, 19 and 17,” he said alluding to the fact that there are 19 states in the North and 17 in the South.