The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to suspend Maikanti Baru, group managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
In a statement on Thursday, Adetokunbo Mumuni, SERAP’s executive director said the manner in which Buhari handle the allegations against Baru would determine his commitment to fighting corruption.
Ibe Kachikwu, minister of state for petroleum resources had written a petition to Buhari over the alleged insubordination of Baru and issuance of contracts without due consultation with the NNPC board.
SERAP asked Buhari to refer the allegations to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) for investigation.
It added that Baru should be placed on suspension pending when the anti-graft agencies came up with a report on their findings, so as “not to create the impression that your government is treating Mr Baru as a sacred cow.”
“SERAP is concerned that years of systemic corruption within the NNPC and looting of Nigeria’s natural resources have had uneven consequences against the vulnerable groups of the society, including the poor, women and children, perpetrating and institutionalizing discrimination, and jeopardising the needs and well-being of future generations,” the statement read.
“The allegations by Dr Kachikwu constitute grave breaches of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Act of 2000; and the UN Convention against Corruption (UNAC) which Nigeria recently ratified.
“In particular, the UN convention against corruption imposes clear obligations on Nigeria to investigate allegations of corruption such as the present one; prosecute suspected perpetrators and ensure return and repatriation of proceeds of corruption.
“If left unaddressed, the allegations by Dr Kachikwu have the potential of undermining your government’s expressed commitment to returning Nigeria to the path of transparency and accountability.
“SERAP believes that Mr Baru’s case presents your administration with yet another rare opportunity to reassure a lot of Nigerians who may be worried about the direction of travel of your anti-corruption agenda.
“Rather than keeping silent on the matter, we advise you to use this case to show to Nigerians that no form of corruption will be tolerated in the NNPC under your watch.
“SERAP also believes the recommended approach would help to address the growing public suspicion and pessimism about your government’s ability to fight high-level official corruption to a standstill, and to avoid any collateral consequences.
“It is absolutely important that the public should have complete confidence and trust in your administration’s oft-repeated commitment to fight corruption and the impunity of perpetrators.
“We urge you not to allow the allegations against Mr Baru go the way of past inconclusive investigations of allegations of massive corruption within the NNPC.”
The senate has set up an ad hoc committee to probe the allegations against Baru.