By Clara Nwachukwu
LAGOS — The Presidency has clarified that holding two positions is constitutional, as contained in the code of conduct for public office holders and has also been clarified by the Supreme Court.
This came as stakeholders expressed fears of the possibility of a conflict of interests as the Group Managing Director, GMD, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, was also appointed the Minister of State for Petroleum.
Being both the minister and NNPC chief executive, Kachikwu is also a regulator as well as an operator, a development that is happening for the first time in the history of Nigeria.
Although former President Goodluck Jonathan had allegedly tried to do a similar thing with former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, but could not, a situation that saw the quick succession of many NNPC GMDs.
The major concern of stakeholders is how Kachikwu will be regulated as the GMD NNPC, since he is also the minister and how NNPC default can be checked.
A former NNPC group executive director, GED, who spoke in confidence with Vanguard on the telephone said while there is nothing wrong with the appointments, he however expressed concern on how Kachikwu will manage the conflicts that will arise.
According to him, “if the NNPC GMD should become the Minister of State, that is fine, but the only issue is, how will he manage the conflict? This is because I don’t see how the current Director of DPR (Department of Petroleum Resources) will now regulate NNPC and the GMD, who is also the minister. That is really the issue. If you’re the regulator, and you’re the commercial, if NNPC defaults, who will DPR write to?”
In terms of conflict with NNPC venture partners, he argued that there may not be conflict of interest as long as Kachikwu delegates some powers. “He can give the mandate of the management of the JV assets to NAPIMS (National Petroleum Investment Management Services) and stays within that ambit. In case of any variation in contracts, it will end at the GED E&P (Exploration and Production),” he said.
Constitutionality of positions
But coming in defence of President Muhammadu Buhari’s action in vesting the two positions in one person, a Presidency source, who spoke with Vanguard on condition of anonymity, said there is nothing illegal about the action.
He said: “It is very constitutional and contained in the code of conduct for public officers. The only circumstance under which you cannot hold two offices is if you are a civil servant and holding two civil servant posts.
“The Supreme Court in Lawal’s case has drawn a distinction between public servant and civil servant. You can hold a public servant position, which is what the NNPC GMD position is and at the same time hold a civil servant position, which is what the Minister of State is.”
No double salaries
Furthermore, the source defended that the President’s action is also a cost-cutting measure, as he explains: “You cannot hold two civil servant positions, and the rule is you cannot collect salaries from any of those two positions even when you hold the positions. As long as there is a substantive minister, there is no conflict because the total power in the Petroleum decree is harvested in the Petroleum Minister, not in the Minister of State; he has no powers under the jurisdiction of the constitution.
“The whole executive power is harvested in the President, which is why he can afford to appoint one person as Minister of Works, Housing, etc. So if the executive powers are vested in him, he can decide how those powers can be applied at any given juncture. So, in this instance, there is no conflict of interest. But I think a major conflict will arise, if for example, Kachikwu is the substantive minister and still the GMD of NNPC. That is the law.”
Practicality of positions
With regard to the practicality of executing the two positions, the Presidency source noted that it will not be perpetual.
According to him, “the whole essence of what he (President) is trying to achieve is that, remember they started a transformation of the NNPC in the last three months. I think what he is trying to do is to let Kachikwu complete that process for successful transition. I don’t think this will be a perpetual combination, after which he will appoint a substantive minister.”
Delegation of powers
Speaking specifically on Kachikwu as Minister of State for Petroleum, other industry operators argued that his success with the ministry will depend on how much work he is given to do by the President, who is keeping the ministry to himself.
While saying that the portfolios are not particularly exciting, a former Director, DPR, the industry regulator, Mr. Tony Chukwueke, expressed the oil and gas industry’s support for Kachikwu.
According to him, “Kachikwu is one of the few hopes that we have on the lists, and we (operators) are going to support him in very way. This is because he is an industry person; he understands what needs to be done in terms of the reform needed in the industry.”
Similarly, Managing Director/Chief Executive, Arco Group Nigeria, Mr. Alfred Okoigun, noted that being an industry man, Kachikwu, who just transited from the Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, will be able to proffer policies the President can buy into.
Convergence of infrastructure
With regard to the pooling of Power, Works and Housing under one ministry headed by Mr. Babatunde Fashola, the Chairman, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, power industry regulator, Dr. Sam Amadi, does not see anything wrong in the pooling of “strange bed fellows.”
In Amadi’s opinion, “I don’t see anything wrong with it at all because for me it is a convergence of infrastructure. Power has to do with social infrastructure, same thing with works and housing, and all that is needed to manage them is high level of direction.”
“For me, Fashola is probably one of the very few Nigerians with the capacity to manage issues well, and what has been lacking in the power sector is proper management and execution of policies. Most of the core policy issues in power were overlooked and all we’ve done as a regulator has not yielded much fruits like the gas for power, metering and the rest as a result of policy.”
Also vouching for Fashola’s capacity, the Chairman, Egbin Power Plc, Mr. Kola Adesina, argued that “Fashola knows what infrastructure development is all about, judging by what he did in Lagos. So he has the capacity to handle his portfolios well; what he needs to do is to sit down with stakeholders to assess what needs to be done and how to go about it.”
But the Managing Director of Eko Electricity Distribution Company, Mr. Oladele Amoda, insisted that the pooling of three ministries into one, may be more than Fashola can handle.
In his opinion, “I don’t consider it (pooling ministries) workable; let’s wait and see how it works out. The minister will have his hands full because all the units under his portfolio are very wide, and it is no child’s play. So in the long run, they (government) may cry out for help and end up ridiculing themselves because of the enormity of what is involved.”