Irreconcilable differences between Andrew Yakubu, who was on Friday dropped as Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), and Petroleum Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke, cost the former his job, it has been revealed.
Yakubu and the Managing Director of the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), Mr. Victor Briggs, were unceremoniously dumped via a statement by President Goodluck Jonathan, who immediately appointed Dr Joseph Thlama Dawha at NNPC and Mr. Anthony Ugonna Muoneke at NPDC as replacements.
Yakubu is the fourth NNPC GMD to work with the minister in a space of four years.
Many staff of the NNPC remained shell shocked at the development yesterday, a few weeks after Yakubu reportedly told them that he had the confidence of the President.
Industry sources in Abuja disclosed that the relationship between the former NNPC boss and the minister was dogged by disagreements on several issues.
These include 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 N10 billion spent on chartered jet; non-availability of the minister when crucial decisions are required; and pile up of files on matters affecting the industry.
An NNPC source familiar with the situation said: “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. His position was that sycophancy should not be the basis for appointments in the corporation.
“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. There were so many cases like that in the last four years.”
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.”
It was learnt that the minister has been having a running battle with Engineer Yakubu, especially following the various probes by the National Assembly, which project the NNPC as being corrupt. The last straw that broke the camel’s back was the N10 billion private jet hire outcry. It was learnt that Engineer Yakubu refused to approve the renewal of the jet hire contract, hence the minister insisted on his removal.
Dr Mohammed Sanusi Barkindo, who was GMD when the minister took over in April 2010, was the first casualty, the same April, in the incumbent Petroleum Minister’s regime. Although, as in the latest removal the Presidency didn’t offer any reason for Barkindo’s sack, the talk in the industry was that he was considered too close to his former boss, the late Rilwanu Lukman, who died last month.
In ousting Barkindo, President Jonathan brought back Mallam Shehu Ladan who had earlier been retired in April 2009 from the NNPC. But within just a month of his arrival, Mallam Ladan got his exit letter. Government didn’t bother to give reason for the shock sack. The buzz in the industry this time was that Mrs Alison-Medueke didn’t feel comfortable working with Ladan.
Austen Oniwon was next to be appointed the GMD under her, in May 2010. Oniwon was a little luckier than his two immediate predecessors because the Petroleum Resources minister asked him, with the support of the President, to remain in office even after his retirement age.
Eventually, he was sacked two years later and replaced by Engineer Andrew Yakubu in June 2012. Yakubu was celebrated by the Presidency when he was appointed. In the press release to announce his appointment, the President, through Abati, said that Yakubu’s appointment was “to further strengthen the ongoing reforms and transformation of Nigeria’s petroleum sector, and in furtherance of efforts to achieve greater transparency and accountability in government.”
Yakubu had not been in office for long when the talk began to circulate that there was no love lost between him and the Petroleum Resources minister. A report said though the two shared offices in the same building, they wouldn’t see each other for days. Sources said Yakubu had not been cooperating with some of Alison-Madueke’s demands, and had long submitted his name for sack to the President.
Although under Yakubu’s two-year administration, the NNPC had gone through series of challenges that threatened its integrity and accountability, many staffers of the Corporation commended his doggedness and concern to their welfare, and his insistence on due process in the management of the affairs of the Corporation.
One source said although some management staff saw Yakubu’s sack coming, the ex-GMD dismissed such assumption.
It was gathered that some management staff had been tipped off that the Minister was uncomfortable with the ex-GMD anymore.
Such managers reportedly raised the issue with the former GMD but he refused to move to stop the sack.
He was said to have told his informants that President Jonathan had repeatedly assured him that his job was safe.
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 also said: “Instability is gradually creeping into NNPC, we are losing good hands to incessant sack. The development has created fears in all of us.”
As Dr Dahwa steps in as the new NNPC GMD, industry stakeholders are watching with bated breath to see for how long he would be able to cope with the oily intrigues there. With some analysts linking Yakubu’s removal and the installation of a replacement to issue of funds as the general elections come up next year, Dahwa’s major challenge may well just be how to judiciously manage the Corporation’s funds.
Source News Express