Card Shuffling at NNPC

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Yakubu

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Federal government’s continued silence on why Andrew Yakubu, group managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, was eased out of his position has left room for media speculations

By Vincent Nzemeke  |  Aug. 25, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT

THE sacking of Andrew Yakubu, former group managing director, GMD, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, by President Goodluck Jonathan has continued to generate reactions in the oil and gas sector. Yakubu was replaced by Joseph Dawha as the new GMD while Anthony Muoneke was appointed the new managing director, Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, NPDC, which is a subsidiary of the NNPC.

Muoneke is to replace Victor Briggs who occupied the position previously. Also appointed was Aisha Abdurrahman as the group executive director, commercial and investment, while Attahiru Yusuf, formerly group executive director, commerce and investments, takes over from her as group executive director, business development, NNPC.

The announcement of the change of guards by Reuben Abati, special adviser to the president on media and publicity, on August 1, did not give any reason for the action thereby leaving the door open for speculations.

Feelers from close sources reveal that Yakubu was shown the exit door due to a crack in his relationship with Diezani Alison-Madueke, minister of petroleum resources. The relationship between the former GMD and the minister had been strained to the extent that she wanted him eased out of the corporation. Some media reports claimed that their relationship turned sour after the revelation that the NNPC spent about N10 billion to charter private aircraft for the minister. The reports said Alison-Madueke had felt very uncomfortable with the way the NNPC under Yakubu handled the controversial N10 billion jet scandal and had since then resolved to streamline her official relationship with the former NNPC boss.

Dawha
Dawha

The reports added that Yakubu’s opposition to the minister’s court action to stop the House of Representatives probe into the alleged N10 billion spent on chartered jet was what signalled the death knell for him. He was of the opinion that rather than dragging the lawmakers to court, the NNPC and the minister should appear before the probe panel to    explain the facts regarding the allegations. It was learnt that Yakubu also refused to approve the renewal of the jet hire contract, hence the minister insisted on his removal.

Long before the private jet scandal, Yakubu and the minister were said to have also disagreed on issues such as the relentless dismissal of highly-skilled professionals in the corporation who were trained by the federal government. Besides, there were said to be sharp differences between them on policies affecting the oil and gas industry, alienation of international oil companies, IOCs, and the non-availability of the minister at crucial meetings where important decisions were to be taken.

One NNPC staff who pleaded anonymity told an Abuja based newspaper that: “I think the handwriting had been conspicuously on the wall for some time now. Our boss (Yakubu) has been schemed out. He no longer had control over policy decisions at the NNPC and in most cases, instructions are passed over his head to his subordinates,” the source said.

When the news of the breakdown in the relationship between Yakubu and Allison-Madueke was first reported in the media, Ohi Alegbe, group general manager, public affairs division, NNPC, dismissed the reports as mere fabrications. He assured that as chairman of the NNPC board of directors, Allison-Madueke had a cordial relationship with everyone including, Yakubu and that both of them had been working together.

One contentious issue Yakubu was said not to be comfortable with, was the disagreement between the NNPC and the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, over alleged unremitted $49.8 billion crude oil revenue. A lot of Nigerians are yet to be convinced about the  exact amount that was said to be  missing in the corporation although the Senate Committee on Finance had cleared the air on the issue.

Some analysts have also linked Yakubu’s removal and his replacement by Dawha as a strategic political move towards the 2015 general elections. They believe that with Yakubu’s tough stance on the judicious use of the corporation’s funds, he may not play to the tune of making oil money available for the elections which the NNPC has always been used as a conduit pipe to fund.

Yakubu is the fourth NNPC boss to work with Alison-Madueke as minister in a space of four years. Before his appointment in July 2012, Austen Oniwon, his predecessor, was sacked in the wake of the fuel subsidy scandal. After his assumption of office, Yakubu was said to have worked to maintain the production capacity at an average level of about 2.3 million barrels per day despite the challenges of pipeline vandalism.

Other achievements credited to him include the successful completion of the divestment processes and assignment of equity to the NPDC, the upstream subsidiary of the Corporation, and the completion of Seismic Processing Centre in Port Harcourt by  IDSL as well as the successful restoration of operations at the Warri Refining and Petrochemical Company, WRPC, after a two-year closure.

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