By ADEBAYO OBAJEMU
Ever since the reconstitution of the Board of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation by President Muhammadu Buhari, there has been a lot of controversy on the legality of the appointments. According to the NNPC Act, the stipulated number of persons for the Board membership is only six as against nine appointed by the president.
Many legal luminaries have warned that there may be litigations and that the Board’s decision may be set aside. Mr Femi Falana, SAN, a prominent human rights lawyer has criticised the constitution of the former Board by the president for not only violating the NNPC Act, with nine members instead of six but also for violating the Federal Character Commission (Establishment) Act of 1995. In the latest constitution, he has also raised some concern.
Like Job, SAN, a Kaduna-based barrister told BusinessHallmark that what the President has done concerning the constitution of the Board of the oil giant “amounts to illegality.”
“Remember Section 2(1) stated that the affairs of the corporation “shall, subject to Part II of this Act, be conducted by a Board of Directors of the corporation which shall consist of a chairman and the other members.”
Evident in section 2(1a-c), the Act lists other members to include a) the Director-General, Federal Ministry of Finance and Economic Development; b) the Managing Director of the Corporation; c) three persons to be appointed by the National Council of Ministers.” He insisted until the Act is amended, what the president has done is a nullity in law.
Nwankwo Odeh of Nwankwo & Ademola chambers told this newspaper that if “there is any legal challenge there will be a problem because President’s Buhari’s decision is not recognised in law, the only recognition is an infraction of NNPC Act.”
In the official website of the corporation seen by this newspaper eight members of the new Board were listed as the members of the NNPC Board of Directors apart from the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva. According to the NNPC website, the NNPC Board is headed by the former NNPC GMD, Dr Thomas M.A. John and constitutes seven other members.
Following the exit of former Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr Ibe Kachikwu on June 27, 2019, Buhari appointed John as the acting alternate chairman of the NNPC Board of Directors. But the website has yet to provide information that shows Sylva as the alternate chairman of the NNPC Board of Directors following his appointment as Minister of State.
As shown on the website, other members of the management Board include the NNPC Group Managing Director, Malam Mele Kyari; Chief of Staff to the President; Mallam Abba Kyari; Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Finance, Alhaji Mahmoud Isa Dutse; Dr Pius O. Akinyelure; Dr Tajuddeen Umar; Mallam Mohammed Lawal and Mallam Yusuf Lawal.
Apart from violating the NNPC Act, the board also comprises three members from North-east, two from South-south, one from North-central and two from North-west in violation of the Federal Character Commission (Establishment) Act, 1995.
The representation is as follows: Timipre Sylva (South-south), Thomas John (South-south), Mele Kyari (North-east), Abba Kyari (North-east), Tajudden Umar (Northeast), Isa-Dutse (North Central), Mohammed Lawal (North-west), Yusuf Lawal (North-west) and Dr Pius O. Akinyelure (South-west).
By implication, the Board’s composition breaches the Federal Character (Establishment) Commission Act, which seeks to promote, monitor and enforce compliance with the principles of the proportional sharing of all bureaucratic, economic, media and political posts at all levels of government.
However, Falana acknowledged that the president had by the new appointments addressed the issue of geographical imbalance in the former board. He said unlike the previous board, which had six members from the North as against three from the South, there were now five members from the North and four from the South, with every geopolitical zone represented.
According to Falana, “The reconstitution of the NNPC board is a partial response to the allegation of ethnic imbalance in breach of the Federal Character Commission Act. It is partial in the sense that the Buhari administration may be said to have complied with Section 14 (3) of the Constitution, which provides that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or a few ethnic or other sectional groups in the composition of the government and its agencies.
“But by excluding women and oil workers from the board, the composition of the administration cannot be said to have complied with Section 42 of the Constitution and Article 2 of the African Charter Act which has prohibited discrimination based on sex or class.
“However, it is pertinent to point out that previous regimes had illegally constituted the NNPC board with nine members. If the administration had decided to retain the nine-member board, it has to take urgent steps to stop the impunity by requesting the National Assembly to amend Section 1 of the NNPC Act as it has established a six-member board.”
He said unlike the previous board, which had six members from the North as against three from the South, there were now five members from the North and four from the South, with every geopolitical zone represented.
The recent reorganization in the apex oil agency equally sparked concern of discrimination and domination by a section of the country. The Pan Niger Delta Forum decried the appointments which saw 20 out of 23 top positions in the organization occupied by the north.
Besides the board, PANDEF listed 20 management positions held by northerners in NNPC to include Group Managing Director (GMD), Mele Kyari; Chief Finance Officer, Finance and Accounts, Umar Ajiya; Chief Operating Officer, Gas and Power, Yusuf Usman; Chief Operating Officer, Corporate Services, Farouk Garba Sa’id; Chief Operating Officer, Refining and Petrochemicals, Mustapha Yakubu; Corporate Secretary/Legal Adviser to the Corporation, Hadiza Coomassie; GGM, International Energy Relations, IER, Omar Ibrahim; GGM, Renewable Energy, Kallamu Abdullahi; GGM, Governance Risk and Compliance, Ibrahim Birma; and GGM, NAPIMS, Bala Wunti.
Others are MD, NNPC Shipping, Inuwa Waya; MD, Pipelines and Product Marketing, PPMC, Musa Lawan; MD, Nigeria Petroleum Development Company, NPDC, Mansur Sambo; MD, Duke Oil/NNPC Trading Company, Lawal Sade; MD, Port Harcourt Refining Company, Malami Shehu; MD, Warri Refining and Petrochemical Company, Muhammed Abah; MD, Nigeria Gas Marketing Company, Abdulkadir Ahmed; MD, Nigeria Gas and Power Investment Company Limited, Salihu Jamari; MD, NNPC Medical Services, Mohammed Zango; and Director, Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, Sarki Auwalu.