The Petroleum Tanker Drivers’ branch of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas, (NUPENG) has described the ongoing supremacy battle between the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu and the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, (NNPC) Dr Maikanti Baru, as diversionary and deeply political, and therefore called for caution.
Kachikwu in a letter addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari dated August 30, 2017, which was leaked to the press accused Dr Baru of excluding him and the Board of the NNPC in the management of the strategic corporation.
The Minister of State for Petroleum who incidentally is the chairman of the NNPC Board accused Dr Baru of deliberate violation of due process in the award of contracts in the Corporation.
Reacting to the development in a statement signed on Friday, National chairman of the union, Comrade Salmon Oladiti, warned against unnecessary politicization and promotion of certain entrenched interests in the oil industry, both in the upstream and downstream sectors, to the detriment of the nation.
Oladiti declared that individuals not comfortable with certain monumental achievements of the NNPC GMD have been working to create confusion in the industry to ensure that Baru was sacked from office.
Oladiti specifically mentioned the ongoing resuscitation of the NNPC depots across the country by Baru, which he noted were dismissed as obsolete by previous management of the industry before Dr Baru assumed office.
The NUPENG chairman further submitted that private individuals not comfortable with the refurbishment of the NNPC depots and were smarting to buy the national assets and ultimately turn them to private depots were behind the orchestrated plot to paint the GMD, NNPC in bad light in the eyes of President Buhari.
He said: “Our stand is that we are in support of what he has been doing, especially in the downstream sector.
“What Dr Baru has been doing is in the interest of Nigeria and our union and the larger downstream sector as a whole.
“Before Dr Baru came on board, there were move to privatise all the depots into private hands. Petroleum marketers and other stakeholders, we were being told that the depots were decrepit and could no longer function.
“Their mission was to privatise all the depots in the country into private hands. Those administering the corporation before him were empowering their cronies in the private depots. Since Dr Baru assumed office as GMD, NNPC, he said all these depots are national assets and must be made to work.
“Nigerians can all see that he has started bringing them to life again. Yesterday, (Wednesday) he was in Ibadan depot and the depot is alive now. He started from Ejigbo depot in Lagos. That depot and the one in Aba is loading now. Mosimi depot in Ogun state is loading now.
“As we speak, Kano is loading and Baru will soon re-commission Ilorin depot. He has said that before the end of the year, he will make sure that he makes Ore depot and Enugu depots functional again.
“Millions of Nigerians are praying for him. All these depots were comatose before and the GMD, NNPC is bringing them back to life and somebody is complaining that he is not being carried along.
“The PTD branch of NUPENG under my leadership, we are hundred percent in support of the leadership of Dr Baru and his team.
“Now, our members can lift petroleum products with ease at depots owned by NNPC in their respective states without coming long distance to Lagos to experience the trauma of traffic congestion and harassment by security agents and area boys.’’
Oladiti advised President Buhari to ignore the wailings of those pursuing private interest under the guise of national interest. He expressed concern that the relief being enjoyed by his members who have to travel long distance across the country to load petroleum products at private depots in Lagos were about to be aborted by those he called the anti-Baru elements in the strategic but volatile industry.