Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has been named in the oil contracts scandal rocking the Ministry of Petroleum Resources through the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Premium Times reports that NNPC spokesman, Ndu Ughamadu, in a text message on Wednesday afternoon said “Acting President Yemi Osinbajo gave the approval” for the two oil contracts worth N640 billion.
But for the ensuing 10 hours, Mr. Osinbajo’s office could not confirm or counter the NNPC’s claim despite repeated requests from Premium Times.
Mr. Ughamadu’s declaration comes hours after the online newspaper highlighted a critical aspect of a Monday morning statement by the NNPC which suggested that the state-run oil giant had received presidential approvals for at least two contract awards (worth $1.8 billion) during the time President Muhammadu Buhari was on medical leave in London.
In the statement NNPC issued in response to Kachikwu’s allegations, the oil corportion said it received presidential approvals for two oil contracts on July 10 and July 31 worth $1 billion and $780 million, respectively.
NEWSPEAKONLINE recalls that Osinbajo, as Acting Preaident, paid an impromptu visit to Buhari in London on July 11.
SaharaReporters on July 13, reported that Attorney General of the Federation, secretly visited Buhari on July 10 in order to sabotage Osinbajo’s intended visit the next day.
According to Premium Times, when the NNPC was contacted to clarify whether the approvals were granted by Mr. Buhari while on his sickbed in London, the agency’s spokesperson declined to clarify, saying “presidential approval is presidential approval.”
The report reads further:
“When PREMIUM TIMES reminded him of potential legal implications of Mr. Buhari exercising presidential powers even when he had relinquished same in accordance with the constitution, Mr. Ughamadu dug his heels in.
“Presidential approval is presidential approval,” the spokesperson insisted.
President Buhari’s spokespersons, Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu, also declined to comment on their principal’s role in the contract saga when contacted on Tuesday.
But hours after the story was published, Mr. Ughamadu contacted PREMIUM TIMES to say that it was Mr. Osinbajo who gave the presidential approvals for the contracts.
Yet Laolu Akande, spokesperson for Mr. Osinbajo, could not corroborate the NNPC’s assertion for about 10 hours on Wednesday after he was contacted by PREMIUM TIMES.
In his memo to Mr. Buhari, Mr. Kachikwu stated that when Mr. Buhari was unwell in London for several months between May and August, Mr. Baru tried to get direct approval from Acting President Osinbajo for some personnel changes at the NNPC.
But Mr. Osinbajo asked Mr. Baru to go back to Mr. Kachikwu and get his input and approval first before making the changes. Mr. Baru refused to consult Mr. Kachikwu on that.
For weeks, the changes were not made, until Mr. Buhari returned on August 19. By August 29, Mr. Baru announced the changes.
This prompted Mr. Kachikwu’s letter to the president on August 30, complaining that he learnt of the development in the media.
Neither the vice president’s office nor Mr. Baru has denied that claim by Mr. Kachikwu.