October 9, 2017 / 6:23 PM / a year ago

Nigeria state oil firm denies minister's allegation of poor transparency

LAGOS (Reuters) - Nigeria’s state oil company on Monday said allegations by the oil minister that the conduct of its group managing director lacked transparency were baseless, as a public rift between the firm and the ministry widened.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has been dogged by allegations of mismanagement for decades. The OPEC member country, Africa’s biggest economy, relies on oil for around two-thirds of government revenue.

The tension between the oil ministry and NNPC came into the public eye when a letter of complaint to the president from Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, Nigeria’s oil minister, dated Aug. 30 was made pubic and confirmed by the ministry.

Kachikwu’s letter alleged NNPC Group Managing Director (GMD) Maikanti Baru had bypassed the company board on key decisions, including the allocation of contracts, and did not follow due process.

The minister also said Baru’s recent appointments should be suspended pending a review. Nigerian lawmakers last week passed a motion to investigate the allegations.

“The allegations were baseless and due process has been followed in the various activities,” NNPC said in an emailed statement.

“It is important to note from the outset that the law and the rules do not require a review or discussion with the minister of state or the NNPC board on contractual matters,” the state oil company said.

The NNPC statement did not address Kachikwu’s allegations that Baru had made key appointments without the usual oversight of the minister or the board.

In a separate statement on Monday, NNPC said Nigeria’s two main oil worker trade unions had given their support to the state oil firm.

“We just want to tell the GMD from the bottom of our hearts that we are with him and the top management; that we are behind the GMD who has done very well in turning the fortunes of the corporation around,” said Mathew Duru, a Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria official, according to the statement.

NNPC, on its Twitter feed, said: “Following publication of alleged lack of due process in the award of contracts, Pres. @MBuhari ordered GMD @NNPCgroup @DrMKBaru to respond.”

Kachikwu met with President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday after the letter was leaked last week. It was the first time they had held private talks since Buhari returned to Nigeria on Aug. 19 from three months of medical leave in Britain.

Kachikwu is the minister of state for petroleum, technically a junior minister. Buhari kept the portfolio of petroleum minister for himself.

Story corrects spelling of “public” in third paragraph.

Reporting by Alexis Akwagyiram; Additional reporting by Paul Carsten in Abuja; Editing by Dale Hudson and David Evans

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