Minister of state for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, submitted his controversial memo to the office of President Muhammadu Buhari only after it was leaked to the media.
While the letter dated August 30, 2017 leaked on Tuesday, October 3, 2017, Kachikwu actually submitted it only on Thursday, October 5.
Buhari was said to have been surprised that he had not seen a letter supposedly written to him before it appeared in the media. He immediately raised an internal query on its whereabouts.
It was initially thought to be a fake letter by presidency until the ministry of state for petroleum resources confirmed it was written by Kachikwu in a press statement on October 4.
The Registry of the Chief of Staff, which takes delivery of official mails for the president, denied receiving any such letter from the minister.
In standard public sector practice, all incoming mails are stamped “received” with date, time and signature of the receiving clerk all recorded. An acknowledgement copy is then given to the sender.
Kachikwu was asked by presidency to provide an acknowledgment copy of his letter, online medium, TheCable understands, but he said he could not find it, further fuelling internal suspicion that there was a political slant to the controversy.
He was then directed to submit another copy, which was received and stamped “received” on October 5.
However, the formatting of the letter he submitted on Thursday was different from what was circulated in the media, although the substance is the same.
In the new copy, the last paragraph on the opening page had four lines, whereas there were only two lines in the internet version with the other two lines “jumping” into the second page, TheCable learnt.
On page 6, the subheading of the first paragraph was “STOP” — but this was not in the online version.
It was also said that his story became inconsistent along the line.
In the fresh copy Kachikwu sent to the office of the president on October 5, he wrote in the covering note that he was “re-sending” what he had earlier sent “to the registry of the chief of staff”, but TheCable understands that when he was asked at a security meeting on Tuesday, he said he actually sent the letter to Daura, where the president had gone for the Eid-el-Kabir celebrations.
The president does not have official mail receiving facility in his hometown but sources said Kachikwu might have requested someone to hand-deliver it to him and the courier might have failed to do so.
Kachikwu, who complained in his memo about insubordination and humiliation by the group managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Maikanti Baru, in the widely publicised letter, was at the presidential villa on Friday, October 6 — ostensibly for a meeting with the Buhari.
Although it was reported in the media, TheCable inclusive, that he met with Buhari that day, it has turned out no such meeting was held.
TheCable confirmed that he was only able to meet presidential aides and that was why there were no pictures with Buhari and he did not make any comments to the State House media on the visit.
However, an angry Buhari ordered Baru to reply Kachikwu’s letter through the media since that was also where he read the minister’s complaints.
Buhari, sources told TheCable, believes the letter was meant to embarrass him because as the petroleum minister, he, and not Kachikwu, has the supervisory function over NNPC.
Baru was specifically instructed to explain the contract-awarding process at the NNPC under the procedures established by Kachikwu himself when he was GMD.
The NNPC, in a statement by Ndu Ughamadu, the group general manager (group public affairs), on Monday denied Kachikwu’s allegations and maintained that no law had been broken in the contract awards, most of which were not on cash basis and could not be valued as done by the minister in the memo.
But the corporation was silent on the issue of key management appointments which Kachikwu complained were made without his knowledge.
Aso Rock insiders also dismissed Kachikwu’s claims that he was denied access to the president which he said forced him to write the memo.
“The president was away on medical leave from May 7 to August 19. While still settling in, he went to Daura for the Sallah break, and not longer after that he went for the UN general assembly,” a senior presidency official told TheCable.
“Kachikwu dated his letter August 30th. When was he prevented from seeing the president? Kachikwu had been doing a lot of travelling, from the Netherlands to Abu Dhabi, Beijing, Washington DC and other places all the while.”
TheCable tried to get in touch with Kachikwu but he did not pick his calls or respond to messages all throughout Tuesday.
However, an associate of the minister said Kachikwu was not responsible for the media leak, and that he made frantic efforts to stop the publication but it was too late.