A potential crisis is emerging within the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Limited, as allegations of gratuity payments totaling billions of Naira to the Chief Executive Officer, Mele Kyari, and the Chief Financial Officer, Umar Ajiya, have surfaced. Gratuity is typically paid to employees at the end of their employment period.
Kyari, who was appointed as the Group Managing Director (now known as the Group CEO) of NNPC in 2019 by President Muhammadu Buhari, replaced Maikanti Baru. According to multiple sources, Kyari and Ajiya have allegedly paid themselves substantial gratuity amounts despite still being in active service.
There are also reports of other high-ranking officials within NNPC receiving similar payments. Sources claim that these officials may have taken this action out of fear of being compulsorily retired by the incoming government of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is slated to assume office as President on May 29, 2023, succeeding President Muhammadu Buhari.
Some sources have raised concerns about potential corruption in the alleged gratuity payments, citing that they may be in violation of public service rules. They claim that Kyari and Ajiya are running NNPC as their personal company without adequate checks and balances.
The recent passage of the petroleum industry act, which transformed NNPC into a limited liability company with share capital for increased transparency and accountability, is cited as a contrast to the alleged actions of Kyari and Ajiya. These officials are accused of disregarding the objectives of the act and engaging in actions that go against the principles of transparency and accountability.
The sources also highlight that the enormous powers granted to the Group CEO and CFO under the Petroleum Industry Act may have created a gap in oversight, as the NNPC board is reportedly unable to effectively oversee administrative duties. There are also allegations of other corrupt practices, such as fuel subsidy claims, aviation fuel racketeering, and crude oil for product swap scams, which are said to be handled by Kyari and Ajiya.
Efforts to reach out to Garba Deen Muhammad, Chief Corporate Communications Officer of NNPC, for comment have reportedly been unsuccessful.
These developments are unfolding amidst the House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee on Oil Theft’s plans to investigate the alleged loss of over $2.4 billion in revenue from the illegal sale of 48 million barrels of crude oil export. The committee has summoned various government officials, including the Finance Minister, Secretary General of the Federation, Accountant General of the Federation, and the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL), among others, for further investigation.
In addition, a recent report by the Nigerian Senate revealed that NNPC failed to provide details of crude oil deliveries amounting to N102 billion to Warri and Kaduna refineries, as per the 2016 audit report. These findings have raised concerns about transparency and accountability within NNPC.
In light of these allegations, there have been calls for President Buhari to constitute a committee to investigate the alleged corruption by Kyari and Ajiya, with promises of providing evidence to support the claims. The situation is causing morale to be low among NNPC staff, and there is a growing demand for greater transparency and accountability in the management of the corporation.