NNPC Appointments: Much Ado about a Conflict of Interest

I was as usual browsing the noted and respected Sahara Reporters website when I came across a Petition/Press Release by a group named Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC)  who claimed to be a “coalition of over hundred and fifty Anti-corruption organizations whose primary aim is to constructively combat corruption vigorously and to ensure the effective monitoring of the various Anti-graft agencies in the fight against corruption and contribute towards the enthronement of transparency, accountability, probity and total commitment in the fight to eradicate corruption in Nigeria”.

nnpcThe petition was written against the appointment of one Dr. Babatunde Victor Adeniran as the Group Executive Director, Commercial & Investment of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation NNPC) and that Dr Adeniran ought to have declined the appointment on ground of conflict of interests.

Now, I am a very naturally curious and inquisitive character, and an anti-corruption campaigner myself, and a few questions popped into my mind. Why is an anti-corruption organisation interested in a “conflict of interest” circumstance? Shouldn’t this be a case of governance and constitutional matters? So, I went to the website of  the organisation, and browsed through, saw the press release on this matter, and saw other noble deeds of CSNAC, was quite impressed and I must  commend them for their vigorous fight against corruption. But, in my opinion, this issue of Dr Adeniran does not fall under their remit. It does not, at all. My being a Libran, and my sense of fairness and equality is overpowering my instinct to just ignore this.

Again, the organisation claims to be a coalition of “over a hundred and fifty anti-corruption organisations”, I will presume, in Nigeria, but on their website, I could not find any of those listed one hundred and fifty organisations. I will if course defer to them that it is not feasible or practical to list so many organisations in the petition, but heading an anti-corruption organisation myself, and belonging to at least three others in Nigeria, I was surprised I had never heard of CSNAS or any attempt made to be a member of such a noble and large organisation.

However, if indeed such a large number of anti-corruption organisations exist in Nigeria (and perhaps with some of them based outside Nigeria), corruption must be a thing of the past in Nigeria by now.

So, my considerations went to the famous pastime of “PHD – Pull Him/Her Down” syndrome of Nigerians. I immediately discounted the idea, because, with such a very well-designed website and the quality content, I find it improbable that CSNAC will be just another run of the mill, one-off organisation that some individuals are using to carry out personal vendettas and campaigns of calumny against miscreant and fallible public and political officials, corrupt or honest.

My next step was to search the internet, via Google, for this unknown Dr Adeniran. In fairness, I did not find a lot about him, except his appointment as Group Executive Director, Commercial & Investment of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. I could not even find out where this man comes from – his village, town or even state in Nigeria, except from his name, I know he comes from the SW Nigeria. He must have been an unusually quiet achiever for 22 years in the oil and gas industry.

So what is the problem here? I read the petition again. And the crux is that of Conflict of Interest because “As the Senior Technical Adviser on Oil and Gas Commercial of Total E & P Nigeria Ltd Dr Adeniran for over 22 years, Dr. Adeniran has fundamental disagreements with NNPC over the interpretation of the AK1 Carry agreement. The dispute which arose over the agreement is currently pending before a panel of arbitrators. Dr. Victor Adeniran had recently given damning evidence against the NNPC before the Arbitrators.

Check the word “fundamental” – important, essential, vital, necessary, etc.  Apparently, Dr Adeniran’s has been having  a running battle with the NNPC, a very corrupt organisation, important to Nigeria’s lifeline, wealth and international status as an oil-producing country, and which now, is being reorganised by the new government of President Buhari.

Well, in my opinion, this should be a positive thing for both the newly re-organised NNPC, the new MD and Nigeria, because here is a man (the said Dr Adeniran) who would apparently know the in and out of this corrupt organisation, and who, armed with this vast knowledge, will have the wherewithal to internally tackle the cankerworm within this monster.  This is to Nigeria’s benefit.

I am not trying to fight Dr Adeniran’s battles for him, in fact, I can’t. To me, I don’t even have a clue about his antecedents, but from what I found out about him online, he is an expert in his field, a well-read and well-travelled technocrat, with 22 years’ experience and skilled in the important area of oil and gas. He is certainly not a greenhorn. So, why should any conflict of interest disqualify him from holding such an important position in Nigeria’s troubled oil and gas sector? People who are of less and more experience and knowledge than him have managed to mess up this institution, and indeed, Nigeria and have gotten away with their deeds. In this new dispensation of Change in Nigeria, and knowing those who appointed him, the least we can do is try him out, as we are doing others, and if he messes up, he will end up disgraced.

Again, the petition reads “in his witness statement for Total E & P Nigeria Ltd, dated and signed on June 30, 2015 Dr. Adeniran claimed that his address is “Plot 247, Herbert Macaulay Way, Central Business District, Abuja, the head office of the NNPC.  It is the height of abuse of office on the part of Dr, Adeniran to use the address of a public institution to serve his personal interest. In any case, why did Dr. Adeniran use the address of the NNPC before the announcement of his appointment as a top official of the NNPC?”

I take the phrase “his address”. The petition failed to mention if Dr Adeniran claimed the NNPC head office address as his personal/home address or his corporate/office address, as should be declared in official documents. If it is claimed as corporate/office address, I would think this is usually the case with directors of companies all over the world.

I will not query the use of the NNNPC address “before the announcement of his appointment as a top official of the NNPC” because I was not aware of the date of the announcement of his appointment nor have I access, like CSNAC did, to official documents.

At any rate, I believe this petition is misdirected and misapprehended, and must be discounted. I believe Dr Adeniran’s “personal interest” is yet to be tested and established to be in “conflict with his duties and responsibilities”.

How much longer will we be a nation of petition writers, with hidden agendas and personal vendettas, against people who can serve the country with sincerity of purpose and selflessness? Should the NNPC MD have appointed a complete greenhorn to man this position?

Again, please see my use of “can” and not “will”. Dr Adeniran himself has to prove he can and will serve Nigeria selflessly, without enriching himself, if he’s not rich already anyway, whereby he will be vindicated. He has to also debunk the Conflict of Interest allegations, if there is any elsewhere. That should be our concern, not alleged conflict of interest. CSNAC should direct its well-recognised and noble energies to fighting corruption proper. While conflict of interest may of course lead to corruption, I believe in this case, it has not been properly and evidentially established.

We need a few good men, and women!



Written by
Akintokunbo A Adejumo
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