DETAILS emerged at the weekend that the two former army chiefs recommended for further investigation by the panel probing arms procurement during their tenure might have stepped on some powerful toes just before the conclusion of the investigations.
Investigations by the Sunday Tribune indicated that some powerful elements in the administration had approached the former chiefs with what was considered “critical assignments” but that their refusal to cooperate on the project made the forces to sign off on them.
Sources said that notwithstanding the outcome of the panel’s report, some powerful forces in government had approached Generals Kenneth Minimah and Azubuike Ihejirika separately in a desperate bid to nip the crisis being orchestrated in the South-South and South- East in the bud, but that the retired Generals refused to get involved.
“Their blunt refusal was taken as affront on the system and that led to the decision to let the report be,” a source said.
It was gathered that Minimah was asked to intervene in the simmering crisis ignited by the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) and find a way to rein in the boys while Ihejirika was approached to find ways to calm the restive youths behind the Independent Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) but that the duo refused to be linked with the restiveness.
A source in the know had said that the military chiefs saw the quest as a Greek gift, which could allow people in government link them directly with the violent agitations and possibly rope them into further trouble.
The retired Generals in their own wisdom refused to be part of the suggestion that they could help rein in the restive youths in the South-South and South -East. They simply said they had no links with the youth and some forces took that as an affront,” a source said.
Another source said that Generals Ihejirika and Minimah might have rebuffed entreaties to identify and talk to some elders and other stakeholders in their regions believed to command the respect of their subjects who are members of IPOB and NDA to lay down arms and embrace dialogue.
The Generals were said to have declared that they neither knew anybody directly or remotely linked to the groups and their bases, nor do they know their mode of operations.
According to the sources, the Generals insisted that the groups suddenly sprang up from nowhere and that it was difficult for them to know who the sponsors are.
“The retired army chiefs didn’t want to have anything to do with the issue of appealing to the restive groups because they believed that they would not be trusted by them as retired army chiefs. The intermediaries, however, found the rejection of the assignment strange.
“Remember an Australian who was later discovered to be a scammer, had some years ago said General Ihejirika was a sponsor of Boko Haram. The General simply felt that his frame-up would have been easier if he agreed to fish out leaders of IPOB,” the source said.
The release of the Third Interim Report on the probe of Arms procurement by the 13-member Federal Government Committee had raised dust immediately following allegations that the fact-finding report was tilted.
Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, had to issue a statement last week to defend the integrity of the report following some grumbling in certain quarters.
There were allegations that the report attempted to shield the tenure of Interior Minister, General Abdulrahman Dambazau.
Last week, a London-based group, Freedom of Information Advocates Initiative, (FOIAI), decribed the report as a “tainted report.”
In a statement, signed by Sharon Adoli-Lawrence, Acting Executive Director, FOIA, the group queried the propriety of the chairman of the probe panel retired Air Vice Marshal John Odey, who was accused of standing as a judge in his own case.
According to the group, “AVM Odey (Chairman of the Presidential Investigative Panel) was the Special Adviser (SA) of a former Minister of Defence between 2014 – 2015 and that his role was to superintend and advise the Minister of Defence on issues relating to arms procurement and other related matters.