• As group accuses FG, army of cover-up
Fresh controversy appears to be dogging the third tranche of interim report of the Federal Government’s probe into Arms purchase between 2007 and 2015 as a group, comprising retired military personnel and civil society, has alleged a cover-up in the report made public last week.
The group, Probity Watch In Defence Institutions (PWIDI) said on Saturday that the government was not straight enough in its claims by leaving out reports of the period 2007 to 2010.
According to PWIDI, there are at least 26 petitions already in the possession of the Army, seeking a probe into its activities between 2007 and 2010, wondering how the record of the same period would get missing in government coffers.
The group expressed worry that the authorities might be working towards a cover-up of the activities of the Army between 2007 and 2010.
A statement signed on behalf of the group by Danladi Abbas indicated that some aspects of the main report on the Arms Probe were missing.
The Federal Government had last week in a statement by the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, indicated the release of the third tranche of the Arms Probe report.
The statement had indicated that “among those to be investigated are 18 serving and retired military personnel, 12 serving and retired public officials and 24 Chief Executive Officers of Companies involved in the procurement. All were either accounting officers or played key roles in the Nigerian Army procurement activities during the period under review.”
The statement listed those set to face further investigation as including two former Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. O.A. Ihejirika (Rtd) and Lt.-Gen. K.T.J. Minimah (Rtd).
“According to the Committee, the total amount spent for procurement and operations within the period were N185,843,052,564.30 and $685,349,692.49,” the statement read.
PWIDI, however, expressed surprise that the period 2007 to 2010 was left out in the pretext of the claim that the records were not available.
“Curiously, the name of the Chief of Army Staff, General Abdulrahman Dambazzau, who preceded the two was neither mentioned for commendation nor blame,” the group said.
The statement insisted that government’s claim that the report of 2001 to 2010 would be released ‘’When the documents regarding procurement from 2007 to 2010 are available and scrutinised,” was an alibi for sweeping the probe of the period under the table.
The group raised a number of questions: “Questions that readily come with this addendum to his previous statement is: what manner of documentations are done in our Defence sector?
Is it that hard or soft copies of procurement documents of 2007, – 2010 are ‘not available’ one year after a panel was set up to look at and scrutinize them? What procedures were deployed to get the 2010 – 2015 documents that couldn’t be applied for the preceding years? How does it portray us to the world that Nigeria cannot keep and retrieve a seven-year old record in its defence system and still struggling to locate and collate them one year after it embarked on a search?”
The group noted that General Dambazzau took over from General Luka Yusuf in 2008 and left office in September 2010.
It alleged that the report submitted to the President was actually “a summary distilled from an enlarged report. We challenge the Minister of Information to publish that volume and its appendix.”
The group said that the probe panel in its original report had asked the Army to refund about N500 million said to have been allegedly misapplied between 2007 and 2010.
The group further said: “The irony is that Generals Azubuike Ihejirika and Kenneth Minimah have, between them, over 30 items of misdemeanors slammed against them, ranging from alleged ‘misappropriation, misapplication and negligence’.
“What about all the petitions that were written, sent in and acknowledged about this 2008/2010 regime at the Army headquarters. We are aware there were about 26 petitions last year alone?”
The Group said that while it cannot hold fort for those accused in the Interim Report, as they would have their days in court, the probe should be all encompassing and thorough.
The statement further read: “Recall that in setting up the 13-member panel last year, the President’s spokesman, Femi Adesina, listed among others that “the committee will specifically investigate allegations of non-adherence to correct equipment procurement procedures and the exclusion of relevant logistics branches from arms procurement under past administrations, which, very often resulted in the acquisition of sub-standard and unserviceable equipment.
“Accordingly, the latitude of this mandate is enough to catch the smallest fish in the water. The books and equipment are there. They should go back and look at them. Nobody is prompting them to manufacture sins but the sins of those three years are certainly there.”
“A sitting service chief was quickly cleared by the Defence Minister hours after an online publication ran a story on acquisition of property outside the country. More bizarre was the clearance by the Code of Conduct Bureau, an agency that has never before now honoured any inquiry directly or through the Freedom of Information Act.
“GOING BY TRADE MARK OF THIS GOVERNMENT, THE REPORTS OF ARMS PROCUREMENT BETWEEN 2007 – 2010 MAY NEVER BE AVAILABLE. MARK OUR WORDS. BUT THERE’S LIFE BEYOND 2019 AND QUESTIONS WOULD STILL BE ASKED. WE ARE WATCHING AND WAITING.”
Another angle to the arms controversy involves Air Commodre Umar Muhammaed, who has since been arrested for receiving bribes from some of the accused persons.
According to Saturday Tribune sources, Umar Muhammed was a course mate and close confidant of Adesola Amosun. However, he decided to voluntarily retire less than one year to the date he would have been pulled out based on age and rank. Amosun continued and just a few months to his retirement was made Chief of Air Staff. Security sources said that when Amosun emerged Air Chief, their friendship further blossomed. Incidentally, Muhammed found himself in the panel probing his friend.
One day, Muhammed woke up to find security operatives in his Maitama home with a warrant of search. During the search, some arms and $1.5 million cash were alleged to have been found. A security source told our correspondent that Muhammed was billed to appear in court last week. However, that was further delayed and he was still being kept in custody as at the time of this report.
Associates of Muhammed have accused some key members of the Buhari administration of being behind his ordeal, insisting that it was “a hatchet job, a plot framed by few cabal in the inner circle to get back at Umar for insisting procurement in the army between 2007-2010 when a top military chief was in charge of procurement.”
They alleged that while the panel had unhindered access verifying files, documents of every other arms of the military leading to unearthing of huge diversion of funds by some military top brass that are now facing various corrupt charges by the EFCC, that of the Nigeria Army was resisted. “The procurement by the army between 2007 and 2010, was the period the present Chief of Army Staff Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai held sway as procurement presiding officer. The panel had hectic time carrying out the verification of procurement done by the army.”
Aside Dasuki who it was alleged had personal issues with Buhari, most other military officers indicted and being tried for contravening procurement processes in the purchase of arms are those who originated from outside a particular divide.