by Nicholas Ibekwe, PremiumTimes
There is tension and frantic scheming among former army chiefs and other top officers of the Nigerian Army as the Presidential Committee on Defence Equipment Procurement in the Nigerian Armed Forces concludes its task and is set submit its report of President Muhammadu Buhari in the coming days, PREMIUM TIMES has learned.
A reliable source close to the committee, which was set up by Mr. Buhari to probe the procurement of arms, ammunition and equipment in the military from 2007 to 2015, told this newspaper that several top retired army officers were indicted and some were already scheming to suppress the content of the report.
Our source, who described the report as “damning” and “explosive”, said retired top army officers indicted include present minister of interior, Abdurrahman Bello Dambazau, the immediate past chief of army staff, Kenneth Minimah, and his predecessor, Azubuike Ihejirika.
Mr. Dambazau was particularly mentioned as trying to suppress the content of the report. He was appointed the chief of army staff by late President Umaru Yar’Adua, and served between 2008 and 2010.
“The committee members are putting things together and will present its findings to the president in the next week or so,” our source said.
Our source explained that the committee uncovered a whole lot of things including the outright stealing of money meant for equipment for the army, inflation of contract, diversion of money for soldiers’ welfare, money for the rehabilitation of barracks and military facilities and many other corrupt practices.
In March 2016, the committee, predominantly made up of retired military officers, had summoned 292 retired and serving top army officers including Messrs. Dambazau, Ihejirika and Minimah.
Last August, Mr. Buhari directed the national security adviser, Mohammed Mongonu, to set up a 13-member investigative committee on the procurement of hardware and munitions in the Armed Forces from 2007.
A statement by the Special Adviser to the president on media and publicity, Femi Adesina, stated that the investigative committee’s mandate is to identify irregularities and make recommendations for streamlining the procurement process in the armed forces.
The establishment of the investigative committee was in keeping with President Buhari’s determination to stamp out corruption and irregularities in Nigeria’s public service, Mr. Adesina said.
“It comes against the background of the myriad of challenges that the Nigerian Armed Forces have faced in the course of ongoing counter-insurgency operations in the Northeast, including the apparent deficit in military platforms with its attendant negative effects of troops’ morale.
“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,” the statement said.
In January, Mr. Buhari ordered the arrest of the former chief of air force, Adesola Amosu, and other top officers of the Nigerian Air Force after an interim report of an inquiry into the procurement of equipment uncovered widespread diversion of funds and fraud.
Those indicted by the report were former national security adviser, Sambo Dasuki, former chief of defence staff, Alex Badeh, and another former chief of air staff, Mohammed Umar. All of them and other top officers are facing corruption charges in court.
“The procurement processes were arbitrarily carried out and generally characterized by irregularities and fraud,” the panel said. “In many cases, the procured items failed to meet the purposes they were procured for, especially the counter insurgency efforts in the North East.”
“A major procurement activity undertaken by ONSA for NAF was that concerning the contracts awarded to Societe D’ Equipment Internationaux (SEI) Nig Ltd.
“Between January 2014 and February 2015, NAF awarded 10 contracts totalling Nine Hundred and Thirty Million, Five Hundred Thousand, Six Hundred and Ninety US Dollars ($930,500,690.00) to SEI Nig Ltd.
“Letters of award and End User Certificates for all the contracts issued by NAF and ONSA respectively did not reflect the contract sums. Rather, these were only found in the vendor’s invoices, all dated 19 March 2015,” it said.
The panel said some of the award letters contained misleading delivery dates suggesting fraudulent intent in the award process. The observed discrepancies are in clear contravention of extant procurement regulations.
“The SEI contracts included procurement of two used Mi-24V Helicopters instead of the recommended Mi-35M series at the cost of One Hundred and Thirty Six Million, Nine Hundred and Forty Four Thousand US Dollars ($136,944,000.00).
“However, it was confirmed that the helicopters were excessively priced and not operationally air worthy at the time of delivery. A brand new unit of such helicopters goes for about Thirty Million US Dollars ($30m),” it noted.
Furthermore, the helicopters were delivered without rotor blades and upgrade accessories.
“Additionally, the helicopters were undergoing upgrade while being deployed for operation in the North East without proper documentation. It was further established that as at date, only one of the helicopters is in service while the other crashed and claimed the lives of two NAF personnel.
“The Committee established that ONSA also funded the procurement of 4 used Alpha-Jets for the NAF at the cost of Seven Million, One Hundred and Eighty Thousand US Dollars ($7,180,000.00). However, it was confirmed that only 2 of the Alpha-Jet aircraft were ferried to Nigeria after cannibalization of engines from NAF fleet.
“This is contrary to the written assertion of the former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal AN Amosu to the former NSA that all the 4 procured Alpha-Jets aircraft were delivered to the NAF.
“The non-militarisation of the Alpha-Jets made them unsuitable for deployment to the North East and they are currently deployed only for training at NAF Kainji.
“Furthermore, the procurement of the Alpha-Jets was contrary to the recommendation of the assessment team. The Committee found that the conduct of Air Marshal Amosu was deliberately misleading and unpatriotic,” the panel said.