19 May 2017

Nigeria: Army, TI Tango Over Alleged Annual Looting of N380 Billion

Photo: Transparency International UK
International community must join fight against defence corruption in Nigeria

The Nigerian Army and Transparency International, TI, were yesterday, locked in a war of words over claims that some military godfathers in cahoot with armed criminal gangs and foreign business mafias, illegally siphon N380 billion from Nigeria's petroleum sector annually.

The army also, yesterday, said it was yet to arrest any person or group of persons connected with the alleged plot by some persons to undermine the stability of the army for political purposes.

The TI report focusing on corruption in defence procurement also rebuffed insinuations of underfunding the country's defence sector, saying that N4.62 trillion was allocated to the defence sector between 2010 and 2015 with a sizeable proportion compromised through poorly executed contracts.

The report which was worked out with the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, cited the N14.8 billion ($470m) security contract for the installation of street cameras in Abuja as one of the botched projects, which failed to secure the federal capital from the spate of bombings.

Yesterday's report entitled "Weaponising Transparency: Defence Procurement Reform as a Counter-terrorism Strategy in Nigeria," was immediately dismissed by Defence Headquarters, which described the TI report as another fabrication by the body to smear the image of the Nigerian military. The report was, however, received with mixed feelings by some prominent Nigerians.

Speaking on the report, executive director of CISLAC, Auwal Rafsanjani said: "Corruption is not far-fetched in Nigeria's Defence sector. In 2014, Transparency International Defence Anti-Corruption Index, a global study of corruption risk levels in national defence establishments, detailed the many areas where corruption risks are high in Nigeria and analysed the consequences. The research showed that lethally armed criminal networks, operating with the tacit support of local and foreign business mafias, and chaperoned by powerful military "Godfathers," illegally siphon off about $1b each year in petroleum."

Noting how security votes have become a source of scandals, he said: "Similarly, a number of scandals have been recorded around the so-called 'security votes,' which allow politicians to appropriate millions of dollars behind closed doors simply by evoking 'national security.' As a result, funds that are meant to buy equipment and even pay salaries go missing, leaving the military badly equipped, demoralized and incapacitated.

"Amidst claims by Nigerian security agencies that they are being underfunded, it has revealed that a total N4.62trillion was allocated to the federal security sector from 2010 to 2015. How this huge sum was spent, however, remains unclear as there are no reliable performance reports by the security agencies. The Ministry of Defence's refusal to make its spending public has further made it difficult to track the nation's investment on the military and allied agencies.

"In 2010, the government awarded a $470m (£274m) contract for security across the capital. However, only few of the hundreds of cameras installed functioned, yet the work was paid for and signed off. Since this increased security effort, there have been series of bombings in Abuja, and yet despite the investment, the security agencies cannot track where the bombs came from."

Transparency International frustrating military efforts-- DHQ

The defence headquarters reacting through its spokesman, Brig. Gen. John Enenche, at a press briefing in Abuja, yesterday, accused TI of working to frustrate efforts by the Nigerian military to get international collaboration in its war against terrorism.

He said: "The attention of Defence Headquarters has been drawn to an inciting corruption allegation against military officials, by Transparency International. Let me start by making it clear that, this sweeping allegation is false with the following clarifications:

"The current leadership of the Armed Forces of Nigeria has done a lot to train, boost troops morale and procure vital equipment through due process, for the North East operations against Boko Haram in particular and other operations.

"The Defence Headquarters, Army, Navy and Air Force Headquarters have established procurement branches that are guided by the rules and regulations of the Bureau for Public Procurement, BPP. The, Ministry of Defence deals directly with states and governments on defence equipment procurement without using contractors or vendors any longer.

"It is suspicious that a sweeping statement of corruption against Military officials at this time is rather disheartening. More so, that the Nigerian Military was on March 22, 2017 credited by the US as having done very well to fight insurgency and extremism among others, with advice to other countries to learn from Nigeria. In addition, such an allegation coming at the peak of consistent successes being recorded at our areas of operational engagements, the North East in particular, which is obvious not only to Nigerians but the whole world. Hence, this particular allegation must be treated with utmost suspicion."

Sagay, Tsav, Junaid Mohammed, others react

Among Nigerians who reacted to the disclosures in the report were Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, PACAC, Prof. Itse Sagay; former commissioner of police in Lagos, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav; fiery social critic and member of the Second Republic House of Representatives, Dr. Junaid Mohammed and former Secretary of Labour Party, Dr. Kayode Ajulo.

Sagay said the report was a revelation of the sordid developments during the former Goodluck Jonathan administration.

"You and I know that it is true and this is not under the Muhammadu Buhari government but the Jonathan administration. We all know how huge sums of money voted for the military were looted by top military officers and politicians under Jonathan, leaving the poor soldiers being slaughtered by Boko Haram mercilessly. That is why the war against Boko Haram took a long time, many people died, and the most painful part was that these shameless and conscious-less military guys arrested those soldiers because they had no arms to fight. They even put them on trial, knowing that the top notch of the military was the ones who stole and diverted the money themselves and shared it with their corrupt friends who are politicians. So, the story is true. But the story has changed under Buhari, it was so under the Jonathan government but not under Buhari."

Tsav on his part, said: "Since budget padding was discovered, we have seen so many budget-related corruption cases. So, I am not surprised about this report. What the report said is quite possible because the military can't just tamper with their budget alone without the connivance of civilians especially in a democracy where politicians have so much influence on the military. However, it is not always too good to disclose defence spending, but we demand accountability from those in charge. The public deserves to know about the spending."

Reacting, Dr. Junaid Mohammed said: "There are several issues that have shown clearly how these politicians siphon money through their lackeys in the military. During the tribal coup of 1966 and the civil war of 1967, many Nigerian politicians benefited from their associations with the military.

"So what TI said about politicians is very true though it is not unique to Nigeria alone, it happens all over Africa. However, it has happened in Nigeria in the past and it is still happening right now," he added.

In his remarks, a legal practitioner, Dr. Kayode Ajulo, said: "Transparency International needs to be specific with the details and particulars. It is quite sad that most of the report is speculative which will serve no purpose. TI ought to be an authority on issues particularly done under the table."

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army, yesterday, told Vanguard that it was yet to arrest any person in connection with its recent warning against incitement of army officers.

The Director of Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Sani Usman, in an SMS response to Vanguard enquiry said: "We have always been open and transparent with information and if there is anything, we will let the public know."

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