Fear Grips Ex-military Chiefs As Arms Probe Panel Begins Sitting
The 14-man panel on arms purchase for the Armed Forces, which begins sitting today in Abuja is under pressure to sit in camera “for security reasons”.
The pressure is coming from some of the retired military chiefs who are listed to tell the panel how the cash voted for their offices was spent.
Emissaries are being sent to panel members by the ex-military chiefs.
The Ministry of Defence has exonerated itself from whatever discrepancies that may be found in the arms purchase contracts going by Permanent Secretary Ismaila Aliyu’s statement at the Villa last month that it was sidelined in the arms purchase arrangement. According to him, purchases were made by the office of the national security adviser and the service chiefs.
As a result of this, President Muhammadu Buhari approved that the ministry should get a seat on the panel.
It was gathered that National Security Adviser Gen. Babagana Monguno last week inaugurated the panel behind the scene, in view of the seriousness attached to the task.
The panel, sources said, spent the last few days collating some facts and figures on Defence budget, allocations for arms purchase and valedictory addresses by some past Service Chiefs.
It was learnt that the panel may sit in camera following indications that some disclosures might touch on sensitive matters which might affect national security.
The panel was weighing options last night on whether to throw its sitting open or to restrict coverage to non- sensitive issues.
A highly-placed source said: “The committee will begin its work on Monday (today). All members have been advised accordingly.
“The panel was inaugurated by the Gen. Monguno last Wednesday in line with the mandate of the President.
“At today’s meeting, the panel will work out its modalities and how to go about preliminary paper work, which is in huge volumes.
“The committee has also done some preliminary investigations including retrieval of some relevant documents on arms purchase.
“I think the panel may sit in camera because its assignment touches on national security. There is even pressure on the government for a confidential briefing unless it is extremely necessary to allow the public insights into non-sensitive issues.
“The committee is however weighing options on how best to conduct its assignment without distraction or heating up the polity.”
President Buhari had on August 24 directed the National Security Adviser to convene an investigative committee on the procurement of hardware and munitions in the Armed Forces between 2007 till now.
The panel was initially composed of 13-members before it was expanded with the inclusion of a representative of the Ministry of Defence.
The committee is expected to identify irregularities and make recommendations for streamlining the procurement process in the Armed Forces.
The government said: “The establishment of the investigative committee is in keeping with President Buhari’s determination to stamp out corruption and irregularities in Nigeria’s public service.
“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.”
Members of the panel are AVM J.O.N. Ode (rtd.) – President; R/Adm J.A. Aikhomu (rtd.); R/Adm E. Ogbor (rtd.); Brig Gen L. Adekagun (rtd.);Brig Gen M. Aminu-Kano (rtd.);Brig Gen N. Rimtip (rtd.); Cdre T.D. Ikoli ; Air Cdre U. Mohammed (rtd.);Air Cdre I. Shafi’i ;
Col A.A. Ariyibi ; Gp Capt C.A. Oriaku (rtd.); Mr. Ibrahim Magu (EFCC); Brig Gen Y.I. Shalangwa – Secretary and a representative of the Ministry of Defence.
Some of the controversial issues likely for investigation are as follows:
- $466.5m contract to weaponize six Puma helicopters by Jonathan administration
- N3billion contract for the supply of six units of K-38 patrol boats to the disbanded Presidential Implementation Committee on Maritime Security (PICOMSS).
- Theft of over 200m Euros by PICOMMS including the purchase of two private jets
- $9.3m cash-for- arms deal seized by South Africa
- Whereabouts of $1billion loan approved by the 7th Senate for arms purchase to fight Boko Haram
- What became of un-accessed N7b budget for the military
- Contract scam over rehabilitation of the Military Reference Hospital in Kaduna