Arms Deal Scandal And NASS Oversight Role


I was doing a piece on the 2016 Budget when I decided to turn my TV on and watched a discussion on the Arms deal and the failure of the National Assembly to oversight the procurement.

One security scholar who was interviewed held the opinion that it was wrong to investigate the scandal openly at all because we are doing great harm to our internal security by doing that. Another person interviewed is a former operative of the DSS who said the president has the power to authorise the purchase of arms provided it is in the budget.

Nobody is saying the president doesn’t have the powers to authorise the purchase of arms but the manner with which they went about it is the subject of concern. Also, the president who authorised the purchase of the arms has the responsibility to ensure the funds he approved are well utilised. The president supervises the NSA directly and not a minister in the case of a line Ministry, Department or Agency.

The president cannot claim that he did not know what his personal aide was doing because the report of activities of the NSA is reported directly to him and nobody else and if he claimed he was not aware of the activities of the NSA then that amounts to dereliction of duty because his interest was being served which has amounted to wasteful spending/corruption that has resulted in the death of our fighting men in the war against Boko Haram due to lack of appropriate and needed arms and ammunitions and the dislocation of IDPs from their homes.

The power to authorise comes with the additional responsibility to supervise the expenditure because a failure in the process is also the failure of the authoriser and he/she would be held accountable. That is why some people hold the opinion that former President Jonathan should also be questioned or held accountable. I think that opinion is correct.

As to the apprehension that an open trial is putting our internal security on harm’s way, it is not true. The trial, whether media or open court, is not discussing the type of arms bought or the strategy to combat Boko Haram or indeed any other security strategy.

The trial is only looking at how money was approved, collected and use or misused. This is about just tracing the money or following the money. Why should the NSA be paying out money? Is he the Minister of Finance or Accountant General? Why should NSA be paying out money for publicity like in the case of Dakposi? That is what the trial is about? At best the role of the NSA is to research the security situation and make recommendations as to the approach needed to address the security challenge and the appropriate equipment required to deal with it and government’s responsibility is to source those equipment.

His/her recommendation goes to the president and not even to the Minister of Defense or Service chiefs because he/she is an adviser to the president. The position of the NSA is a research position and not a command position as we have turned it into. In Nigeria, we turn things upside down. Nigeria is not the only country with such office but here we misuse and abuse the office.

Recently, Obama appointed a Nigerian deputy National Security Adviser: International Economic Affairs. We don’t have those dimensions here. We in Nigeria think the NSA must be an Army Officer not even any other branch of the military but must be an Army Officer. What is actually needed is Security Consultant with very high level research and analytical skills, then supported with expert deputies; International Economic Affairs, International Terrorism, Food Security, all the dimensions of security etc.

In the same TV discussion, a member of the House of Representatives, of the PDP stock, was featured and his worry was the way the prosecution is being done. That it is selective and a media trail. And that talking about it in public is destroying our internal and external security strategy. He preferred a secret internal prosecution.

About whether the trial is selective or a media trial, we don’t know about that. But what is clear is that there was an arms deal and all the people involved are those in government and their associates in the last administration and they happen to be PDP people since it is a “family affair”. So to that extent, it affects mostly PDP people since they had a “family dinner”.

The question would be, are prosecutions in court not public trials, except, of course, if the court orders a trial in camera. For now, the courts have not come to that decision yet.

So I ask myself. How is the public prosecution of Dasuki and others involved in the arms deal a derogation of our national security? The trial of Dasuki in an open court or in the media as alleged does not in any way affect our internal or external security because what is being tried is how money was spent; who was supposed to spend the money.

Why did NASS not raise the red flag during its oversight? In the National Assembly, it is only the Senate that has a committee on National Security and Intelligence, which has the responsibility of oversight over security agencies. The House of Representatives does not have a committee on Security and intelligence but on the military branches and police, and this means the House of Representatives does not have any mechanism to act as oversight over the security agencies and by extension the office of the NSA.

However, such huge scam cannot be going on and the NASS will claim they did not know about it. In the course of this investigation, the name of the current Senate President was mentioned as having got wind of it and demanded for a bribe to keep quiet. He has denied it especially since receipts are not given for bribe so no-one can prove it except you mark the currency like in the case of Farouk Lawal. The media is not digging into it to ascertain the veracity or otherwise of the claim and denial. The media needs to investigate the claim that some members of the NASS took bribe and turned the other way.

Again, the oversight activities of NASS are but a child’s play. I am privileged to have access to what the NASS called oversight report, from it you could deduce if those people are serious lots. That is a discussion for another day.

— Onwude is a political analyst and wrote in from Kaduna

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