Row over Fresh Armsgate Scandal in Nigeria

206 views | Akanimo Sampson | March 15, 2021

With the alleged $2.00 billion arms deal scandal of former National Security Adviser (NSA), Sambo Dasuki, yet to conclusively come to an end, another armsgate scandal under the Buhari administration that prides itself as a corruption fighter is developing. 

Dasuki is facing trial for allegedly awarding phantom contracts to buy 12 helicopters, four fighter jets and ammunition. He denies the allegations.

The equipment was meant for the fight against Boko Haram Islamist militants.

President Muhammadu Buhari in November 2015 ordered Dasuki’s arrest after he was indicted by a panel investigating the procurement of arm under the Goodluck Jonathan administration.

Former Sokoto State Governor, Attahiru Bafarawa, and owner of a Lagos-based private TV station, Raymond Dokpesi, were detained separately by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), in connection with the alleged fraud.

Both men, who are political allies of former President Jonathan, denied any involvement in the arms deal. Their arrest followed those of some of Dasuki’s associates by EFCC.

The anti-corruption body said they included former Minister of State for Finance, Bashir Yuguda, and the sons of some prominent politicians of the former ruling party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over allegations of impropriety in relation to the arm deal.

Dasuki earlier said he was not been given a chance to defend himself before the investigative panel and described its recommendation as “politically motivated”.

The former Army Colonel is also facing a trial for allegedly possessing illegal firearms. He is the first senior official of the Jonathan administration to be charged under the rule of President Buhari, who took in office in May, 2015 and was reelected again in a controversial 2019 election.

Buhari was elected partly on a promise to clean up Nigeria’s notoriously corrupt politics.

Disturbingly, Boko Haram has killed thousands in North-Eastern Nigeria in its more than a decade of campaign to create an Islamic state.

Incumbent NSA, Babagana Monguno, a retired Nigerian Army Major General, said the money meant for the purchase of arms to strengthen the country’s anti-terror war got missing under the leadership of the ex-service chiefs and an investigation was in the offing.

The ex-service chiefs are Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin; Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai; Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas; and Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar.

Unveiling the startling allegations, in an interview with BBC Hausa on Friday, Monguno said neither the money approved by the President for arms purchase nor the actual supplies were on ground when the new service chiefs took over.

“No one knows what happened to the money but by God’s grace, the President will investigate to find out whether the money was spent and where the arms went”, Monguno told BBC. 

Asked why the government was foot-dragging the fight against banditry, Monguno said the President had done his best by approving huge amounts of money for arms purchase but the equipment was not forthcoming.

“Now that he (President Buhari) has brought new people (service chiefs), hopefully they will device some ways… I’m not saying the former service chiefs diverted the money, but the money is missing. We don’t know how, and nobody knows for now”, he said.

Asked whether the matter was investigated to trace the funds or the military hardware, the NSA said the President would investigate the matter.

Monguno said: “The President will surely probe this matter. As we speak, the Nigerian Governors’ Forum too is also wondering where all the money went. I can assure you the President takes issues of this nature seriously.

“The fact is that preliminary investigation showed the funds are missing and the equipment is nowhere to be found. When the new service chiefs assumed office, they also said they did not see anything on ground”, he said

In January, Buhari appointed new service chiefs after a persistent clamour from Nigerians that he should introduce fresh blood in the country’s anti-terror war, especially against Boko Haram in Nigeria’s North-East region.

The new service chiefs are Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, Chief of Army Staff Lt-General Ibrahim Attahiru, Vice Admiral A.Z Gambo as Chief of Naval Staff; and Air Marshal I.O Amao as Chief of Air Staff.

But, in an unsigned statement from the NSA office, it was claimed that General Monguno was quoted out of context and that he did not categorically say that funds meant for arms procurement were missing under the former Service Chiefs.

Irked, a socio-political group, the One Nigeria Movement (ONM) is describing the statement denying the claim by Monguno, that neither the money approved by Buhari for arm purchase nor arms was met on ground when the new service chiefs assumed office as afterthought.

The ONM, which also said the NSA was acting desperately to secure his job inspite of his seeming failure and also shield himself from impending investigations, asked why he was plotting the arrest of the
immediate past Service Chiefs for trial by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Monguno had insinuated in an interview with the BBC Hausa that the ex-service chiefs will be investigated for the missing arms funds.

In a statement by ONM’s Convener General, Ahmed Sodiq-Mugoro and Secretary, Babatunde Aliyu, on Friday night, the group said there was more to the denial of the allegation by Monguno and Presidency than meet the eyes.

ONM says what the NSA said on the BBC Hausa service was clear and unambiguous.

What he said was that neither the money approved for arm purchase nor arms was met on ground when the new service chiefs assumed office. He went further to say that preliminary investigation showed the funds are missing and the equipment is nowhere to be found.

So how was the NSA quoted out of context? Or was he that the BBC Hausa Service aired a different interview entirely from the one it had with the NSA?

To us, Nigerians wants to know the truth.  Nigerians want to know what happened to the billions of dollars released to purchase arms.

And most importantly, Nigerians want to know the role played by the NSA in all these because General Monguno cannot claim to be unaware of the missing funds and non availability of arms when the former Service Chiefs were still in office? Why did he not talk then?

Finally, how far has the NSA gone in his plot to get the former service chiefs, especially Buratai arrested and tried by the ICC?

Sambo Dasuki is however, from a royal family, he’s the son of the 18th Sultan of Sokoto, spiritual leader of Nigeria’s Muslim community

A career soldier, rose to be a colonel in the army until his retirement

Reportedly one of the officers who arrested current President Muhammadu Buhari when he was overthrown as military head of state 30 years ago – something he denies

Became former President Goodluck Jonathan’s national security adviser in 2012

Oversaw the fight against Boko Haram under his presidency

At the centre of a row over Nigeria’s unorthodox arms procurement in 2014, when South Africa seized suitcases packed with millions of dollars of cash at an airport in Johannesburg

Charged for possessing illegal weapons in August 2015

Was put under house arrest despite a court order to allow him travel abroad for cancer treatment

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