Corruption In Defence Procurement: Any Lessons From Arms Probe?

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By Bello Rabiu –

President Muhammadu Buhari swept into power on May 29, 2015 on the strength of his personal integrity, anti-corruption stand, promise to revamp  the economy and strong commitment to tackle armed insurgency in the north east. However, two and a half years later, the government, led by the retired Major General and former military head of state, continues to struggle to find its direction.

Within months after he resumed office, President Muhammadu Buhari set up the Committee to probe arms procurement in the Armed Forces . The committee, made up of serving and retired military officers quickly went to work;  investigated defence procurement from 2007  and unravelled large scale sleaze in the arms procurement process. The committee found that billions of dollars meant for the procurement of arms in the heat of the war against Boko Haram terrorists, were eventually traced to retired military officers, influential politicians, phantom contractors and others.

Former National Security Adviser Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd.) was largely blamed for misapplying and overseeing the looting of the funds. Former Chiefs of Air Staff  Air Chief Marshal Alex Sabundu Badeh (rtd.), Air Marshal Mohammed D. Umar (rtd.) and Air Marshal Adesola Amosu (rtd.) were similarly  indicted and are currently being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Although  more miltary and other government officials were indicted in subsequent reports of the Committee,  yet little has been heard about the Committee or its reports as no action has been taken on the indicted persons for over a year now.  It appears the Committee and its reports have silently been killed or as Governor Fayose puts it recently “ have been swept under the carpet by the APC Broom” .

While many Nigerians agree that the President is incorruptible, developments like these continue to call his resolve to fight corruption to question. Why are men indicted for corruption still holding key positions in this government? Is the President sincere about the fight against corruption? Has Nigeria learnt any lessons from the findings that the arms probe committee made?

One is tempted to ask these questions because lately, more cases of corruption in the armed forces seem to have come to the limelight and nothing is being done to tackle these issues. Only recently, allegations of corruption in the Ministry of Defence surfaced when the United Nations asked Nigeria to withdraw two of its battalions from the UN mission in Sudan due to reasons related to corruption.

Specifically, the United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) asked Nigeria to withdraw two battalions from Darfur in Sudan due to its poor holdings on Contingent Owned Equipment (COE). The state of Nigeria’s equipment in the mission in Darfur is far below standard, UN sources were recently quoted as saying. This has not just reduced the quality of Nigeria’s contribution to the peace keeping mission in Darfur but has continued to undermine UN’s mission in that country.

A recent media report said in 2007, Nigeria raised a domestic loan of N35billion through the DMO to procure the  equipment  for its  UN missions. This was based on the fact that the equipment would continuously earn Nigeria the income to pay back the loan since UN would be paying revenue to Nigeria for the use of its equipment. Sadly these revenues have not been forthcoming as expected, due to the poor quality of equipment that were acquired. Now, 10 years later, Nigeria is left with a debt overhang of over N70billion (twice the original amount) due to corruption in Nigeria’s military procurement system.

Another recent report indicated that corruption in the process of procurement has made the country unable to comply with UN directives to relocate military hospital equipment from one location in Mali to another. The contract was reportedly awarded by Nigeria’s Ministry of Defence to a company that does not have the capacity to execute the job, hence the inability to move the equipment.

With all of these happening in the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, it calls to question, the government’s sincerity in the fight against corruption. The Nation newspaper reported recently that serving ministers and permanent secretaries were indicted in the final report of the Arms Probe panel. Who are these ministers and permanent secretaries? Why are they still in government? When will they face justice like the members of the PDP-led government, such as Chief Olisa Metuh, Attahiru Bafarawa  Col. Sambo Dasuki and the erstwhile military chiefs that are currently facing trial?

President Muhammadu Buhari is a good man. His major short coming is indecision and slowness. He needs to take action. He needs to apply justice evenly. He needs to live up to his principles in words and action.  If he doesn’t do it now, another government will come in the future and do it for him. The only problem is that he may also be indicted for  inaction on the report of a committee that he set up , used parts of its reports that disfavoured his opponents and dumped the parts that indicted his henchmen  . History is watching.

–Rabiu writes from Guzape, Abuja