By Jonathan Nda- Isaiah, Abuja
Miffed by the revelation made by the National Security Adviser, Major General Babagana Monguno (rtd), Nigerians have called for a thorough investigation into the utilisation of funds released for the purchase of arms and ammunition.
In an interview he granted BBC Hausa service yesterday, Monguno revealed that billions of naira meant for the procurement of arms and ammunition were unaccounted for.
According to him, neither the money nor the arms are on ground upon resumption of the new service chiefs, even as he pointed out that he was not accusing the former service chiefs.
Noting that there is no information about the whereabouts of the money, the NSA said, “It is not that we are not working to end the security challenge in the country. The president has done his own part and allocated a huge amount of money to purchase weapons but they are yet to be here. We don’t know where they are.
“I am not saying that the past service chiefs have diverted the money, but presently we don’t know where the money is.”
On whether investigation has commenced on the unaccounted funds or not, Monguno said, “I am sure the president will investigate this. As I am talking to you now, even the Nigerian Governors Forum has started questioning where the money is. So, I assure you that the president is not playing with anything that has to do with the people.
“I can’t say the money was stolen but we didn’t see anything and even the new service chiefs said they didn’t see the weapons. It is possible the weapons are on their way coming. Maybe from America, England and other places but as of now, I didn’t see anything and the service chiefs too didn’t see any weapons either.”
But reacting to the NSA’s revelation, Nigerians, including interest groups, who spoke with LEADERSHIP Weekend, described the story as incredible.
The apex northern socio-cultural group, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), urged President Buhari to investigate the allegation of unaccounted arms funds if he does not want his name smeared beyond redemption.
National publicity secretary of the forum, Emmanuel Yawe, said, “This is an incredible story. The same General Mongonu was there when all these sordid things were happening.
“How come he did not detect that billions of Naira were not put to use as budgeted and released? Is that how this government operates; huge amounts of public money is siphoned without accountability?
“President Buhari must respond to this scandal with speed if not his name will be smeared beyond redemption. His government will lose its credibility and Nigerians will see the war on terrorism as mass deception on a scale never before seen in Nigeria”.
On its part, the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF) said the immediate service chiefs should be recalled and made to account for the allegation and defend themselves as well as the NSA or face the music.
National president of the forum, Alhaji Yerima Shettima, said, “It is sad and very unfortunate that we are getting to get this revelation very clear because it is coming from a reliable source as a National Security Adviser (NSA) of a country: It is very unfortunate that he too is a party to it no matter how he looks at it. He must also take responsibility because such issues of importance cannot be swept under the carpet.
“It is very unfortunate he is saying it when the people are no longer in power. I wonder why he didn’t say it all this while. Probably he has been saying it underground and now felt very free that they are no longer in power, maybe as a result of fear. God forbid if that is the case.
“I feel strongly that this country is worth dying for and if truly the so-called leaders truly mean well for the country and are truly determined and patriotic Nigerians, once he (Monguno) discloses this issue, the worst they can do is to kill him or they would ask him to resign. But he didn’t do that until now when we have lost thousands of lives. On that note it is very unfortunate and a shame on him.
“At the same time we are saying that we are happy that the ex-service chiefs are still alive. Some of us foresaw this coming but we have been wondering without even knowing that certain money was actually given and at the same time the money was used for their private businesses and their personal interest at the expense of over 200 million Nigerians and lives that we lose on a daily basis.
“Our take is that they should be recalled and made to account for this allegation and defend themselves. If they can’t defend this allegation they must face the music. Even him as the National Security Adviser, all of them should be brought to book and tell us the role each of them played and why he (NSA) chose to keep mute at a certain point”.
Also, the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) described the disclosure of NSA Monguno as not only shocking but treacherous.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP Weekend in Port Harcourt, spokesman of PANDEF, Ken Robinson, wondered why people entrusted with the protection of the country’s territorial integrity could perpetrate such wickedness against the nation and its citizens.
Robinson said, “The country’s territorial integrity is being undermined by bandits and terrorists. We are almost every other day confronted with reports of innocent citizens being killed or kidnapped across the country and people entrusted with such elevated responsibilities could perpetrate such wickedness against their nation and its citizens.
“This accounts for the government’s foot-dragging on the fight against banditry and terrorism because there are no arms for the military.
“Little wonder the minister of Defence asked Nigerians to defend themselves against bandits terrorising their communities. It is rather unfortunate that the NSA denied himself possible applause by adding that he was not saying the former service chiefs diverted the money. If they did not, who did, or where are the arms?
“Perhaps, the next thing the nation would be told is that the arms are in transit from God knows where instead of getting all those involved in the alleged missing arms money to account for their inglorious actions and inactions.”
Also speaking with our correspondent in Maiduguri, the Sole Administrator of Borno State Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (BOCCIMA), Alhaji Ahmed Ashemi, described the revelation by the NSA as unfortunate.
The BOCCIMA Boss said, “If that is true, then it is very unfortunate. They should not be allowed to get away with it. This matter should not be swept under the carpet. Government should investigate it and go to the root cause of it so that it will serve as a deterrent to those coming after them.”
For Hassan Zanna, the Zanna Boguma of Borno, the revelation by NSA Monguno is a vindication of the voices that have been raising concerns of obsolete weapons that are provided for the soldiers to fight Boko Haram terrorists.
He said, “Therefore, I think the president must do something about it because the NSA is at liberty to tell the world the real situation on ground. The insurgency and other forms of insecurity across the country are getting out of hand.”
NSA Monguno Recants, Says He Was Misquoted
But as public outcry was trailing his revelation, the NSA backtracked, saying he was quoted out of context.
A statement from his office noted that Monguno did not categorically say that monies meant for arms procurement were missing under the former service chiefs.
The statement reads: “The attention of the Office of the National Security Adviser has been drawn to some media reports regarding Armed Forces equipment during an interview with the BBC Hausa service.
“We would like to State that the NSA was quoted out of context as he did not categorically say that funds meant for arms procurement were missing under the Former Service Chiefs as reported or transcribed by some media outlets from the BBC interview.
“During the interview, the National Security Adviser only reiterated the Federal Government’s commitment to deal decisively with insecurity and stated President Muhammadu Buhari’s continued commitment to provide all necessary support to the Armed Forces, including the provision of arms and equipment.
“In the interview the National Security Adviser clearly informed the BBC reporter that Mr President has provided enormous resources for arms procurement, but the orders were either inadequate or yet to be delivered and that did not imply that the funds were misappropriated under the former Service Chiefs.
“The NSA also informed the reporter that, Mr President is following up on the procurement process as is usual with contracts relating to military equipment, in most cases the process involves manufacturing, due diligence and tedious negotiations that may change delivery dates.
Missing Trillions Must Be Investigated – Reps
The House of Representatives however insisted that the allegation by the NSA that the money voted for the purchase of arms for the fight against insurgency and armed banditry were unaccounted must be investigated.
The ad-hoc committee set up by the House to review the purchase, use and control of arms, ammunition and related hardware by military, paramilitary and other law enforcement agencies in Nigeria chaired by Hon. Olaide Akinremi resolved to invite the Chief of Army Staff, Major-General Ibrahim Attahiru to appear in person to respond to allegations bothering on how weapons purchased for the military and police ended up in the hands of bandits and miscreants.
Akinremi who issued the notice yesterday after the closed-door session with representatives of the Chief of Army Staff led by Major General C. Ofuche also stressed the need for the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Godwin Emefiele, to appear before the committee.
The law maker, who hinted that both arms of government are working toward achieving one goal, said that it is for the purpose of the betterment of Nigeria.
He said, “Before I give you the floor, you may be aware of news going round I got as breaking news this morning also. It says it seems the money released to former Service Chiefs by President Muhammadu Buhari to but weapons to fight terrorism, banditry and kidnapping is missing.
“Because the new Service Chiefs have confirmed to us that they didn’t see where the new weapons were purchased in their handing over.
“Apparently, the money is missing. And the money in question is in trillions of naira. And we must investigate. So with all of these going on, coupled with international interest, especially the Nigerians we represent, they are all watching, we need to handle this issue with care. We all agree that it is very very sensitive.”
Other lawmakers who expressed concern over the breach of extant regulations underscored the need to examine the level of compliance with extant provisions of the Public Procurement Act, 2007.
Speaking on the extant provisions of section 88 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), Hon Ifeanyi Momah who raised a point of order said, “I don’t think the representatives of the Chief of Army Staff can be held culpable or liable for any remarks made here because it is assumed that any remarks that are made are made by the Chief of Army Staff.
“So if he’s not the one making the remarks it’s very easy for him to actually engage in culpable deniability because he’s not the one making the remarks.”
In his intervention, Hon. Ibrahim Al-Mustapha Aliyu who noted that the ad-hoc is not witch hunting anybody stressed the need for the accounting officer of the Nigerian Army to appear in person to explain how weapons bought for the military and police ended up in the hands of bandits.