By Philip Agbese
Transparency International (TI) on Thursday released a report alleging that lack of transparency in defence spending is responsible for the continuous existence of Boko Haram and that some of the measures to be adopted are that no nation should sell arms to the country. The report, prepared in partnership with the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), and ominously titled, “Weaponising Transparency: Defence Procurement Reform As a Counterterrorism Strategy in Nigeria,” warned that corruption in defence procurement is a threat to Nigeria’s stability.
On the surface the report appears like genuine intention on the part of an international “do gooder” that is out to ensure that Nigerians are not short-changed of N380 billion annually by corrupt politicians and greedy military officers who take the money under the cover of military purchases that are either inflated, substandard or non-existent. The true objective of the report is however hidden in plain sight. The real intent was the demand that countries do not sell weapons to Nigeria, which is in itself a secondary or even tertiary agenda as the real reason for seeking to drive Nigeria into a strait is known to only those executing that project.
To understand the duplicity in the intent of the Transparency International’s report is to recall that it is a rehash of the report of another project manager that appends “international” to its name.
Amnesty International had in the past, during the US Presidency of Barack Obama, fabricated lies that were packaged as a report to block the sales of military gears to Nigeria. The consequences of that blockade in the Goodluck Jonathan era are well documented; it marked the period Boko Haram grew with lightening rapidity while there were no equipment to fight them.
The coming of President Buhari’s administration and the appointment of the current military chiefs changed the permutation. Even without the benefit of procurement, they looked inward and rehabilitated existing hardware that were earlier mothballed and deployed same for degrading Boko Haram. Along the line, the tenure of the “moderate rebels” loving Obama ended and a more pragmatic, if overbearing, Donald Trump came and the US again became a willing partner in the quest to defeat terrorism with the approval to sell Super Tucanos aircraft to Nigeria among other approvals that will place weapons in the hands of troops.
For project managers that have been contracted to ensure the growth of extremism and terrorism as destabilization tools in Nigeria, that development would negate contracts and bring catastrophic casualty to the fighting forces of contrived insurgency. There is no way that is going to be allowed to happen. The one tool that has been used to hound the military from performing, Amnesty International, has been overused to a point where some angry Nigerians wanted it booted out of the country. Hence the quest to hastily find a replacement with a global outlook and a level of acceptance that equals the level of Amnesty International before it became damaged good. Transparency International was the perfect choice and corruption is a good cover for it to continue running the brief without raising red flags.
But the human factor gave this operation away. To be sure that it has a control of the spin, Transparency International ran the partnership with CISLAC, whose Executive Director, Auwal Rafsanjani conveniently happens to be the Chairman, Board of Amnesty International (Nigeria). So all the INN sympathizer did was to change vessels and continue plying his wares as fanatical Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) promoter, not necessarily as a sectarian adherent but as someone who will throw anything into the wheels of the military machinery for the purpose of wrecking it and deliver a sorely needed project to his sponsors.
The exercise carried out by Transparency International in partnership with CISLAC is therefore a fiasco even before it was presented to resounding rejection by stakeholders. Its content is a reflection of the past as the people guilty of the malfeasance it supposedly documented have long left office with some standing trial. Yet it wants this to be used as a basis to stop Nigeria getting weapons to fight terrorists and the military institutions demonized. In the first place, researchers that arrived at those findings are the type that did not even bother to visit a beer parlour anywhere in Nigeria but chose to be misled by a Rafsanjani who has links to IMN and has been openly favoured any criminal group that has the undermining of Nigeria as its manifesto. He is committed to tarnishing the image of the current administration using fictitious reports and cares nothing how this affects the rest of us that are apolitical.
Rafsanjani’s Transparency International was silent while the psychotic looting took place under the Jonathan government and only now woke up to Sambo Dasuki’s infractions because it needed an indictment to clock in a milestone.
For now, the focus is to deliberately frustrate and castigate the government’s anti-corruption crusade in recovering stolen funds.
Choosing to release the report at about the same time the rendering of the midterm report of President Buhari’s administration is expected to be rolled solidifies the suspicion about its dubiousness. The President’s performance, even in the face of setbacks that are out of human control, remains remarkable considering where the country has been, where the country is and the improved potentials of where the country could be in the near term.
There is therefore no doubt that the Transparency International-CISLAC-Amnesty International report was rolled out by elements that are out to tarnish the image of Nigeria with findings that did not take into cognizance the reforms and measures that have been put in place from May 2015 to date. For instance, there was no Department of Procurement in the Army, but now it must be acknowledged that Lt. Gen TY Buratai introduced the department and issues of procurement are now being prudently handled.
Considering the sheer bad faith behind the report, the government should not take investigating the motives of those behind it off the table. We must question the motives behind the report and the call for security sector reform which is usually for failed states. Possibly, Boko Haram remains the leading agenda that the owners of the report do not want to end as can be garnered from the failure to acknowledge the tremendous progress recorded to the point that the US Secretary of State asked the world to learn from Nigeria. It could be jealousy over the accomplishments of Nigeria even under the harshest of conditions that were brought about by their failed prediction of destroying the country two years ago. They are now coming out with silly, inhuman and irresponsible recommendations like stoppage of arms sales, denial of visa and travel bans.
One would only wish the incumbent government would go beyond the niceties of considering the people it is dealing with as deserving the usual courtesies even after they have repeatedly made mincemeat of the country. This band of thugs are determined to down the government and the country with it, which dictates that they should not get the nice treatment anymore.
– Agbese is a an international public affairs commentator and writes from the United Kingdom