By Samuel Malik
The icirnigeria.org can reveal that the press statement issued on Friday by the Ministry of Information on the recent arms panel report is misleading as it contained factual errors.
In the statement signed on behalf of the Minister of Information, Lai Muhammed, by Segun Adeyemi, his spokesman, the minister said the report by the Presidential Committee on the Audit of Defence Equipment Procurement, which indicted former army chiefs, Azubuike Ihejirika and Kenneth Minimah, both retired Lieutenant Generals, and 52 others covered only 2011 to 2015.
“What has been released so far is the report of the audit covering the period 2011 to 2015… When the documents regarding procurement from 2007 to 2010 are available and scrutinized, the committee will then issue its report on that,” the ministry said.
However, details contained in the panel’s report contradict this statement.
According to the report released on Thursday, “In continuation of its assignment, the Committee on Audit of Defence Equipment Procurement (CADEP) in the Nigerian Armed Forces, analysed procurement contracts awarded by or for the Nigerian Army between 2007 and 2015.”
It added that within this period, 2007 to 2015, N185,843,052,564.30 and $685,349,692.49 were spent on procurement for the Nigerian army. This shows that contrary to the claim by the ministry that procurement documents for the previous four years were not available, the panel actually had access and perused necessary documents to be able to determine the amount of money spent in that time.
Furthermore, the panel provided proof to show that it covered 2007 to 2010.
“Between 29 April 2005 and 19 October 2010, the MOD awarded 2 contracts to Progress Limited for the supply of 42 units of BTR-3U Armoured Personnel Carriers and spare parts for the Nigerian Army. However, neither the MOD nor the NA could provide the contract agreements to ascertain the cost of the APCs. Although 26 of the APCs were delivered in 2007 and immediately deployed for Peace Keeping Operations in Sudan, the APCs scandalously broke down on induction. The Committee observed that the APCs did not meet the operational requirement for the Army, caused Nigeria international embarrassment and deprived her appropriate reimbursement from the United Nations,” it stated.
When the minister’s spokesman was contacted to clarify the statement, he could not make convincing clarifications. He said the mention of 2007 in the report referred to the scope of the committee’s work.
“It was talking about its mandate, that its work covers 2007 to 2015. That is the overall mandate. This is an interim report (and it only) covers 2011 to 2015 but the mandate of the committee covers 2007 to 2015,” Adeyemi said.
Our reporter however pointed out to him that the report stated with examples, that the committee analysed documents from 2007 to 2015.
“That does not also mean that all the contracts awarded by then for the Nigerian army have been treated. However, there are also still documents on the Nigerian army contracts that are still pending. When they get those documents, they will also still send out another report covering Nigerian army,” Adeyemi stated.
It is important to note that the panel has not said it does not have all the documents it needs. In fact, contrary to what the information ministry said, the panel has access to all necessary documents it needs.
This was evident in the first interim report it submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari, where it was stated that documents from the Office of the National Security Adviser, Defence Headquarters, Nigerian army, Nigerian navy, and Nigerian Air Force were studied.
“So far the total extra budgetary interventions articulated by the committee is Six Hundred and Forty Three Billion, Eight Hundred and Seventeen Million, Nine Hundred and Fifty Thousand, Eight Hundred and Eighty Five Hundred Naira and Eighteen Kobo (N643,817,955,885.18).
“The foreign currency component is to the tune of Two Billion, One Hundred and Ninety Three Million, Eight Hundred and Fifteen Thousand US Dollars and Eighty Three Cents ($2,193,815,000.83),” Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to the President, said on November 17, 2015.
So far, the arms probe panel, inaugurated in August 2015, to probe weapon procurement by the military from 2007 to 2015, has submitted three interim reports, revealing shocking details of how individuals brazenly looted funds meant for the purchase of weapons and ammunition.
The first report, released on November 17, showed how the Office of the National Security Adviser awarded contracts worth billions of naira without due process or evidence of work done.
The second report, released on January 15, 2016, focused on the Nigeria Air Force. It indicted very senior Air Force officers, including former Chief of Defence Staff, Alex Badeh, a retired Air Chief Marshall.
The latest and third report was released yesterday showing how senior army officers helped themselves to funds meant for weapons procurement.