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While its own arms manufacturing corporation is dying from lack of funds, Nigeria blows $3 million to lobby America for used weapons
By Samuel Malik, Abuja
The federal government in its desperation to procure arms and ammunitions, in 2013, blew $3 million (about N560 million now) on a lobbying contract aimed at convincing the United States government to donate used American military equipment to Nigeria.
According to documents obtained by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, the one year contract was awarded by the office of the National Security Adviser, NSA, to Patton Boggs, an American firm of lawyers which specialises in lobbying in September, 2013.
The lobbying company’s brief was “providing comprehensive security/defense advice, to include pursuing potential donation by the U.S. Government to the Government of Nigeria excess military and law enforcement equipment.”
In plain language, what Nigeria was seeking by this contract was for Patton Boggs to lobby the US government to donate to it arms and ammunition that had been used and was no longer needed by the American military..
In what has now become a trend of impunity among Nigerian government agencies in awarding such public relations/lobbying contracts, the NSA’s office did not go through any due process but handpicked the contractor and paid money to it that was never appropriated.
This website has already published two such contracts questionably awarded to foreign PR firms without due process, with no significant results delivered.
In the first contract, the News Agency of Nigeria, the nation’s official wire service, in June awarded a contract to Levick Strategic Communications, a Washington – based public relations for an amount in excess of $1.5 million to help shape local and international perception about the Nigerian government’s fight against terrorists.
(Read the story here)
Earlier, in July 2013, the Nigerian Ambassador to the US, Ade Adefuye, had awarded a $700,000 (that is over N130 million) PR contract to Mercury, a public relations firm, to do routine diplomatic duties that embassy staff in Washington could have done. (Find the story here)
In the latest contract awarded by the NSA, preceding the agreement was a letter written by Patton Boggs and signed by J. Gordon Arbuckle and John G Garrett on August 27, 2013 to the NSA, Muhammadu Sambo Dasuki, thanking him for agreeing to retain the firm to represent his office in providing security advice and lobbying for the donation of the military equipment.
The letter demanded the sum of $3 million as retainer fee paid in quarterly instalments of $750, 000 and recommended September 1, 2013 as commencement date for the contract. It was signed and returned by the NSA as requested, indicating his consent.
The agreement, Article 8 of which states that it “shall be governed in toto by Nigerian Law”, was formally entered into on September 13, 2013 and signed for the office of the NSA by Njoku Leo Erasmus and witnessed by S. A. Salisu, director of administration and finance, while J. Gordon Arbuckle signed for Patton Boggs and witnessed by Angela Wan, legal secretary.
According to the supplemental statement filed by the Patton Boggs on July 22, 2014 and signed by Edward J. Newberry, Global Managing Partner, to the U. S. Department of Justice, as required by Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, there were 63 contacts made by the company on behalf of office of the NSA between November 21, 2013 and May 31, 2014.
These were principally to the United States Military Command, USMC, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, National Guard Bureau and the US Africa Command, AFRICOM, among others.
The contacts were made via Emails (29), meetings (20), phone calls (11) and letters (3). Out of these contacts, majority were centred on bilateral relations, with only one on ‘potential’ donation of military and law enforcement equipment to the Nigerian Government by US military authorities, which was a meeting held on November 21, 2013 at the office of the National Guard Bureau and attended by Patton Boggs staff and the Bureau’s John Finney.
According to the same documents, all that the lobbying firm, which in 2014 merged with Squire Sanders to become Squire Patton Boggs, did to earn USD $3 million was to provide advice to NSA’s office on security and defence issues.
“We advised the foreign principal on security and defense issues (and) assisted the foreign principal with regard to security and defense issues,” the document revealed.
At the end of the day, Nigeria came short on the deal and got no weapons after coughing out the $3 million to Patton Boggs, one America’s top ten lobbying firms.
From the beginning, this was a contract that ought never to have been awarded because more than any other institution in Nigeria, the office of the NSA should have understood clearly that it would be difficult for the country to get arms and ammunition from the American government.
A United Stated Department of State source who spoke off record told the icirnigeria.orgearlier in the years that communications between American and Nigeria military and diplomatic officials had made it clear that Washington would no longer give any kind of military hardware to Nigeria.
And the reason is simply because of human rights abuses allegedly perpetrated by the Nigerian military and other security forces in the country. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have in recent years documented alleged flagrant human rights abuses by the Nigerian security forces, including the use of torture and extra judicial killings, acts that forbid the U.S. from rendering certain military assistance.
The Nigerian government finally aired its frustration in November when the country’s Ambassador to Washington accused the U.S. of not doing enough to help it combat Boko Haram insurgents in the North east.
Adefuye had on November 10, 2014 told members of the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations: “The U.S. Government has up till today refused to grant Nigeria’s request to purchase lethal equipment that would have brought down the terrorists within a short time on the basis of the allegations that Nigeria’s defence forces have been violating human rights of Boko Haram suspects when captured or arrested,” accusations he said are based on “rumours, hear-says and exaggerated accounts.”
Reacting to Adefuye’s criticism, the Department of State spokesperson, Jen Psaki, refuted the claims, saying that the only equipment the Americans has denied Nigeria are Cobra helicopters and this was due to the U. S. concern about the country’s military’s ability to use and maintain them, in addition to its ability to protect civilians during operations.
“Earlier this year, we denied the transfer of some Cobra attack helicopters to Nigeria due to concerns about Nigeria’s ability to use and maintain this type of helicopter in its effort against Boko Haram and on-going concerns about the Nigerian military’s protection of civilians when conducting military operations. We shared those concerns with Nigeria before this decision and subsequent to it,” she said.
“Nigeria has purchased helicopters that originated in countries other than the United States, and nothing in our decision prevents Nigeria from obtaining weapons and equipment from other sources,” she added.
To many followers of Nigerian/American relations, it is curious that the office of the NSA or any agency of the government would be as naïve as to offer $3 million to lobbyist to persuade Washington to donate arms to Nigeria.
For Chidi Odinkalu, a professor of law and chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, it is a bizarre deal.. According to him, because of its human rights noncompliance, Nigeria ought to know that it would be difficult getting arms from the United States, and, thus, the Office of the NSA’s office should never have awarded any contract lobbying for arms donation from the US.
Odinkalu posited there is no such thing as “excess” military equipment, pointing out that Nigeria was asking for used weapons, which makes the N3 million deal even more unlikely to have succeeded.
“There is nothing like excess military equipment. Excess military equipment is out-dated equipment, equipment that is out of use. Why would you use second-hand equipment to police (the insurgence)? Are you saying Nigeria is second-hand? What if that equipment is actually malfunctioning? Do they come with any warranty? And, if because they malfunction, (or) they are put to wrong use, what happens?,” he queried.
Faulting the contract further, particularly the article that states the agreement would be governed completely by Nigerian law, the NHRC chairman said something was amiss.
“It is curious that a US entity would seek to have an agreement of this sort governed in toto by Nigerian law. It is curiously unusual (and) I will say it suggests an entity that is looking for inferior standard of accountability,” Odinkalu said, adding that the sum was also exorbitant.
“The idea of seeking donation of excess military and law enforcement equipment by US government to the government of Nigeria is nonsensical. To pay US$3 million for somebody to seek donation of excess military equipment is utter nonsense. It just doesn’t make sense because in that case, it is no longer a donation. People should not take our intelligence for granted.”
But more fundamentally, Odinkalu points out the real reason at the heart of America’s reluctance to sell or donate military equipment to Nigeria, which the two sides have been silent about.
Odinkalu observed that if the United States sells weapons to Nigeria and they either end up in the wrong hands or are used for illegal means such as extra judicial killings or torture, America will be liable to prosecution under international law.
“Assuming you got equipment under the terms of this agreement, ‘donated’, and that equipment came here and got involved in unlawful activity, say torture or extra judicial killing, for instance, the makers would not be precluded from liability. The jurisprudence under the Alien Tort Claims Act is very clear, they would be bound by and the enforcement would be done on the terms of the US law, not on the terms of Nigerian law and the users would be bound because there is a jurisdictional connection between the makers in the US and the users in Nigeria,” he stated.
The scenario painted by Odinkalu is a situation Psaki indicated that her country is trying to avoid, when she said, “These decisions (whether or not to sell or not equipment to Nigeria) are made, of course, after careful scrutiny to ensure they conform with United States law (and) we wouldn’t be raising that concern (human rights violation) if we didn’t feel and others didn’t feel that they were warranted.”
Under the United States Leahy Law, it is prohibited to give military assistance to countries with gross violation of human rights. And, Nigeria is not the only country the U. S. has denied military assistance to. Bangladesh, Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Turkey, Indonesia, and Pakistan, have all been denied assistance in the past because of their poor human rights records.
The Leahy Law (named after the sponsor, Senator Patrick Leahy) is a U.S. human rights law that prevents the Department of State and Department of Defense from giving military assistance to foreign militaries that are notorious for abusing human rights.
U.S. embassies and the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor and other relevant regional bureaus of the Department of State are empowered to scrutinize would-be beneficiaries of security assistance andif any is reliably found to be in serious abuse of human rights, the assistance is denied until measures have been taken by the host nation government to prosecute those responsible.
Since the US funds assistance to foreign militaries through two separate means, State Department and Department of Defense, there are two versions of the Leahy Law.
The law covering the State Department foreign assistance is found in Section 620M of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (as amended in January 2014), and it states:
“(a) IN GENERAL. – No assistance shall be furnished under this Act or the Arms Export Control Act to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of State has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.”
The Department of Defense Appropriations version found in Section 8057 of the 2014 Omnibus Bill reads:
“(a) IN GENERAL– (1) None of the funds made available by this Act may be used for any training, equipment, or other assistance for the members of a unit of a foreign security force if the Secretary of Defense has credible information that the unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.
(2) The Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall ensure that prior to a decision to provide any training, equipment, or other assistance to a unit of a foreign security force full consideration is given to any credible information available to the Department of State relating to human rights violations by such unit.”
The irony of the whole NSA/Patton Boggs deal is that while Nigeria was ready to squander over half a billion naira to beg for donation of used weapons from the US, its own arms and ammunition manufacturer, the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria, DICON, is starved of funds and left to rot away.
DICON, the country’s premier military equipment manufacturer, used to be one of the best in Africa. Established in 1964, it was mainly saddled with the responsibility of manufacturing small arms and ammunition for the army and other security agencies but, over the years, it had evolved to the level of producing sophisticated hardware like rocket-propelled grenades, RPGs, mortar bomb and AK 47.
However, today production has virtually come to a halt at the corporation because of lack of funds. In the 2014 budget, a paltry N1.9 billion was allocated to the corporation, just about four times the amount paid to Patton Boggs to lobby then US for used weapons.
The sorry state in which DICON is might be a real indication of Nigeria’s seriousness in prosecuting the war against insurgents in the North east.
It was reliably gathered that most workshops in DICON are out of work because hardly any weapons are produced by there these days
“The situation is worse than before. Almost all production staffs have been idle for about one year now,” a staff, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told this website
The lack of production has also led to the depletion of ammunitions, which workers say is dangerous. According to a management staff, who also does not want to be named:
“We are supposed to have at least 3 to 4 million ammunitions in the bunker but right now we do not have up to a million. It is not that we lack raw materials to produce ammunitions. Some of the raw materials here were got since 1964 while some were brought by the Belgians in 1986. So, we do not buy raw materials or the skills, just tools and the production machines,” revealed a senior management employee of the corporation.
DICON product list used to include Light Automatic Rifle (LAR); General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG) with firing rate of 1,300 rounds per minute, Sub-Machine Gun (SMG), AK 47 Assault Rifle (OBJ-006), rocket propelled grenade launchers, mortars, hand grenades, ammunition, windmill, hand pump, ballot box, mace, laterite compression machines, industrial machine tools, single barrel shotguns, coat of arms, etc.
The production of this range of weapons and allied products was only made possible when former president Olusegun Obasanjo released N1 billion from the Petroleum Technology Development Fund, PTDF, to the company in 2006.
“It is important to stress that the one billion Naira (N1 billion) was released not only to fabricate and produce replacement parts for the oil and gas industry but to make Nigeria self-sufficient in small arms ammunition production by September 2007, and in small arms production by September 2008. DICON should be commended for the initiative to produce a Nigerian assault rifle from local materials and expertise,” Obasanjo had stated while responding to the Senate’s inquiry into allegations of mismanagement in PTDF.
In addition to the acquisition of state-of-the-art equipment for the manufacturing of OBJ 006 (DICON’s version of the AK-47), an automatic assault rifle in the same class as the lethally effective Russian AK-47, DICON, which once had a performance capacity of 15%, reached a production capacity of 70% with the injection of that fund, according to the former Director General, Brig-Gen Nnaemeka Maduegbunam.
Thus, Nigeria became the only West African country and one of five African countries, alongside Egypt, Ethiopia, South Africa, and Sudan, to produce an AK-47. However, without further injection of needed funds the corporation’s production lines have dried up.
Of the N1.9 billion total allocation to DICON in the 2014 budget, N1.1 billion is for recurrent expenditure while only N820.5 million was appropriated for capital projects.
Our source in the corporation said that only a fraction of the money budgeted for capital projects is ever released and, of that, the management is mainly bothered about cosmetic projects such as beautification and landscaping rather than its core duty of producing military equipment.
“With the necessary investment, there is more that can be produced. With the right motivation, there is no weapon that we cannot produce at DICON because the machines and skilled staffs are there,” said the source.
With Boko Haram insurgency still raging in the North east, Nigeria is still desperate for arms and ammunitions, even the most basic ones. However, the country does not appear interested in investing in DICON for the production of military equipment. Rather, President Goodluck Jonathan in September got approval of the Senate to borrow $1 billion dollars to equip the Nigerian military.
The approval is for the purchase of helicopters, ships, armaments and military hardware which are to be sourced from Belarus and other European countries.
The Office of the National Security Adviser did not respond to request for information on the Patton Boggs contract. The International Centre for Investigative Reporting and the Public and Private Development Centre, PPDC, a procurement and transparency advocacy group has written a request to the office of the NSA under the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 requesting for details of the contract including evidence of budgetary allocation, procurement plan, needs assessment, evidence of advertisement of bids invitation, copies of bid documents, a list of bid tenders and the signed contract document.
The mandatory seven days have elapsed but the NSA’s office has not replied to the request letter. The office is notorious for ignoring FOIA requests or replying only after four to six week, even then without making available the sought information.
Patton Boggs also failed to respond to our request for information. Our email to the firm’s director of media and communication, Angelo Kakolyris, requesting for information about how much the lobbying firm had received and the specific outcomes of the contract did not get a response. Calls made to his mobile (+12124070148) were also not answered.