- As pressure mounts on Buhari to investigate Buratai
PROBE panel that investigated the arms procurement set up by President Muhammadu Buhari is sharply divided over the alleged exclusion of the name of former Chief of Army staff during the administration of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Danbazau now minister of Interior. The panel which last week submitted its report indicted two former Chief of Army staffs namely Azubuike Ihejirika, Kenneth Minimah and 52 others over the arms procurement scandal. A highly placed security source at the weekend told Nigerian pilot that some members of the panel are crying foul that the initial report that was prepared allegedly included the name of the interior minister as one of the indicted persons. According to the source, the members of the panel who are not comfortable with the report are planning to stage their protest to president Buhari silently will officially complain to the president today requesting him to order the probe of Danbazau too. The probe okayed the arrest and prosecution of two former Chiefs of Army Staff, Lt.- Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika and Lt. -Gen. Kenneth Minimah, and 52 others, over arms procurement scandal. But some retired military officers and other members who served under the panel are insisting that probe should be extended to the Minister of Interior, Lt. -Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau (retd.). Also it was gathered that the president is under intense pressure from lawyers like chief Femi Falana and other Civil society group to commence the probe of the current Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai. They questioned the exclusion of Dambazau and Buratai from the list of those to be probed when the chief of army staff was the Director of Military Procurement during the period the arms scandal was alleged to have been committed. They said the call for Buratai’s probe became more necessary given the revelation that the Chief of Army Staff bought $1.5m properties in Dubai with “stolen money.” According to them, Buhari’s fight against corruption will appear to be one- sided if Buratai is left in his position and not being probed in spite of the allegations against him. President Buhari had ordered the probe of 54 persons, including Ihejirika and Minimah for their roles in the arms scandals that saw billions of dollars meant for the procurement of arms for the Nigerian military for the prosecution of the war against Boko Haram insurgency diverted to private pockets. The affected persons include 18 serving and retired personnel, 12 serving and retired public officials and 24 chief executive officers of companies involved in the arms procurements between 2011 and 2015. The move had followed Buhari’s approval of the recommendation of the Presidential Committee on the Audit of Defence Equipment Procurement in the Armed Forces led by AVM Jon Ode (retd.). In June, the Nigerian Army Council had retired a former aide de camp to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan; Col. Ojogbane Adegbe; a former Principal Secretary to an ex -National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.); Col. Nicholas Achinze, a former ADC to the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, Brig. Gen. A. H. Sa’ad; and 57 other senior officers for their involvements in the scandal. However,the aggrieved panel members and some of the retired military officers said the President’s war against corruption should be impartially prosecuted. One of them, Col. Kunle Falayi (retd.) expressed support for the ongoing anti-graft war, but urged the President to ensure that it was not one-sided. Falayi said, “But if it is true he (Buratai) has stolen money or that he partook in the mismanagement of the arms funds, there should no reason why he should be exempted from being probe. “He should be invited for probe if he has stolen, but if it is found that he has not stolen any money, he should be allowed to continue with his work.” On the allegation that Buratai’s total emoluments since he was commissioned in the Army could not support the mansions he bought in Dubai, Falayi said, “Buratai should be able to explain how he got the money with which he bought the properties. I have nothing against that; he should be made to explain the source of the money. All I know is that I support President Buhari’s war against corruption, but the war should be total; nobody suspected to have stolen public money should be exempted from probe.” Another retired military officer, Col.
Tony Nyiam, who commended Buhari for creating the condition engendering the probing of departments of the Federal Government used to be treated as “sacred cows”, however, said it would be unfair to leave out Buratai from the probe. “The Director of Procurement within the period being investigated should certainly be asked to help enquiry or be called in as a witness to give more information or as someone whom the allegations against him should be checked. In other words, the probe has to involve him. “The President has an opportunity to show that his war against corruption is not biased because there are so many allegations in the air.” A former Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav, who also described the source of Buratai’s wealth as unexplained, asked that the army chief should be probed. Tsav said the impression given by Buhari’s government so far showed that the administration had been using double standard on the anti- corruption issue. He said, “People are saying that Buratai declared his assets with the Code of Conduct Bureau, but even if he did, how did he get the whopping sum of money to acquire the property in Dubai? How much does he earn in a year? “These things are unreasonable; the government is giving the impression that it is being partisan and taking sides. “He (Buratai) should be investigated. If Minimah and Ihejirika will be investigated, Buratai should also be investigated so that we can know the truth. And if the government knows what we don’t know, it should lay it bare to members of the public so that it will be left to the court of public opinion to recommend to the government but taking sides is not good enough. “If a President comes to serve, he takes the oath that he is going to be fair to all manners of people, so he should be fair to all manner of people. The government said it found huge funds in the farm of a person but it has not told us whose farm it is. We want to know. Is the man a soldier or a politician?” Recently, Tukur Buratai, has been accused of buying two houses in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, at a cost of $1.5m. Curiously, the Nigerian Army has admitted that Buratai, indeed, owns the assets, saying, however, that he bought them with his savings in 2013. Reacting, the Federal Government said there was no truth in the insinuation that the report of the Presidential Committee on the Audit of Defence Equipment Procurement was doctored. In a statement issued in Abuja during the weekend by his Special Adviser, Mr. Segun Adeyemi, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said what had been released so far was the report of the audit covering the period 2011 to 2015. He added that the committee would commence the audit of procurement from 2007 to 2010 as soon as the necessary documents were available. The minister said, ‘’When the documents regarding procurement from 2007 to 2010 are available and scrutinised, the committee will then issue its report on that. The audit is being done in phases, and the report that was released on Thursday is the third of such.’’ He stated that the Federal Government’s anti-corruption fight was non- discriminatory., ‘’No one should attempt to distract from the seriousness of the issues involved in this audit of defence equipment procurement. It is important to note that even though the total amount spent for procurement and operations within the period were N185,843,052,564.30 and $685,349,692.49, the irregularities in the awards ensured that the military did not get value for money, with very serious.’’ Already in the Nigerian Air Force, some prominent former Air chiefs like, Alex Badeh, Amosun and several others were arraigned in court by the Economic and Financial Crimes, EFCC over the arms procurement scam