The presidential panel set up by President Muhammadu Buhari through the Office of the National Security Adviser to probe arms procurement between 2007 and 2015 has allegedly uncovered massive fraud in the Nigerian Army, The PUNCH has learnt.
It will be recalled that the panel had, so far, submitted two reports on its probe to the President.
While the first interim report was submitted in November 2015, the second report was submitted in January following which Buhari ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to investigate 18 serving and retired military officers, mainly from the Air Force.
The PUNCH’s investigation on Sunday revealed that the panel, which has Air Vice Marshal J. O. Ode (retd.) as its chairman, was concluding work on the probe of the Army.
It was gathered that part of the panel’s discovery was that the total amount involved in arms fraud was $15bn and not $2.1bn.
The PUNCH had, on Wednesday last week, reported that $15bn arms funds were diverted by top military officers.
According to the report, the $2.1bn earlier reported as the mismanaged arms procurement money was just for one transaction.
A top government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity on Sunday, described the fraud uncovered by the panel in the purchase of arms in the Army as “enormous.”
“The committee is still working. What they discovered in the Army is enormous,” he said.
When asked when the third report would be submitted to the President and be made public, the source said Buhari had directed the panel to change tactics.
“The President has directed that we explore the option of prosecuting indicted persons immediately instead of first publicising their names, thereby giving some of them the leeway to escape justice,” he explained.
The source added that as of last week, efforts were ongoing by the committee to discuss the prosecution of the freshly indicted persons with the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN).
He added that efforts were ongoing to make public some achievements of the panel, especially in the recovery of funds, ahead of a summit on anti-corruption that Buhari would attend alongside other world leaders in the United Kingdom next week.
In announcing the establishment of the committee last year, the Presidency had given its mandate to include identifying irregularities and making recommendations for streamlining the procurement process in the Armed Forces.
Following the submission of the panel’s second interim report, Buhari had, on January 15, directed the EFCC to carry out further investigation into the alleged misconduct established against some retired and serving officers of the Nigerian Air Force and Nigerian Army.