A civil society group, Freedom of Information Advocates Initiative (FOIA), has questioned the integrity of the interim report of the Presidential Investigative Panel into arms procurement contracts from 2007 to 2015.

In two separate statements issued July 17 and 18 and signed by its acting executive director, Sharon Adobi-Lawrence, FOIA also questioned the credibility of some members of the panel. According to the civil society group, certain members of the panel should actually have been answering charges or serving witnesses.            

FOIA disclosed that it had conducted a forensic analysis of the report, which yielded depressing conclusions. According to the group, Air Vice Marshal (AVM) John Odey (ret.), who chairs the investigative panel, was between 2014 and 2015 the Special Adviser to General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau (ret.), Minister of Defense at the time.

AVM Odey's role “was to superintend and advise the Honorable Minister of Defense on issues relating to arms procurement and other matters,” FOIA said, adding that, on account of that role, it was imprudent for Mr. Odey to sit in judgment in a matter in which he is an interested party.      

FOIA also wondered why General Gusau’s name, that of the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Defense and others who superintended the arms procurement contracts from 2007-2015 were not mentioned in the panel’s interim report. 

FOIA condemned the procurement panel’s failure to invite Mr. Murtala Yar’Adua, who was in charge of the Ministry of Defense at the period under investigation, to appear before it. FOIA also argued that General Suleiman Labaran, a former Director-General, Defense Industries Corporation of Nigeria, should not have been a member of the investigative panel. According to the civil society organization, General Labaran’s membership of the panel was untenable because he was “currently enmeshed in [a] N3.6 billion contract scandal, which was 100% paid for, but only executed up to 30%.” The group stated that such scams had continued to make the Nigerian military to suffer huge casualties in the fight against Islamist insurgent group, Boko Haram.

FOIA also wondered why President Muhammadu Buhari appointed General Nyama, a former Director of Army Procurement, as a member of the probe panel, adding that the general must have participated in the award of some of the contracts being investigated. According to FOIA, General Nyama should be a witness, not an investigator.

The group identified Brigadier-General N. Rimtip as another anomaly on the probe panel, since the general served as the Army Head of Procurement between 2007 and 2008. It recalled that it was during Rimtip’s tenure that patrol boats were bought for the Army at the cost of N700 million and $65 million for use in the Niger Delta region. The group alleged that the boats purchased under General Rimtip’s supervision were of inferior quality, adding that they worked merely for one year and then were no longer serviceable. FOIA disclosed that the boats were currently abandoned in Warri, Port Harcourt and Bayelsa State.

FOIA declared that its analysis revealed that 90% of the N186 billion meant for arms procurement was disbursed by the Ministry of Defense and the Office of the National Security Adviser without any input from the Army, Navy and Air Force, the end users. It added that their analysts discovered that a huge amount of cash was paid in dollars to a Nigerian with links to Niger. The group wondered why the report failed to disclose the identity of the Nigerian. “The panel should unveil the identity of this person in the spirit of transparency,” FOIA stated, adding that the panel’s interim report was silent on the amounts allegedly misappropriated by each ministry or agency with dates of awarded contracts and performance levels.

“The funds were lumped together, thereby misleading the general public. Each ministry/agency ought to have given account of all funds that accrued within the period under investigation,” FOIA argued.

FOIA declared its support for the current anti-corruption efforts, but demanded that the campaign must be marked by transparency.

  Air Commodore Muhammad Umar (rtd)

 

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