General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, the 20th Chief of Army Staff comes with a most underwhelming physiognomy that belies a regenerating tough skin.
A look, that on the surface is non- plussed, uneasy to scan; and a physique that is like a fired up war frame. Close associates of him insist he has a disarming personality, a sneaky hold that bewitches as it clots. Buratai, is a classical military general in the strictest sense of the word. His dynamism, effusive tactical maneuvers in all his dealings puts him out as a “hard and dried-out” military general with a vision of the time worn cliché; “no retreat, no surrender”. Every step of his shows he is not an armchair general, or what the Americans call “Buck general.”
Yet he is said to be warm and affectionate, beneath the stern overlay. As a scion of Biu, Buratai evinces the melting pot nature of his people, and the ingrained humanism among them. Peaceful co-existence is taken very seriously as being fundamental to beneficial interpersonal and group relationships. Although dressed in new rhetoric, the core Biu values of sense of community, economic prosperity in flowing linearity, a loud language of grandeur, dignity of labour, reverence for ancestors and respect for elders are not yet lost in him. These overly personal tendencies, in tandem with the community shared values, upbringing and professional grooming form the vortex of his outlook, engagements and the many controversies that dot every bend of his way. On many occasions, he has faced very big battles that have tested and stretched his guts and strength. On each count, he earned resounding victories with golden notches.
Every enemy he subdued in the line of duty has always added more stripes to his Spartan reputation and the immeasurable aura of a fine and gallant officer.
In the battle frontlines as Commander of the Multinational Joint Task Force, to his current position, Buratai has dorned golden heroic epaulettes with little or no bruises. Until he took over the affairs of the Nigerian Army, the terrorist Boko Haram group in the North-east was riding the waves, annexing territories with ease and dealing fatal blows to the confused mass of humanity they encountered. In one of his famous exploits, he was said to have personally confronted and routed some Boko Haram terrorists that attempted to ambush his convoy during one of his visits to Borno State, the hotbed of the skirmishes. As Commander, 2 Brigade Port Harcourt and Sector Commander Joint Task Force, Operation Pulo Shield, he brought about improved security in Rivers and Bayelsa states, launched the fight against oil theft, piracy, kidnapping and armed robbery. But all that was yesterday.
Today, he is assailed with a formless battle that has left him gasping for breath. In sheer exasperation, his adrenaline has boiled over, and the all-conquering soldier is fighting the battle of his life and career. Within days, entreating statements emanating from his quarters have filled the media space denying publications that he and his wives own two houses in Dubai, United Arab Emirates worth $1. 5m.
An online medium which blew the whistle alleged that “ the money for the purchase of the two properties may have come from a vehicle contract scam while Mr Buratai was the director of procurement at the Army headquarters.”
Not done with the denials, 25 retired officers who were suspected to be the mastermind of the allegation have been swiftly picked up, even as Buratai dared them to go to court to establish their case against him.
As the smoke from the leak billowed, more insight was beamed on the messy affair. The embattled general is said to have bought a second choice property in Dubai, days after his appointment as Nigeria’s Chief of Amy Staff. Further details revealed that he and his two wives in 2013 paid the sum of 1,498,534.00 AED (N120million/$419,000) for the first property, Project TFG Marina Hotel Unit 2711.
The sales document indicate that the first property was handed over to the Buratais on January 13, 2013. 11 days after his appointment as COAS. He commenced arrangements for the purchase of the second property from the same company in Dubai. He was said to have paid a total sum of N42.2 million into TFG Sigma 111’s account in Nigeria( Skye Bank, 1770380452).
He further made N10million payments on July 24, and August 7 respectively. Three days later, another N10million was paid into the real estate’s firm account with a phone number on the Skye bank teller (08033349740). The number is believed to belong to Major Emmanuel G Adegbola of the Nigerian Army Finance Corps( N/10808) Again, on August 17,2015, the COAS paid the sum of N3,270,000 into the account.
Further exposures indicate that the lodgments were allegedly funds earmarked for the feeding, medical care, and payment of allowances of soldiers fighting the war against Islamist insurgents in the North-east.
The funds for the first property allegedly came from a contract awarded for the supply of vehicles and motorcycles to the Army. It was further alleged that General Buratai had cornered the funds in his days as director of procurement at the Army Headquarters, using a front identified as Usman Ganawa. “The contract was awarded for the purchase of new vehicles, but Alhaji Ganawa’s Baggash Investments bought second hand vehicles and motorcycles from Niger Republic for the use of soldiers,” Sunday Sun learnt. On arrival in Nigeria, the vehicles and motorcycles were reportedly taken for refurbishment at Mogadishu Cantonment under the supervision of one Sergeant Dandan Garba.
Angered by the rickety state of the vehicles, and motorcycles, a group known as Concerned Soldiers and Officers from the North east fired a petition to President Muhammadu Buhari demanding an investigation into the alleged rip-off.
The group further alleged that Buratai’s huge investments include an upscale farm – Tukur and Tukur Farms Ltd on the Abuja – Keffi highway.
According to the report, “The Farm is currently a huge construction site featuring a tarred road, a zoo, a guest House, chalets, a restaurant, a cinema hall, a mini stadium and other leisure facilities.” Some of the equipment at the site were also alleged to belong to the Nigerian Army. There is, however, no independent confirmation of the allegations. The Army high Command has dismissed the reports as mere lies.
Colonel Sani Kushasheka Usman, acting Director, Public Relations explained in a statement that the said properties indeed belonged to the Buratai families, which were paid for in instalments through personal savings. But some of Usman’s averments are at odds with the revelations.
For instance, his claim that Buratai was never a director of procurement at the defense headquarters is believed to be patently in conflict with depositions from the website of Bureau of Public Procurement, (BPP) on bpp.gov.ng, as the General attended the 2014 Defence Headquarters Procurement seminar as the director of procurement. He was quoted as declaring at the seminar that: “ It is our hope that at the end of the seminar, we would all be better informed about public procurement procedures and work towards the emergence of an enhanced Defence Procurement Procedure for the Armed Forces of Nigeria.”
While the controversies surrounding the Dubai properties continue to simmer, Rights activists and prominent Nigerians are up in arms with the seeming delay in launching investigations into the allegations. A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, and former National President of the Nigeria Bar Association, NBA , Mr Olisa Agbakoba told Sunday Sun that there are a number of unclear issues surrounding the alleged purchase of the Dubai properties and the hasty clearance of the army chief by the federal government. He challenged Burutai to come clear on how he made the huge sum of money to acquire the houses. Although Agbakoba noted there is no law prohibiting public officers from acquiring houses, he explained that the law prohibiting the operation of foreign accounts by public officers is sufficient to charge the Army chief for an infraction.
He said: “There are a number of unclear issues. But what is clear is that he has these houses in Dubai. And the second fact is that he said he paid for these houses from his emoluments. What is puzzling is whether as a public officer he is qualified to buy these houses, and how he raised the money to buy them. I read his defence and I don’t think he really acquitted himself well.”
“There is no law prohibiting public officers from acquiring houses abroad. But there is a law that says that public officers must not operate foreign accounts. I recommend that he should explain how he bought those houses. The federal government is absolutely wrong in jumping into a matter that does not concern them. The defense put forward by the federal government and the Army is uncalled for. My presumption is that he acquired them unlawfully.
“The Federal Government has to be careful not to make the anti-corruption war, one that is selective and puerile”, he fumed. Similarly, a member of the Board of Trustees, BoT of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, expressed displeasure at the current government’s posturing on anti-corruption. He queried: “ Why should there be corruption in the military? We are courting serious disaster. Even the way they are handling the issue is annoying. What corruption are they fighting? You’re fighting corruption and you’re giving hasty clearance to those who have been implicated somehow? The whole talk about corruption war is a charade designed to deceive the people.”
The Conference of Nigerian Civil Rights Activists; CNCRA swiftly demanded the immediate removal of the Chief of Army Staff.
In a statement by its convener who is also the president of the Campaign for Democracy, CD, Mr Ifeanyi Odili, it posited that that the continued retention of Burutai in the position would rubbish the current anti-corruption crusade of the present administration. The Socio- Economic Rights and Accountability Projects, SERAP charged the EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) and ICPC ( Independent Corrupt Practices Commission) to investigate Buratai’s claim that the houses were purchased with his personal savings.
In a similar vein, Chief Frank Aghedo, a legal practitioner based in Lagos punctured the claims by the Army that public servants are entitled to purchase of shares in corporate organizations. He described it as an “afterthought and alibi to justify the flagrant abuse of office by the Army General.” He asked those making such defenses to make public the processes used in acquiring the shares before he would make further comments on the matter.
Burutai, the man in the eye of the storm has, however, accused defeated Boko Haram terrorists as the masterminds of the charges against him. He said they are now hiding behind the internet to continue with their attacks against the military institution and government of Nigeria. He vowed that the Nigerian Army will in the same manner they decimated Boko Haram, pursue the emergent ‘internet terrorists’ to the cyberspace and defeat them. “He said: “I am not supposed to be commenting again on this issue because, both the Federal Government and the Army have addressed it. However, what I can say is that we have defeated the terrorists on the land and they have migrated to the cyberspace.
“But I want to assure you that we will follow these Boko Haram that migrated to the cyberspace to wherever they are. We will follow them and clear their doubts.”
With an all clear given to Buratai by the federal government despite the uproar the scandal has generated, those fanning the embers of punishment for him may have hit a brick wall. In more ways than this, the government has demonstrated that it is not in a hurry to disgrace its own official out of office based on allegations of corruption.
Gen TY Buratai at a glance
From TIMOTHY OLANREWAJU, Maiduguri
MAJ-GEN TY Buratai hails from Buratai town in Biu Local Government Area of Borno State
Born on November 24, 1960, he began his military career on admission into the 29 Regular Combatant Course of the Nigeria Defence Academy, Kaduna in 1981.
He joined the Army with a teachers’ Grade II certificate, obtained with distinction.
He was commissioned as second lieutenant into the Infantry Corps of the Nigerian Army in 1983 and has held many command, instructional and administrative appointments in his 35- year military career.
He served in 26 Amphibious Battalion Elele, Port Harcourt, Military Observer at the United Nations Verification Mission II in Angola; later 26 Guards Battalion, Lagos; Lagos Garrison Command Camp.
Lt Gen Buratai also served as administrative officer at the State House, Abuja; 82 Motorized Battalion; 81 Battalion, Bakassi Peninsular; Army Headquarters Garrison, Abuja before he became a Directing Staff at the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji; earning the prestigious “Pass Staff College Dagger” (psc(+) appellation.
Subsequently, he served at AHQ Dept of Army Policy and Plans, Abuja; Assistant Chief of Staff Administrative Matters, HQ Infantry Centre Jaji. Additionally, he was again at the Armed Forces Command and Staff College as Director Dept of Land Warfare from where he was appointed Commander 2 Brigade, Port Harcourt, doubling as Commander, Sector 2 JTF Operation PULO SHIELD. Upon promotion to the rank of Major General, he was appointed Commandant, Nigerian Army School of Infantry, Jaji; thereafter he was appointed Director of Procurement DHQ before being appointed Force Commander of the newly reconstituted Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) under the auspices of the Lake Chad Basin Commission and Benin Republic an appointment he held till he became Chief of Army Staff.
His operational deployments include Military Observer at the United Nations Verification Mission II in Angola, Op HARMONY IV in the Bakassi Peninsular, OP MESA, Op PULO SHIELD, Op SAFE CONDUCT, MNJTF, Op ZAMAN LAFIYA and Op LAFIYA DOLE.
His qualifications include Nigerian Defence Academy Certification of Education, Bachelor of Arts in History, Masters of Arts Degree in History and Master of Philosophy Degree in Security Studies.
A highly decorated senior officer, Lt Gen Buratai’s Honours and Awards include; Nigerian Army Medal, Forces Service Star, Meritorious Service Star, Distinguished Service Star and the Grand Service Star. Others include, Pass Staff Course Dagger (psc(+)), National Defence College (Bangladesh), Field Command Medal, Training Support Medal and the United Nations Medal for Angolan Verification Medal II. He is a Member of Historical Society of Nigeria.
Lt Gen Buratai loves farming, squash racket and jogging.
Buratai never lived a flamboyant life –Kinsmen
SOME kinsmen of Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Yusuf Buratai have vouched for his character, describing him as a quiet man who never lived a flamboyant life.
“I knew him in the early 1993 during the regime of the military administrator of Borno State, Group Capt Ibrahim Dada. I think the ADC was his friend because he used to come to the ADC’s office. He was a very quiet person and unlike most military officers then, he was not flamboyant at all. Tall, quiet and hardly speak,” a retired government official who was at the Maiduguri Government House then told Sunday Sun on the condition of anonymity.
He said Buratai hardly contributed to discussions in the ADC’s office or on the corridor even with other military colleagues except when asked to. “He was a very gentle and soft spoken person,” he added.
A relation also described the Army chief as kind but firm. “He is always ready to help but he expects you to tell him the truth of the matter. He would also insist you must help yourself first and some of us don’t like such frankness,” said the relation who simply identified himself asA lhaji Baba.
Ali Chiroma, a graduate of the University of Maiduguri said his first contact with Buratai was in 1999, adding that “the man, he was a young officer then, spoke briefly about hard work and honesty.
“I met him the first time at the Department of History in 1999 during one of our events. He is an alumnus of the department and we invited him for a programme. Interestingly, he came unexpectedly, spoke for a few minutes about honesty and hard work and he left thereafter,” Ali added.