By Philip Nwosu
It was a year of mudslinging for members of the armed forces as the committee constituted by the Federal Government to investigate arms procurement by previous administrations began to churn out its findings. Just as the reports reached the Presidency, operatives of the Department of State Security (DSS) swooped on the officers concerned, throwing them behind bars and making them face the law.
The first to come under the weight of the law was former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh, who was arrested by the DSS on the allegation of misappropriating N3.97million. Consequently, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) sealed the residence of the former Chief of Defence Staff in Abuja, while he is still on trial.
The action of the EFCC could be traced to the arms deal funds allegedly misappropriated by former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd). It is believed that Badeh, being a former Chief of Defence Staff, must have had some connection with the funds, which prompted his investigation in the first place. Badeh is facing a 10-count charge of money laundering, criminal breach of trust and corruption to the tune of N3.97 billion.
The immediate past Chief of the Air Force, Adesola Amosu, was also arrested and detained over allegations of corruption in arms procurement during his tenure. He was alleged to have awarded contracts totalling $930,500,690 with several discrepancies observed in the documentation.
The EFCC told a Federal High Court in Lagos that the former Chief of Air Staff took money from the Nigerian Air Force account to buy personal properties worth billions of naira. Amosu, a retired Air Marshal, was arraigned alongside another retired Air Force officer, AVM Jacob Adigun, and Gbadebo Olugbenga, an Air Commodore, on a 26-count charge of stealing N50 billion.
Also arraigned with the trio before Justice Mohammed Idris were their companies, Delfina Oil and Gas Ltd, McAllan Oil and Gas Ltd, Hebron Housing and Property Company Ltd, Trapezites BDC, Fonds and Pricey Ltd, Deegee Oil and Gas Ltd, Timsegg Investment Ltd, and Solomon Health Care Ltd.
According to the charge sheet, Amosu and Adigun, former head of Accounts and Budgeting at the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), allegedly removed sums running into billions of naira from NAF’s bank account to purchase property for themselves in choice locations in Abuja, Lagos and London. As well as N400 million to renovate and purchase medical equipment for Solomon Health Care Ltd, 24, Adeniyi Jones Street, Ikeja, Lagos; N500 million to purchase property at No. 1, River Street, Wuse 2, Abuja; N240 million to purchase property at No. 61A, Lake Chad Street, Maitama, Abuja; and a N370 million property at Agadez Street, off Aminu Kano Crescent, Abuja.
Others are N440 million to purchase property at Salt Lake Street, Maitama, Abuja; N1.7 billion for property at Agobogba Street, Parkview, Ikoyi; N750 million to purchase Cappadol Mall at Adetokunbo Ademola Street, Wuse 2, Abuja; N1.5 billion for property at Sinari Daranijo Street, Victoria Island, Lagos; and N900 million to purchase property No. 40A, Bourdillon, Ikoyi.
Outside Nigeria, the duo allegedly withdrew N660 million from the NAF account to purchase two properties at No. 50-52, Tenterden Grove, London (NW4 1TH), and No. 93B, Shirehall Park, London NW4 2QU, United Kingdom.
Badeh and Amosu’s arrest spiralled to the arrest of several other air force officers who were also accused of complicity in the misappropriation of funds.
The routing of the Boko Haram terrorist group was part of the success story of the military in 2016. Although the war is yet to end, the military has declared victory, insisting that never again will any group take any Nigerian territory as Boko Haram did in 2015. The Army, despite criticisms of not being able to rescue the abducted Chibok girls, had carried the battle into the notorious Sambisa forest, where it is believed that the remnants of the terrorists are hiding. Although the fight is yet to end, Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Tukur Buratai, has said the Army is re-strategising to track and eliminate the remaining Boko Haram elements from the battlefield.
Speaking with journalists at a media workshop organised by the Nigerian Army School of Public Relations and Information at 81 Division Officers’ Mess, Lagos, Buratai, who was represented by the Chief of Civil-Military Affairs, Peter Boje, gave the assurance that the terrorists would be eliminated for good no time. The Army chief, who was also the special guest of honour and speaker, delivered a lecture titled “The Utilisation of New Generation Warfare Tactics: Gains and Successes in the North-East Operations.”
In the battle against Boko Haram, several officers and soldiers were felled by the insurgents’ in 2016. The high point of the killing of the military operatives in the North-East was the death of Lt. Col. Abu Ali, who was famed to have tough fighting spirit needed by troops to confront the terrorists. He was killed alongside five other members of his troops as they engaged Boko Haram fighters in Borno State. Other officers also lost their lives. The military also dealt devastating blows on Boko Haram, with the killing of scores of insurgents.
Apart from making inroads in the fight against terror, the Nigerian government in 2016 made several military acquisitions to help boost the fight against terrorism. While the United State government provided tough military vehicles to enable the armed forces penetrate Sambisa forest, government also acquired Gazelle helicopters for combat operations in the North-East.
The U.S. government also handed over 24 mine-resistant armour-protected vehicles to the Nigerian Army. The armoured vehicles, which arrived the country on New Year’s day, were part of the U.S. government’s Excess Defence Articles Programme, designed to transfer excess U.S. military equipment to partner nations.
Also in 2016, while it continued to battle militants in the Niger Delta, the Nigerian Navy received its second off-shore patrol vessel (OPV) built by China Shipbuilding and Offshore International Company Limited. The vessel, named NNS Unity, was the second OPV built by the company; the first was delivered in 2015 and was christened NNS Century.
Naval engineers and architects also designed and built the second Nigerian-built war vessel constructed and finished at the Naval Dockyard. The second patrol vessel, named NNS Karaduwa, the Navy explained, would assist in combating pirates and crude oil thieves in the country’s territorial waters.
The Navy said it was building on the success achieved with the construction and deployment of the first locally-built vessel NNS Andoni, which was launched in 2012.
The NNS Andoni has been in the vanguard of several arrests made by the service in 2016, particularly the pirates that hijacked the vessel MT Maximus in 2016.
The NNS Andoni and the NNS Okpabana, a Nigerian Navy frigate, engaged the pirates in an attack that led to the killing of one of the pirates and the arrest of others. The Navy also retrieved the MT Maximus from the pirates, which it handed over to its owners later in the year.
Taking a cue from the Navy, the Nigerian Air Force, in the later part of 2016, conducted an exercise at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja, and the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, to prepare against terrorist attacks.