President Muhammadu Buhari recently ordered the investigation of two former Chiefs of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika and Lt.Gen. Kenneth Minimah, alongside 52 others for their roles in the alleged diversion of funds meant for the procurement of arms for the war against Boko Haram
The chairman of the Presidential Committee on the Audit of Defence Equipment Procurement in the Armed Forces, AVM Jon Ode (retd), disclosed this to newsmen in Abuja. He also explained that the order is sequel to the approval of the recommendation of the committee charged with investigating the Defence Equipment Procurement from 2007-2015, for further investigation of those involved following discrepancies discovered in contract awards.
According to Ode, the approval followed the Third Interim Report of the Presidential Committee on the Audit of Defence Equipment released few weeks ago. The list of those to be investigated include 18 serving and retired military personnel, 12 serving and retired public officials and 24 chief executive officers of companies involved in the procurement. The affected officers and individuals, according to Ode, were either accounting officers or played key roles in the Nigerian Army procurement activities during the period under review.
The committee hinted that the total amount spent on procurement and operations during the period was N185, 843, 052, 564.30 and another $685,349,692.49. The committee was reported to have found, among other things, that the Nigerian Army contracts awarded by the Ministry of Defence for the period under review were often awarded without “significant input from end-user (Nigerian Army) and to vendors who lacked the necessary technical competence.”
We commend the committee for a job well done and urge it to be thorough in its investigation of the arms deals to ensure that no sacred cows are left untouched. Already, there are allegations in some quarters that some of the affected people who are close to the government are being shielded from this investigation.
Although the presidency has denied the allegation, it is not enough. Nigerians want all those that were involved in questionable arms deals during the period in question to be investigated, whether they are still in office or not. This is the only way to assure Nigerians that the probe is not political or discriminatory.
We say this because government must be non-partisan on this issue. Those who go to equity must go with clean hands. Government should not probe one aspect of the fraudulent arms deals without probing others, so that it is not accused of bias.
Anybody that is found wanting should be probed, especially those whose names have been recently mentioned in corrupt dealings within and outside our shores. This is necessary for the sake of equity and good conscience. The president’s anti-corruption war should be thorough and transparent. All those who are found guilty of wrongdoing should be given commensurate punishment.
It is public knowledge that it has always not been easy to probe the military in matters like this. Therefore, we are happy that the government initiated this investigation.
It will, however, be good if the probe is extended to 1999 or even further backwards because corruption has been a problem in Nigeria since independence. The scope of alleged graft so far made public in the military is mindboggling and embarrassing.
Let the probe adhere to the rule of law and due process. It should not be hurried. The objective should be to recover stolen money and punish those involved to save the nation from such shameful acts in future.