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Arms procurement deals: How ex-military chiefs stole over $15bn-TI

.Report is misleading, false, unfounded, says DHQ

In a damning report that reveals mind boggling diversion of public funds, a new report by the Transparency International Defence and Security (TIDS), a non-governmental organisation, has revealed how former military chiefs in Nigeria stole as much as $15 billion through fraudulent arms procurement deals.

But reacting, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) described the report as misleading, false and unfounded, adding that the report is an attempt to discourage foreign support for the military and weaken the campaign against Boko Haram insurgents.

The TIDS report, which was made available to newsmen on Thursday, further revealed that corrupt officials over the years exploited the excessive secrecy of the country’s defence budget to rip off the nation.

The report, which TIDS prepared in partnership with the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), has the title “Weaponising Transparency: Defence Procurement Reform as a Counterterrorism Strategy in Nigeria”.

The report pointedly declared that corruption in the defence sector constitutes a major threat to Nigeria’s internal security and political stability, stressing that it has equally weakened Nigerian counterterrorism capacity whilst strengthening Boko Haram.

But the report acknowledged the efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government to tackle corruption in the country’s defence sector.

TIDS, in the report, warned sternly, that only a holistic reform agenda can deliver the deep, systemic changes and improvements in transparency and accountability needed to prevent the next US $15 billion quietly leaving Nigeria through the back door.

According to the report, “Since coming to power in May 2015, President Buhari has taken some bold action in tackling defence sector corruption. Central to his approach have been two ad hoc, temporary audit committees: one investigating spending by the Office of the National Security Adviser and one investigating defence arms and equipment procurement.

“Taking on the defence establishment was a significant move: the evidence uncovered by these probes revealed that several of the country’s former military chiefs, using dozens of companies, together stole as much as US $15 billion”, it said.

The report repeatedly mentioned former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki’s case as an example of how the country’s defence sector leaves room for exploitation.

The former National Security Adviser (NSA), under the regime of the immediate past President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, Colonel Sambo Dasuki, is presently standing trial for allegedly mismanaging funds meant for the procurement of weapons to prosecute the war against Boko Haram.

According to the report by TIDS, “With oil prices at a record low, defence has provided new and lucrative opportunities for the country’s corrupt kleptocrats.

“Former military chiefs have stolen as much as US $15 billion – a sum equivalent to half of Nigeria’s foreign currency reserves – through fraudulent arms procurement deals.

“Largely unaddressed, it has weakened Nigerian counterterrorism capacity whilst strengthening Boko Haram,” it said.
Continuing, the report said: “Only a holistic reform agenda can deliver the deep, systemic changes and improvements in transparency and accountability needed to prevent the next US $15 billion quietly leaving Nigeria through the back door.

The report thus recommended a unified anti-corruption strategy for the defence sector, the extension of public access to defence and security information, and the monitoring of confidential procurements as some of the ways of tackling the problem.

The report equally harped on the need for the sharpening of international focus on fighting corruption in Nigeria, plucking off money laundering loopholes in banks, the extension of whistle-blower protection to cover the defence sector, and regulation of secretive security votes.

The report maintained that the declassification of how the security vote funds have been spent, after a two-year information embargo, could also enable citizen oversight.

The Director of Transparency International Defence and Security, Katherine Dixon has however called for a quick action against corruption in the Nigeria’s defence sector.

Meanwhile, the Defence Headquarters said Thursday that corruption allegation levelled against military officials by Transparency International is an attempt to discourage foreign support for the military and weaken the campaign against Boko Haram insurgents.

Major General John Enenche, the Director of Information, Defence Headquarters (DHQ), disclosed this while reacting to the statement by Transparency International that military corruption is weakening Nigeria’s efforts to battle the Islamist insurgency of Boko Haram.

The DHQ spokesman said the Transparency International report was “suspicious coming at the peak of successes being recorded against the Boko Haram insurgency.”

Transparency International had in a statement on Thursday stated that “corrupt military officials have been able to benefit from the conflict through the creation of fake defense contracts, the proceeds of which are often laundered abroad in the UK, U.S. and elsewhere.”

But General Enenche said “the sweeping and inciting corruption allegation against the military officials is false.”
He said that the present leadership of the Armed Forces of Nigeria has done a lot to train, boost troops’ morale and procure vital equipment through due processes, for the North East operations against Boko Haram in particular and other operations.

“The Defence Headquarters, Army, Navy and Air Force Headquarters have established procurement branches that are guided by the rules and regulations of the Bureau for public Procurement,” Eneche said.

He said that Ministry of Defence deals directly with states and governments on defence equipment procurement without using contractors or vendors.

General Enenche said the military authority is worried that the Nigerian military which was credited on March 22, 2017 by the US as having done very well in fighting insurgency and extremism among others could be discredited with an unverified sweeping statement at the peak of consistent successes.

Stating that this particular allegation must be treated with utmost suspicion, the Defence Headquarters “assured the public that there is no calculated, deliberate or institutionalised corruption in any form within its system.”

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