Saturday, 28 November 2015

Alleged 'Wiping Out' of Special Forces By Boko Haram And The Massive Rot In Nigeria's Security Apparatchik



Till this very moment, many Nigerians are not privy to why President Muhammadu Buhari is resolute to ensure that everyone linked to the alleged $2 billion arms purchase fraud under former President Goodluck Jonathan faces the full wrath of the law.


Saturday Sun can authoritatively reveal that apart from his quest to recover all the billions that had been allegedly stolen from the nation’s treasury in recent years so as to get enough money to fund his government’s lofty programmes, the Commander-in-Chief is seriously embittered over a recent inventory of military operations against Boko Haram insurgents in the North-East which revealed that majority of the multi-million dollar-trained officers of the nation’s special forces have been killed in battle fronts between January and now due to lack of fighting tools. Saturday Sun had exclusively reported the deployment of the Special Forces battalion in its May 8 edition.

It was reliably gathered that out of the 36 young officers drawn from the three arms of the Nigerian Armed Forces to form the special elite force, 28 of them have been lost to the battle in the North-East before the change of government on May 29. The Special Forces trained in Pakistan and other tough terrains across the world are based in Makurdi, Benue State, from where “they were drafted to lead battles against ruthless Boko Haram insurgents without providing them with fighting tools and military equipment at a time millions of dollars were taken out of the treasury purportedly to buy arms and ammunition.”

As a retired Army General, a former military Head of State and now Commander-in- Chief of the Armed Forces, it was further learnt that Buhari became furious when he received briefings on how the nation lost its toughest fighters “in controversial circumstances and this was one of the major factors that prompted him to set up the probe panel in the office of the NSA, Gen. Babagana Monguno to establish what happened to funds approved for the purchase of arms for the Armed Forces under the immediate past NSA, Sambo Dasuki”, a source well familiar with the development told Saturday Sun.

Saturday Sun also gathered that to avoid public outcry, the military leadership under former President Goodluck Jonathan had ordered secret burial for the killed officers who were mostly between the ranks of Captain and Major all based at the 72 Special Forces Battalion barracks, Makurdi. The Special Forces Commander, Colonel Abiodun Lagbaja and seven others were the only lucky survivors. Names of the lost officers are presently displayed on a plaque at the restricted area in the battalion’s office in the Benue State capital.

Our source, however, pleaded that the names of the officers should not be published “in honour of the nation’s fallen heroes, their families and in order not to dignify blood-thirsty terrorists who killed the officers.”

“That’s what we get when our fine and well trained officers are pushed to hot spots with no tools by leaders who steal funds meant for our military platforms. It’s a terrible rape”, an angry three star Army General told Saturday Sun. Attempts to get official reaction from the military authorities failed but a senior officer at the Army headquarters who is not allowed to speak officially assured: “Notwithstanding the losses we have suffered in the recent past, our troops are doing well now and very soon the insurgency will end.”

Just last week, there were reports that about 105 soldiers of the 157 Battalion, including their commanding officer, were feared killed or missing after they came under intense attack from Boko Haram insur­gents at Gudunbali, Borno State. The military has, however, assured that the missing soldiers had since returned to their base.

Just as the doubt on the military’s response was yet to clear, another report emerged on Tuesday that the Nigerian Army at the military cemetery in Maiduguri secretly buried the bodies of about 105 soldiers killed by Boko Haram insurgents.

The report claims that the decomposed bodies of the men who were killed in an encounter with the terrorists last week Wednesday were brought to Maiduguri Monday evening in body bags. Military spokesman, Colonel Tukur Ismail Gusau had confirmed that insurgents attacked the location of 157 Battalion last Wednesday, but they were “subsequently repelled by the gallant troops of the unit.” He added that the unit’s commanding officer remained in contact with his Brigade Commander.

Usman, who described the report of the missing soldiers as a smear campaign against the Nigerian military, however, stated that the burial that took place was not that of the purported 105 dead or missing soldiers.

The alarming casualty in the military coupled with hundreds of petitions over the supply of inferior and substandard weapons to the military by the previous administration has in the past weeks made President Buhari uncomfortable.

The petitioners among them military personnel and very senior citizens had called on the president to investigate complaints of misappropriation of funds by serving military personnel who took advantage of the war to become overnight billionaires. This, it was further learnt, led to the decision by President Buhari to set up a 13-man probe panel to ascertain how over $2 billion was released for the purchase of arms without the Armed Forces getting the specified equipment.

The committee, which was inaugurated on 31st August 2015 is, however, yet to complete its work, but its interim report has un­earthed several illicit and fraudulent financial transactions in the arms deal. The committee, which is headed by Air Vice Marshall J.O.N. Ode (rtd.) as president, also has Rear Admiral J.A. Aikhomu (rtd.), Rear Admiral E. Ogbor (rtd.), Brigadier-General L. Adekagun (rtd.), Brigadier-General M. Aminun-Kano (rtd.), Brigadier-General N. Rimtip (rtd.), Com­modore T.D. Ikoli, Air Commodore U. Mo­hammed (rtd.), Air Commodore I. Shafi’i, Colonel A.A. Ariyibi, Group Captain C.A. Oriaku (rtd.) and Mr. Ibrahim Magu, acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), as members, while Brigadier-General Y.I. Shalangwa, is secretary.

A statement by presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina last week said: “As part of the findings, the committee has analyzed interventions from some organizations’ that provided funds to the Office of the National Security Adviser, Defence Headquarters, Army Headquarters Naval Headquarters and Nigerian Air Force Headquarters, both in local and foreign currencies.

“So far, the total extra budgetary interventions articulated by the committee is Six Hundred and Forty Three Billion, Eight Hundred and Seventeen Million, Nine Hundred and Fifty Thousand, Eight Hundred and Eighty Five Hundred Naira and Eighteen Kobo (N643,817,955,885.18).

“The foreign currency component is to the tune of Two Billion, One Hundred and Ninety Three Million, Eight Hundred and Fifteen Thousand US Dollars and Eighty Three Cents ($2,193,815,000.83).

“These amounts exclude grants from the state governments and funds collected by the DSS and Police. It was observed that in spite of this huge financial intervention, very little was expended to support defence procurement.

The committee also observed that of 513 contracts awarded at $8,356,525,184.32; N2,189,265,724,404.55 and €54,000.00; Fifty Three (53) were failed contracts amounting to $2,378,939,066.27 and N13,729,342,329.87, respectively.

“Interestingly, it was noted that the amount of foreign currency spent on failed contracts was more than double the $1bn loan that the National Assembly approved for borrowing to fight the insurgency in the North-East.

“The committee also discovered that payments to the tune of Three Billion, Eight Hundred and Fifty Million Naira (N3,850,000,000.00) were made to a single company by the former NSA without documented evidence of contractual agreements or fulfilment of tax obligations to the Nigerian government.

“Further findings revealed that between March 2012 and March 2015, the erstwhile NSA, Lt Col MS Dasuki (rtd) awarded fictitious and phantom contracts to the tune of N2,219,188,609.50, $1,671,742,613.58 and €9,905,477.00. The contracts, which were said to be for the purchase of 4 Alpha Jets, 12 helicopters, bombs and ammunition, were not executed and the equipment were never supplied to the Nigerian Air Force, neither are they in its inventory.

“Even more disturbing was the discovery that out of these figures, two companies, were awarded contracts to the tune of N350,000,000.00, $1,661,670,469.71 and €9,905,477.00 alone. This was without prejudice to the consistent non-performance of the companies in the previous contracts awarded.

“Additionally, it was discovered that the former NSA directed the Central Bank of Nigeria to transfer the sum of $132,050,486.97 and €9,905,473.55 to the accounts of Societe D’equipmente Internationaux in West Africa, United Kingdom and United States of America for un-ascertained purposes, without any contract documents to explain the transactions.”

The presidency further said: “The findings made so far are extremely worrying considering that the interventions were granted within the same period that our troops fighting the insurgency in the North-East were in desperate need of platforms, military equipment and ammunition. Had the funds siphoned to these non-performing companies been properly used for the purpose they were meant for, thousands of needless Nigerian deaths would have been avoided.

“Furthermore, the ridicule Nigeria has faced in the international community would have been avoided. It is worrisome and disappointing that those entrusted with the security of this great nation were busy using proxies to siphon the national treasury, while innocent lives were wasted daily.

“In light of these findings, President Muhammadu Buhari has directed that the relevant organisations arrest and bring to book, all individuals who have been found complicit in these illegal and fraudulent acts.”

Written by: Molly Kilete

Source: Sun Newspaper