Fact-wielding critics of the Muhammadu Buhari government on Friday, July 15, 2016, carpeted his administration for lying about the terms of reference of the latest interim reports on the on-going probe into arms procurement by previous governments since 2007.
President Buhari had on Monday, August 24, 2015, announced the committee on audit of defence equipment procurement in the Nigerian Armed Forces keeping with his “determination to stamp out corruption and irregularities in Nigeria’s public service”.
The investigative committee submitted its third interim report on Thursday, July 14, 2016, which detailed how former senior military officers, political appointees, and private individuals allegedly channeled security funds into their pockets while the war against Boko Haram suffered from starvation of funds.
Among the big names the report indicted were Azubuike Ihejirika and Kenneth Minimah. Both men, Southern Christians, served as chief of army staff under former President Goodluck Jonathan.
However, government critics and watchdogs immediately raised concerns about the exclusion of the name of a close associate of President Buhari and the current minister of interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, also a retired military general.
General Abdulrahman Dambazau (rtd) served as the chief of army staff between 2008 and 2010, and critics say it is highly ominous that he was not investigated, even when the probe was designed to beam its searchlight on all procurement from 2007 to 2015.
According to a comprehensive report by Premium Times, it appears that those accusing the government of doctoring its latest arms panel may have a point.
In an attempt to ward off allegation of bias, the Buhari government, via a statement from the office of the minister of information and culture, Lai Mohammed, said Dambazau’s name was not included among those indicted because the third interim report only looked into procurement and contracts awarded for and by the military between 2011-2015.
“When the documents regarding procurement from 2007 to 2010 are available and scrutinised, the committee will then issue its report on that,” the statement by Lai Mohammed said.
“The audit is being done in phases, and the report that was released on Thursday is the third of such.” He added.
However, an examination of the report showed that the terms of reference in its heading said it queried all procurement from 2007 to 2015.
The heading read, Press Release on the Third Interim Report of the Presidential Committee on Audit of Defence Equipment Procurement from 2007 to 2015.
The first paragraph of the seven-page report also indicated the 13-member committee used 2007-2015 as reference.
“In continuation of its assignment, the Committee on Audit of Defence Equipment Procurement (CADEP) in the Nigerian Armed Forces, analysed procurement contracts awarded by or for the Nigerian Army between 2007 and 2015.”
It has also been observed that in page two of the report, the committee looked into procurement far back as 2005, two years earlier than 2007.
“Similarly, between Friday, April 29 2005 and Tuesday, October 19, 2010 , the MOD (Ministry of Defence) awarded 2 contracts to Progress Limited for the supply of 42 units of BTR-3U Armoured Personnel Carriers and spare parts for the Nigerian Army.
“However, neither the MOD nor the NA could provide the contract agreements to ascertain the cost of the APCs. Although 26 of the APCs were delivered in 2007 and immediately deployed for peacekeeping operations in Sudan, the APCs scandalously broke down on induction,” the report read in part.
In page four where the committee looked into tax infractions in the military, it was also revealed that the members looked beyond 2011.
“The committee observed breaches of laws and regulations on payments of Withholding Tax (WHT) and Value Added Tax (VAT). The unremitted WHT from 2007 to 2015 amounted to about N862,962,065.99, $2,093,710.06 and €2,700.00 respectively.”
It has also been reported on Thursday, July 7, 2016, that Dambazau was named among those indicted by the panel and that he was making desperate efforts to have his named removed.