MISSING $1BN ARMS FUNDS: Presidency Jumps to Ex-Service Chiefs’ Defense
As pressures mount on the federal government to probe the allegations made by the National Security Adviser (NSA), Major General Babagana Monguno (rtd.), on Friday that funds meant to purchase arms to tackle insurgency during the ex-service chiefs’ tenure could not be traced, the presidency has jumped to the defense of the retired service chiefs.
Rather than call for a probe into the matter, the presidency has been engaged in interpretative activities, trying to give its own understanding of the NSA’s allegations, thereby putting the NSA under pressure to to take back his words.
In an interview with the Hausa Service of the BBC early Friday, Munguno alleged that neither the funds nor the weapons the ex-service chiefs were meant to buy could be found.
He said, “The President has done his best by approving huge sums of money for the purchase of weapons, but the weapons were not bought, they are not here. Now, he has appointed new service chiefs, hopefully, they will devise some ways.
“I’m not saying the former service chiefs diverted the money, but the money is missing. We don’t know how, and nobody knows for now. I believe Mr President will investigate where the money went.”
Monguno added that the Nigerian Governors’ Forum was also wondering where all the funds meant for arms went.
He said, “I can assure you the President takes issues of this nature seriously.
“The fact is that preliminary investigation showed the funds are missing and the equipment is nowhere to be found.
“When the new service chiefs assumed office, they also said they didn’t see anything on the ground.”
The ex-service chiefs, who resigned from their positions on January 26, are the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin (retd.); Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai (retd.); Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas (retd.); and Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar (retd.).
In the aftermath of his revelation, various interest groups have called for an intense probe into the missing fund, prompting the presidency to issue a statement to interpret Munguno’s allegations.
Senior special assistant to the president on media and publicity, Garba Shehu, explained that that procurements had been made for military weapons but the arms had yet to be delivered, adding that missing funds can’t happen under the regime of the President Buhari.
Shehu said the NSA was misquoted. “The reference by it in the interview of the BBC Hausa Service by the National Security Adviser has been misconstrued and mistranslated.
“NSA made two critical points – one is that we don’t have enough weapons, which is a statement of facts; and two, procurements made have not been fully delivered.”
“At no point did the NSA say that money has been misappropriated and that no arms is seen. They have not been delivered, that is correct; these are things you don’t get off the shelves,” Shehu noted.
Taking a cue from the disposition of the presidency, Munguno’s office issued a statement on Friday to also deny his earlier allegations, saying he was quoted out of context.
He denied saying funds meant for the purchase of arms had gone missing.
According to the statement: “We would like to state that the NSA was quoted out of context as he did not categorically say that funds meant for arms procurement were missing under the former service chiefs as reported or transcribed by some media outlets from the BBC interview.
“During the interview, the National Security Adviser only reiterated the Federal Government’s commitment to deal decisively with insecurity and stated President Muhammadu Buhari’s continued commitment to providing all necessary support to the armed forces, including the provision of arms and equipment.”
Reacting to Monguno’s allegation on Friday, the House Ad Hoc Committee on the Need to Review the Purchase, Use and Control of Arms, Ammunition and Related Hardware by Military, Paramilitary and Other Law Enforcement Agencies in Nigeria vowed to investigate the “missing” arms and ammunition for which the former service chiefs were allocated funds to acquire.
The committee, at its first investigative hearing in Abuja on Friday, where the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Ibrahim Attahiru, was represented by the Commandant, Army War College Nigeria, Maj Gen Charles Ofoche, described the matter as sensitive.
The committee chairman, Mr Olaide Akinremi, in his opening remarks before the meeting went behind closed doors, noted that Nigerians were interested in the whereabouts of the funds and the arms and ammunition.
Share your thoughts on the story with Nigerian Sketch in the comments section below.