A security expert on Friday noted that the corruption case levelled against the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki will be a child’s play compared to the alleged level of corruption under the government of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The former NSA who served under ex-President Goodluck Jonathan was accused of misappropriating billions meant for the procurement of arms.
Dasuki was arrested for corruption and charged to court but released after five years in detention.
However, the current NSA, Maj-Gen Babagana Monguno, stirred reaction after he said a huge amount of money approved for arms purchase under the former service chiefs has gone missing.
According to Daily Trust, this is not the first time the NSA will speaking on defence expenditure.
In 2019, the NSA said he was not aware of how the $1bn removed from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) for arms procurement was spent.
The former service chiefs are Gen Abayomi Olonisakin (Chief of Defence Staff-CDS); Tukur Buratai (Chief of Army Staff-COAS)); Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas (Chief of Naval Staff-CNS); Sadique Abubakar (Chief of Air Staff-CAS).
Thereafter President Buhari appointed them as ambassadors.
The new service chiefs are General Lucky Irabor (CDS); Lt Gen Ibrahim Attahiru (COAS); Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo (CNS); and Air Marshal Ishiaka Oladayo Amoa (CAS).
The office of the NSA later released a statement saying Monguno did not say monies were missing, the transcript of his interview with the BBC Hausa Service on Friday revealed that he did.
Gen Monguno had said, “It is not that we are not working to end the security challenge in the country. The president has done his own part and allocated huge amounts of money to purchase weapons, but they are yet to be here. We don’t know where they are.”
“I am not saying that the past service chiefs have diverted the money, but presently we don’t know where the money is.”
On whether an investigation has commenced on the issue, the NSA said, “I am sure the president will investigate this. As I am talking to you now, even the Nigerian Governors Forum has started questioning where the money is. So I assure you that the president is not playing with anything that has to do with the people.”
“I can’t say the money was stolen, but we didn’t see anything, and even the new service chiefs said they didn’t see the weapons. It is possible the weapons are on their way coming. Maybe from America, England and other places, but as of now, I didn’t see anything and the service chiefs too didn’t see any weapons too.”
Speaking on the back and forth of the issue, a security expert said what is happening was reminiscent of the allegations heaped on Col Sambo Dasuki (Rtd), the NSA during the days of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
He said, “Though what Monguno said is like disquiet in the same family, it is just the replay of the #DasukiGate. In fact, the Dasuki case would be a child’s play by the time Buhari finally leaves.”
“The NSA knows what he is talking about. He has all the details of requests/approvals and releases by the government to the service chiefs.”
“As he stated, he was briefed by the new service chiefs on what they met on the ground, which is at variance with his records.”
He further said President Buhari had directed the new service chiefs to end insurgency within a short period, adding that the president was committed to ending insecurity.
Daily Trust learnt from credible sources that the rebuttal from the NSA office was because of serious pressure from “high places”. One of the sources said the interview had “embarrassed the government.”
Garba Shehu while speaking on Channels TV on Friday said the NSA was misquoted, adding that Monguno did not accuse the ex-service chiefs of misappropriation of funds.
Shehu said, “About the $1bn taken from the Excess Crude Account with the consent of state governors used for military procurements, I want to assure you that nothing of that money is missing.”
“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 were seen. They have not been delivered, that is correct; these are things you don’t get off the shelves,” Shehu noted.
Recall that on December 14, 2017, Nigerian governors approved the release of $1bn from the country’s excess oil account to the federal government to buy arms for the effective execution of the Boko Haram war.
The approval reportedly reduced the $2.3bn Excess Crude Account by half, a development that generated heated debate with some analysts saying the money would be stolen.
And even though some governors from the South rejected the approval, the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, who briefed the press on the decision after the meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC), said the money would cover the whole array of needs which included the purchase of equipment, training for military personnel and logistics.
However, in 2019, Gen Monguno cried out that he did not know the whereabouts of the $1bn.
While controversies trailed the statement credited to the NSA, with many describing it as diversion of public funds, the presidency provided explanations.
Like what he did on Friday, Garba Shehu disclosed at the height of the controversy in 2019 various procurements had been made for the purchase of critical equipment for the army, navy and air force, contrary to the allegations.
Shehu said, “The record we have is that the Buhari administration paid $496m for a dozen Super Tucano fighter aircraft for the air force in a direct government-to-government (no contractors or commission agents) transaction with the Government of the United States of America. They are due for delivery in 2020.
“Various other military procurements for critical equipment have been made. These are for the Nigerian Army and the Nigerian Navy, amounting to $380.5m. These procurements include money for the purchase of Navy Lynx helicopters.”
“The total amount spent so far is $876.8m. The equipment paid for has due dates of delivery of between six months to two years. The balance of the money that is unspent as of today is $123.1m.”
“The entire expenditure involved in these exercises is on the basis of government-to-government procurement. In cases where the Nigerian government dealt with equipment manufacturers, their home governments have in all cases given guarantees to the federal government.”
“Again, it is important to stress that no contractors or commission agents have been involved in the procurements under discussion.”
Another source that spoke with the news platform noted that the former service chiefs did not give the office of the NSA the courtesy it deserved.
He said, “They felt too powerful during their time to the extent that they didn’t even refer their files to Monguno; some of them boycotted the NSA and manoeuvred their way to the table of the president for approvals.”
“But as a former general, the NSA also knows his onions and therefore kept all the documents he could lay his hands on because some of the approvals could not be granted without his input. He is definitely talking from the position of knowledge.”
“And the questions he asked are legitimate because some of the weapons ordered for since 2017 with a timeline of two years are still not here. Where are they? It was only last week that I read somewhere that one of the 12 Tucano fighter jets had been completed by the manufacturers and is being tested run. I am sure something is wrong somewhere.”
A retired military officer who pleaded anonymity said the claim by the NSA should be thoroughly investigated and that those involved in any misdeed should be punished the same way some former service chiefs, including late Alex Badeh, were subjected to scrutiny.
He added that the NSA might have made the claim because of their frosty relationship with the former service chiefs when a former Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, was alive.
Another security expert, Kabiru Adamu, described the latest development as “unfortunate”, saying it was high time President Buhari used this period to clear his image and his anti-corruption stance.
Adamu said, “For the integrity of this administration, especially for President Buhari who has shown zero tolerance for corruption, it is important to see that a thorough audit is conducted. Procurement processes are very clear, you will know if they are complied with.”