FG blows N600m on disbanded arms deal panel

FG blows N600m on disbanded arms deal panel

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It’s exaggerated, says committee member

From Molly Kilete and Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja

A Presidential Committee on Audit of Defence Equipment Procurement, to investigate procurement of arms, ammunition and other equipment for the Nigerian Armed Forces, for counter-insurgency operation in the North East, gulped N600 million before it was disbanded in February 2017.

The committee, which was chaired by Air Vice Marshall John Ode, was set up on August 21, 2015, inaugurated in October 2015, on the orders of President Muhammadu Buhari, was mandated to, among other things, investigate arms procurement contracts in the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), awarded between 2007 to 2015.

It was gathered that the committee spent the money on feeding, travels, security and contingency.

The committee’s life span was supposed to have been three months; that is, from August 21, 2015 to November 30, 2015.

Daily Sun gathered that, on three occasions, the committee requested and got extension on its mandate. Another extension request in the third quarter of 2016 did not go down well with government.

November 30 was deadline for the conclusion of the assignment.

The committee had hinged its request on the need for more time to thoroughly look into arms purchase of the Nigerian Navy and the Defence Headquarters. Also, the committee reportedly said it would visit the North East and other locations, to take inventory of arms.

Thereafter, a deadline of November 30, 2016, for the committee to conclude its work and submit a final report, was handed down late last year.

In a swift reaction, a member of the committee, who declined to be named, refuted the figure a Presidency source told some newsmen in Abuja, yesterday.

“It’s not possible for government to have spent N600 million on us. They couldn’t have spent more than N300 million or N320 million at the most; that is what they can spend on us, nothing more than that.

“We are just about 11 or 12 and they spent about N28 million on each person and we sat for 15 months, at the rate of N1.8 million a month…” the source added.

But, his account contradicted that of the presidency source who insisted each member of the panel got N2 million monthly, for 18 months, as opposed to N1.8 million and 15 months he claimed earlier.

The source added: “Each member of the committee got N2 million monthly in addition to other perks and they were foot-dragging on concluding its assignments. The decision to disband the committee followed government’s inability to continue to fund the project, especially when it seemed as if the committee was not in a hurry to conclude its  work.

“Government paid members of the committee N2 million monthly, in addition to other perks. In the 18  months the committee sat, the Federal Government spent well over N600 million for payment of allowances and other ancillary services. The government cannot continue to spend such amount of money on just one committee that refused to conclude its work.”

Regardless, the committee uncovered a $15 billion fraud in arms procurement.

The source disclosed that the report, which  was submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari through unofficial channel,  indicted NSA Maj. Gen. Babagana Mongunu, who was Chief of Defence Intelligence between July  2009 and September,  2011 and other top retired military officers, including some former service chiefs, following an order handed down to it “to conclude its work or get disbanded.

The panel had submitted its first interim report in November 2015, while it presented the second report in January 2016, following which Buhari ordered the EFCC to investigate 18 serving and retired military officers, mainly from the Air Force.

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