A high profile probe of top military chiefs in Nigeria maybe looming following allegations of corruption and fraud in the procurement of arms, ammunition and other hardware for the military fighting Boko Haram insurgence in the North East, FrontiersNews has reported.
Investigations by the online newspaper revealed that the scale of the alleged fraud and corruption cuts across all the services and the defense sector involving contract splitting using third party contractors in the execution of major procurements.
In 2015 that President Buhari had warned defence and service chiefs to refrain from awarding contracts or having any direct dealings with contractors but rather engage government to government in procurement of arms, ammunition and other key procurements for the armed forces.
Investigations have revealed that rather than adhere to the president’s directives, military chiefs have been engaging third party indigenious contractors in the procurement of arms and ammunitions as well as other key military hardware for soldiers in the line of battle.
It would be recalled that shortly after the inauguration of the present administration, in 2015, President Buhari instituted a probe into the procurement of arms and ammunition by past administrations and the interim report of the Committee on Audit of Defence Equipment procurement in the Armed Forces from 2007-2015, reveled grand corruption and fraud in the procurement process. The outcome of the report led to the indictment, arrests, detentions and prosecutions of former defence and service chiefs, military top brass and politicians in the country.
The paper’s investigations revealed that today, the “business as usual syndrome” has gradually crept back into the procurement process in the military where disregard for due process was the order of the day.
“Heads will roll very soon because some of the military chiefs are doing what landed their predecessors in EFCC custody and prosecution. I can tell you that due process is not being followed in the award and execution of contracts in the military today. Contract splitting is rife and it is sad that we are back to the days of the past in the procurement of arms and ammunitions in the country,” a top security source told the newspaper in confidence.
The source lamented that the top military chiefs have gone back to using corrupt and indicted contractors who were involved in the massive fraud and corruption during the past government in executing keys procurement for the military.
“You find these people splitting contracts into smaller units convenient for them to collect kick backs instead of following the laid down directives of the President. The military and defence chiefs were directed to avoid dealing with contractors directly, instead they were instructed to deal directly with manufacturers through government to government. The reasons for this is to avoid the corruption that characterized the procurement process in the past but today what you find is military chiefs dealing directly with third party contractors. This is fueling massive fraud and corruption in the procurement process. Contracts are been inflated and backdoor deals common place,” the source lamented.
Another of the source who expressed bitterness with the way things have turned out in the military procurement process said “The exercise is killing Nigeria because the contractors these people engage bring in nonsense equipment thereby endangering the lives of our soldiers and the people they are supposed to protect. Apart from the risk involved, the use of third party procurement agents are helping to destroy the nation’s defence industry. The president must not allow this to continue if he is really serious about fighting corruption in the country”.
“It is sad that we are back to the days of impunity in the procurement of arms and ammunition,” the source said adding that “what some of these people do is get these contractors on the agreement that they are Nigeria contractors and engage them to procure military hardwares on behalf of the services. They inflate the contracts over and above the prices quoted by the direct manufacturers. A military hardware that would ordinarily cost $1000 from the direct manufacture by using third party contractor such equipment could go as high as $50,000. What they do afterward is go directly to the manufacturers to procure that equipment at the procurement price and split the difference with the contractors. It is said and it must be investigated by the government”.
The source said what is fueling the contract splitting and backdoor deals “is primarily because some of those heading the services know that their stay in office is tenure-based and want to maximize the use of their positions for personal gains while in office”.
One of the sources noted that “as long as this continue, the Federal Government would not be able to fight insurgency in the North-east. As am talking to you now, soldiers are complaining of lack of ammunition and those in their possession are substandard. These arms and ammunitions are procured from China and Belarus. It is said that because of money, senior military officers are risking the lives of soldiers and Nigerians living in those areas”.