ABUJA (Sundiata Post) – The Nigerian Army has decided against the ridicule and naming of indicted officers and soldiers currently undergoing interrogation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over their involvement in the arms procurement scandal under the immediate past National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd).
Sundiata Post was reliably informed that the Army kicked against publishing the names of the 12 senior officers implicated in the arms scandal in order to protect the image of the Nigerian military from public ridicule.
The Army authorities decided against publication of the names, saying it would demystify the military service, which thrives on mystery and secrecy.
According to a reliable source, while the Army is determined to ensure that those found culpable are investigated and punished, it would, however, not do that at the detriment of the institution.
“The Army decided against this to protect the image of the military service and prevent it from being demystified. The military is a mystic organisation, and our strength lies in secrecy and mystery, which unnecessary exposure will harm.
“Moreover, you know the culture in Nigeria, immediately these names are published the image of the concerned officers, their families and those associated with them, who are for now innocent until convicted, will be tarnished for life. So we are being careful with all these,” the source said.
Investigations had revealed that many military officers and security experts were not happy, following the exposure of many senior Nigerian Air Force (NAF) personnel connected to the arms scandal.
The Director of Army Public Relations (DAPR), Col. Sani Usman, had on Thursday confirmed the arrest of the senior officers in a statement, but did not disclose the names of the officers involved.
“The Nigerian Army wishes to inform the public that 12 Army officers have been sent to the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), for investigation,” Usman said.
He listed the 12 senior officers undergoing interrogation to include; three serving Major Generals, and one retired, three Brigadier Generals, four Colonels and a Lieutenant Colonel.
However, he said it should be understood that at the end of the Commission’s investigations those found culpable will be tried by a military Court Martial.
But despite secrecy, reports emerged earlier that night that the ADC to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Col. Ojogbane Adegbe and as well as the Director of Military Intelligence (DMI), Brig-Gen. Abubakar Sa’ad (who has been replaced), were arrested and making a statement at the anti-graft agency concerning the arms deal money.
In the same vein, information also emerged on Monday that another former DMI, Maj-Gen. Wiwa, was amongst those arrested in connection with the alleged arms scandal .
“He was PGSO to Dasuki when some money was disbursed before he became DMI. He is among seven Generals Col. SK Usman talked about in his statement,” the source alleged.
Also speaking on the latest revelations, a renowned security expert, Mr. Max Gbanite, expressed reservation over the manner the military institution is being exposed and demystified through the probe.
Gbanite noted that “in civilised nations, the security budget is not for public debate”.
He said: ” If there’s corruption within the military system, it is discussed only by the House/Senate committees on defence, and other arms of military, the Office of National Security (ONSA), and representative from the Presidency. After the investigation those who are found to be guilty are retired quietly, but immediately, and they are made to return the money.
“The institution of military is over 100 years, it remains the oldest in our country, therefore, its leadership must never be ridiculed publicly. That is also why they have their own courts and judge advocates.”
The security analyst also reminded that “this system of buying weapons by ONSA was introduced by Brig-Gen. Sabo Gwarzo under Gen. Abacha”.
According to him: “The way it used to be is that all service chiefs attend international exhibition with the minister of defence, upon return, they send their needs to Ministry of Defence (MoD), who makes the purchase on their behalf. The only funds given to the various branches is operational funds.
“They can’t even buy even a truck directly, not to talk of weapons. So, once Gwarzo and Mustapha Hamza corrupted the system it became very difficult to change. It’s not late to revert to it. Having said this, it’s important that the investigation goes back to 1999, otherwise it would look like this investigation is targeted at Gen Ihejirika and Dasuki”.
Meanwhile, Sundiata Post findings following the revelations of the committee established to audit the procurement of arms and equipment in the Armed Forces and Defence sector from 2007 to 2015, which was made public by the Presidency, revealed that the rank and file of Nigeria Military are polarised into pro-probe personnel and anti-probe personnel.
President Muhammadu Buhari had in furtherance of the anti-graft war last month, ordered the EFCC to probe former Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh (rtd), Chiefs of Air Staffs (CAS), Air Marshal Adesola Amosu (rtd) and 36 others over corruption in military procurement.
Buhari had in the statement issued by the Senior Special Adviser (SSA) to the President on Media & Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, said the probe was necessitated by the recommendation of military procurement committee, a development which has been seen either as a welcome development or capable of causing irreparable division within the military hierarchy.
Sundiata Post investigations further revealed growing apprehension particularly amongst the past service chiefs and other service officers, who though claimed innocence but expressed uncertainty about how the probe would pan out for them.
However, there are other several senior, mid and junior rank officers and soldiers who though express some reservations about the long-term implications, saw the probe as a welcome development to once and for all clean up the system they are said to have been rotten over the years.
Speaking to Sundiata Post, some of them said that the probe was long overdue but on the condition that the Presidency could do it without politics, religious, administrative and ethnic bias.
“If the authority can be sincere to themselves without religious and tribal sentiment, it will boost the morale of every citizen of our great nation Nigeria. This procurement of arms corruption started since the military regime. So the authority should be wise enough to handle the issues with divine wisdom from God. I wish them well. God bless Federal Republic of Nigeria,” cautioned one of the veteran soldiers.
Meanwhile, there are some officers who are very sceptical about the motive and outcome of the probe including some Presidency insiders, which they noted is at the mercy of the presidential decision makers.
“Let’s see how it goes. For now they are mere allegations. Besides we have not seen the Army and Navy list. My take for now is to answer the President’s term of reference as contained in the convening order”, said one of the sources.
“The military institution has always been subservient to the political leadership, be it civil or military. This will not change. Whatever direction the current leadership wants the military to take is what the military will take”, a top intelligence officer added.
Sundiata Post also reliably gathered that the probe could trigger serious divisions and consternation between the officers who “benefited” from the system under the previous administrations, their supporters and the rest of the military hierarchy.
According one military General, those being fingered are powerful and well connected within the military and security circle, saying that they might want to use some of their alleged ill-gotten wealth. He alerted that this group could compromise national security but assured that the current administration and military authority are well prepared to deal with any one or group of the officers and soldiers who might want to forment trouble.
The top officer who is close to the current CDS said: “I personally believe it was long overdue. The Nigerian Armed Forces is in a sorry state today because of the mindless rape of scarce resources by very senior officers entrusted with its administration. I am totally, unequivocally in support of Mr President’s effort to restore sanity in the Nigerian Armed Forces. As regards the fact that the investigation is in the public domain, I will say also that this is laudable for the following reasons: first of all its deterrent value, there is the need to put fear in the minds of those who aspire to high positions in this country and the Armed Forces in particular as it relates to the need for fiscal responsibility when dealing with public funds. As regards the reaction from members of the Armed Forces, surely there are those loyal to them who would be unhappy but I can assure you that they are in the minority. That is not to say that the security apparatuses should not up their game.
“The truth is that a lot of money is involved here and these characters could attempt to deploy their resources for the sole purpose of compromising national security using the medium of their lackeys within the system. They certainly have followers. These pillagers headed their respective Services and propped up quite a few mediocres, some of whom are occupying sensitive positions right now. To that extent therefore, it will be foolhardy to ignore or underestimate the possibility or likelihood of a threat from their followers. Be rest assured, however, that any such attempt will be decisively crushed. I believe in the final analysis it will make for a better, self-accounting, virile and professional Nigerian Armed Forces , better equipped to fulfil its constitutional roles”.
In the same vein, a retired Air Vice Marshal and renowned intelligence officer agreed with the probe, saying “there will be more positives than negative gains in the whole exercise.
“By the time the army ones come out it will clip their wings of doing things with impunity. Moreover, they will learn that things must be done procedurally. Many of us are excited because some of us have been in the vanguard of ensuring transparency and accountability. Certainly, the security institutions will be better off if the exercise is sustained”.
“To me, it will strengthen the force and make the commanders to be very conscious of their excesses. It will further boost the morale of troops as entitlements will be enhanced and paid as it dues. Note that EFCC was aware that the military leadership was highly corrupt but was not granted the political support by past leaders to penetrate. The gate has been made accessible for them to operate fully at all levels of military commands with the present development. It is good for the system,” another retired army officer said.
However, some concerned officers and soldiers have expressed deep reservation about the probe, saying “they are particularly after some marked service chiefs for vengeance and have as a result put all the whole force into national and international ridicule”.
They also condemned the public revelations of the probe, which according to some them will jeopardise the security structure of the nation and antagonise military personnel against each other.
“I think the public probe of the ex-service chiefs will surely have a multiplying effect on the security institution. The Armed forces of any nation is her backbone. So if the services can be subjected to public scrutiny I think it’s bad for the image of the services and at large the morale of the officers and men. However, corruption at any level should not be tolerated. But there are better ways to have secretly dealt with the service chiefs than washing the dirty linen of the military in the public,” a concerned officer said.
In the same vein, another top General questioned the motive behind the probe and warned: “It will surely have negative effect. The motive is ill. It is intended for popularity but will be counter productive in the end.
“The intention is to get back at the leadership of the military. It is going to enhance the bad blood already generated in the system. This government is so bent on turning the military on each other. They’re going to reap the product of indiscipline sooner or later. The government is only using this to play to the gallery. The propaganda may benefit them now but the nation’s security is being seriously jeopardised in the long run. This trend is really unfortunate.”
The findings also revealed that some of the officers are not happy with what they described as monumental corruption at the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) and particularly, the Ministry of Defence (MOD).
According to some of them, “the corruption in the MOD stinks to high heavens”, while some fingered the former CDS Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh (rtd) and Maj-Gen. ER Chioba (rdt) as being high handed in the way things were handled during their time at the DHQ.
“This is just a tip because when you get to especially the MOD, that will be the worst. I can tell you that when these things are finally exposed, people will not believe what’s happening in the MOD as I was told by one service chief that he cried when he saw the extent of the rot in the Ministry. He said that corruption in the MOD stinks to high havens and that was a service chief, saying this that when he came back from the meeting he was sad. Some of them in the panel called me and expressed shock at the findings, saying if they tell what some of our colleagues have done I won’t believe it,” a retired AVM said.
“The information given here and made public is the best government has done to date. I salute the doggedness and thoroughness of the Committee. May God bless them. This revelation will strengthen the military rather than dampen morale. This is about the Air force. We are very expectant of the Nigerian Army and Nigerian Navy. By the time all is made open, the Armed forces would have been sanitised to a great extent.
“By now, the guilty officers in the two other Services would be walking around with caution…they made people like us question God and wonder where we missed it since, once you are above average intellectually, you can’t make it in the Nigerian Military. You will be teaching from school to school while others are exposed to illegal wealth. They will turn back and be making mockery of you. It will be by divine intervention that such officers would ever get command appointment. Just like PMB, Gen Buratai is a gift to the Army and Nigeria at this time and I say this with all seriousness”, a top General said.
The officer further alleged: “By the time the Army and Navy list are made public, two names will continue recurring, and that is Badeh and Chioba. Many officers, especially during my time in DHQ hate them with a pride. Very inhumane and wicked. Now that their masquarades are being disrobed, there will be joy in the military. However, the PMB government must see it to its logical conclusions please.”
But these allegations have been debunked by some ex-service chiefs who noted that these probes are vindictive action meant to embarrass the past administration with them as collateral damages.
“I can tell you that this move even though right on the surface is not sincere. If they are sincere, they should then probe all the activities of the past service chiefs at least since the current democratic dispensation. I doubt it is for the good of the national security because the motive is wrong”, one of them said.