ABUJA – The procurement of substandard arms and ammunition have been largely attributed to Government’s inability to effectively tackle the renewed scale in Boko Haram attacks on Nigerians troops and residents of the North-East, Frontiersnews can report.
Following renewed attacks on Nigerian troops and civilians in the troubled region that left hundred dead coupled with the outcry of Nigerians and the international community over the ineptitude of defense and service chiefs, Defence Minister Mansur Dan-Ali announced the relocation of military chiefs to the troubled North East.
The relocation is expected to shore up the waning fighting powers of the weather-beaten soldiers in the theatre of war.
Our correspondents’ investigations revealed that the large scale corruption in the procurement process of arms and ammunition by top military and defense chiefs have contributed to the halted fighting powers of the military in the region.
“Soldiers fighting Boko Haram in the North East are dying everyday because of the use of substandard arms and ammunition. Their morals are down coupled with that is that their welfare have remained zero,” a top military source told our correspondent.
Some relatives of soldiers fighting in the North East shared tales of woes relayed to them by their family members.
“We buy basic toiletries and provisions for our friends and relatives (soldiers) who are serving in the North East. Their welfare coupled with the condition under which they fight is miserable,” the source, who spoke to our correspondent, on the condition of anonymity said.
Consequently, military experts have called on Acting President Yemi Osinbajo to halt the trend by constituting an investigative panel into the procurement of arms and ammunition as well as the welfare of Nigerian troops fighting insurgency in the North East.
They are of the view that unless something drastic is done, the government would be unable to degrade Boko Haram before the 2019 general elections in the country.
“The president must not allow this to continue if he is really serious about fighting corruption in the country. As long as this continue, the Federal Government would not be able to fight insurgency in the North-East,” the source said adding that “as am talking to you now, soldiers are complaining of lack of enough arms and ammunition and those in their possession are substandard. These arms and ammunitions are procured from China and Belarus. Arms and ammunitions rejected by Iraq and other countries are shipped to Nigeria for soldiers fighting Boko Haram. It is sad that because of money, senior military officers are wasting the lives of soldiers and Nigerians living in those areas,” one of the experts, who does not want his name mentioned stated.
Thousands of Nigerians, especially residents of the North-East have been killed over the last five years by Boko Haram fighters and million others driven out of their home lands to Internally Displaced Camps scattered across the North part of the country.
Sources who spoke to our correspondents, on condition of anonymity said that the absence of President Muhammadu Buhari, from the country since May 7, 2017, on health grounds compounded the problem as his top security and defence chiefs have been embroiled in power tussle and display of supremacy.
“Acting President Osinbajo has not been allowed to fully take charge of things in the country including the affairs of the military. Service and other top security chiefs take orders from the known Aso Rock cabal instead of from Osinbajo. It is unfortunate that the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) has been relegated to the background. Nobody in the security sector seeks any advise from the NSA anymore. It is very very sad that those who do not know anything relating to security matters are the ones now directing the affairs of the military,” the angry source said.
The source stated further that the division lack of direction among the top echelon of the Buhari security chiefs “have led to each of them doing their own thing without recourse to due process. They believe this is the time for them to do what they like. Nobody seems to be in charge and some of them have become emperors in the absence of the president”.
Investigations revealed that the 2015 directive handed down to defence and service chiefs by President Buhari to refrain from buying arms and ammunitions through third party contractors have been jettisoned.
It would be recalled that in 2015 President Buhari warned defence and service chiefs to refrain from awarding contracts or have any direct dealings with contractors but rather engage government to government in procurement of arms, ammunition and other key procurements for the armed forces.
“It is sad that we are back to the days of impunity in the procurement of arms and ammunition for the military in Nigeria. what you now 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 exercise is killing Nigeria because the contractors bring in substandard equipment from Belarus and China for our soldiers,” the source lamented.
The source who lamented that pecuniary gains have been the bane for the lack of cooperation between the services and defense sectors said “its sad that everybody is after money at the expense of the lives of others. Those responsible for intelligence gathering as well as the procurement of arms and ammunition are benefiting immensely, so they do not want the war to end”
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.