The fire kindled by the National Security Adviser, Major-General Babagana Monguno over how $1billion was spent in procuring arms, is still burning, and Nigeria’s two-month old Chief of Army Staff does not want to be dragged in.
But the House of Representatives would have none of it since he is the man in charge now. It led to an exchange of words with the army general insisting he would not comment on purchases made by his predecessor, opting instead to submit an Executive Summary on the issue.
He would also not apologise to the Adhoc House Committee handling the arms purchases for not appearing before it, since he was in the North-east and South-South geopolitical zones dealing with issues of insecurity.
Recall that in an interview with the BBC a month ago, Monguno was quoted as saying concerning the money released for arms purchase years ago: “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 amount 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 (arms) money is.”
Asked whether there would be an investigation, he 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 at now, I didn’t see anything and the Service Chiefs too didn’t see any weapons too.”
Within hours of the interview going public, an unsigned statement from the Office of the National Security Adviser, said that media reports of his interview with the BBC Hausa Service quoted him out of context.
The statement read in full: “The attention of the Office of the National Security Adviser has been drawn to some media reports regarding Armed Forces equipment during an interview with the BBC Hausa service. We would like to State that the NSA was quoted out of context as he did not categorically say that funds meant for arms procurement were missing under the Former Service Chiefs as reported or transcribed by some media outlets from the BBC interview. During the interview, the National Security Adviser only reiterated the Federal Government’s commitment to deal decisively with insecurity and stated President Muhammadu Buhari’s continued commitment to provide all necessary support to the Armed Forces, including the provision of arms and equipment.
“In the interview the National Security Adviser clearly informed the BBC reporter that Mr President has provided enormous resources for arms procurement, but the orders were either inadequate or yet to be delivered and that did not imply that the funds were misappropriated under the former Service Chiefs. The NSA also informed the reporter that, Mr President is following up on the procurement process as is usual with contracts relating to military equipments, in most cases the process involves manufacturing, due diligence and tedious negotiations that may change delivery dates.
“As the National Security Adviser conveyed during the Aso Villa Media Briefing, questions relating to Defence procurement should be channelled to the Ministry of Defence. All Security and Intelligence agencies are working together to bring an end to insecurity with the full support of Mr. President and Stakeholders including the media and civil society as part of a whole-of-government and a whole-of-society approach to address our security challenges.”
Many did not take the clarification seriously, preferring to circulate the recorded interview in a bid to prove his latter explanations wrong.