The Presidency has come out in stout defence of former service chiefs following comments credited to the National Security Adviser, Major-General Babagana Monguno (Rtd) that arms for which a whopping $1b was released for from the excess crude account (ECA) were nowhere to be found.
Notwithstanding, former Army chiefand Ambassador-Designate, Lt,General Tukur Buratai, has said his hands are clean and threatened to take legal action on any misinformation on him. He directed questions on arms procurement to the Ministey of Defence.
An unsigned statement from Monguno’s office has said he was quoted out of context in the interview by the Hausa Service of the BBC, but commentators continue to wonder how he was quoted out of context, as they posted the interview in Hausa round on social media.
Meanwhile, the Presidency avowed that no money for arms was missing.
Said Presidential spokesman, Mr. Garba Shehu on television: “I imagine that you are talking about the $1 billion taken from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) with the consent of state governors and was used for military procurement.
“I want to assure you that nothing of that money is missing,” Mr Garba Shehu said on Friday when he featured as a guest on Channels Television’s Politics Today.
He added, “The reference by it in the interview with Hausa Service of the BBC by the National Security Adviser, I think, has been misconstrued and mistranslated.”
Shehu, who is the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, clarified the controversy triggered by the claim and went further to give an insight into the procurements made by the military since the funds were withdrawn.
He noted that the procurements made have not been fully delivered and about $536 million of the money was paid directly in a government-to-government transaction with the United States government.
“In August 2018, they (the US) allowed the Nigerian Government to buy 12 Super Tucano aircraft suitable for the kind of war we are fighting in the North East. In addition to that, other arms of the military have also made procurements.
“The Nigerian Navy has done nearly 100 per cent of their procurements equipment delivered; the Nigerian Air Force has bought a number of attack helicopters – 35 i-helicopters from Ukraine,” the presidential aide outlined.
He, however, said there have been problems with the procurements made by the Nigerian Army, stressing that the equipment have been coming in bits and in pieces.
Shehu disclosed that Nigeria’s biggest procurement was coming from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
“As I speak to you, it is held up in a situation which only diplomacy will resolve. The Nigerian Minister of Defence actually had a meeting with the Ambassador of the UAE to Nigeria and the idea is to resolve this so that these equipment held up will be released.
“We need them here, all these procurements are ongoing; nothing can be bought on the shelf, they are bought on order. The NSA did not make accusations of misappropriation because there is none in dealing with this matter,” he insisted.
Meanwhile, former Army Vhief, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai says his hands are clean.
In a letter by his lawyer, Osuagwu Ugochukwu, Buratai said: “My attention has been drawn to an interview granted BBC by National Security Adviser (NSA) RTD Major General Babagana Monguno wherein he was alleged to have accused former service chiefs of filtering ARMS Fund away.
“I can confirm that LT General Buratai and other ex-service chiefs were never mentioned in the interview and neither was any arms fund missing under the stewardship of LT Gen T.Y Buratai.
“Interestingly, NSA Babagana Monguno has denied making such accusations. We therefore urge members of the public to discountenance any such misquoted narrative suggesting sleaze on the integrity of RTD LT Gen T.Y Buratai.
“Anyone interested in knowing how Arms were procured by the ex-service chiefs and particularly LT Gen T.Y Buratai should channel such request for information to the Ministry of Defence and stop the habit of speculation and false information peddling. Because any attempt to further tarnish the image of the former Chief of Army staff will be resisted legally.
In the controversial interview, Monguno was quoted as saying: “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.”
▪︎ Additional report by Channel Television; Audio, courtesy PRNigeria