$2.1bn arms probe: EFCC compiles list of military chiefs

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has compiled a list of serving and retired military officers, who will be interrogated in connection with the $2.1bn arms procurement probe, The PUNCH has learnt.

It was gathered on Monday that the commission had already sent a letter to the Army Headquarters for the release of the affected officers.

Although sources, who confided in one of our correspondents in Abuja on Monday, declined to name the affected officers, he said soldiers to be invited included past service chiefs.

It was learnt that there was tension in the military over the arrest of a serving Colonel, who served as a Military Assistant to the former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.).

A source in the EFCC confirmed that before Christmas, the EFCC arrested a colonel, who was on secondment to the office of the NSA in connection with the ongoing investigation into arms procurement under the Goodluck Jonathan administration.

The source said the colonel had been in detention since then.

A top operative of the EFCC confided in one of our correspondents that the detained Army officer was directly in charge of arms procurement during the last administration and was required to provide an explanation on some of the arms deals and equipment supplied.

The source added that the EFCC had forwarded a letter to the Army Headquarters and other services of the military, requesting the release of some serving officers for interrogation in connection with the $2.1bn arms probe.

It was stated that the EFCC’s letter contained a comprehensive list of military personnel whose names came up in the process of the investigation and others believed to have occupied certain positions in the last administration.

The source added that the focus of the investigation was shifting to the military’s involvement in the arms procurement deals.

The source said, “The Army officer, I believe, a colonel, has been with us for two weeks. Before he was invited to report to the Task Force investigating the arms procurement scandal, the commission wrote to the Army Headquarters, requesting his release for interrogation.

“Apart from him, the commission wrote the Army Headquarters and other services for the release of several serving officers and also wrote to retired officials in relation to the ongoing probe.

“The commission has a list, a comprehensive list of serving and retired military personnel that they want to interrogate.”

The PUNCH could not get the Head of Media and Publicity of the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, as calls to his mobile did not connect.

The Acting Director, Army Public Relations, Col. Sani Usman, could not be reached for comments as calls to his mobile set indicated that it was either switched off or in an area outside network coverage.

But a senior military officer explained that the EFCC could not have picked up a colonel without the standard procedure of securing his release from the Army authorities.

The source explained that every military officer was subject to two laws – the military law and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The source added that since the Director, Legal Services of the Army was Secretary of the Presidential Panel on Arms Procurement, recommendations might have been made in some quarters.

The source said, “Every officer of the military is subject to two laws: the military law and the constitution. You know that the secretary of the Presidential Panel on Arms Procurement is the Director, Army Legal Services.

“I am yet to see such correspondence but I doubt very much if they are going to arrest a colonel without his release by the Army.

“However, you must know that this is a democracy and you must be accountable for your actions.’’

In a related development, the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Olisa Metuh, says he has yet to be invited for questioning by the EFCC.

Metuh is said to be under investigation for allegedly collecting about N400m from the office of Dasuki.

The money is alleged to be part of the funds meant for the procurement of arms for the fight against Boko Haram in the North-East during Jonathan’s government.

Metuh had admitted that he collected an undisclosed sum of money from the former President.

The PDP spokesman explained that he got the undisclosed amount for carrying out unspecific assignment as the spokesperson for the PDP for the former President.

In a statement by his Special Assistant, Mr. Richard Ihediwa, in Abuja on Monday, Metuh alleged that he was being tried by the media.

Rather than being invited, he said he had been reading in the newspapers about the alleged crime he was being investigated for.

The statement reads, “This office wishes to state categorically that the EFCC has neither invited the National Publicity Secretary nor questioned him on any matter whatsoever since its inception.

“If indeed, the report (about his investigation) is from the EFCC, then they should note that only in a period of tyranny are people investigated on the pages of newspapers as a prelude to abuse and violation of their freedom and rights under the law.

“It is instructive to observe that a mere media campaign of calumny does not in anyway whatsoever translate to any evidence of guilt.

“It is rather an evidence of infringement on the rights of the citizenry and manifestation of the reign of tyranny.”

Metuh said in a democratic and civilised country, where there were issues that required investigations by relevant agencies, invitations were duly extended to those concerned.

He added, “If we now have a system where citizens get to be investigated, tried and executed by planting stories in select newspapers, wherein then lies the need for our judicial process?

“Finally, we do hope that all concerned will be guided by due process at all times.”

Meanwhile, the Defence Headquarters on Monday said the military would not tolerate corrupt practices among its personnel.

The Acting Director, Defence Information, Brig.-Gen. Rabe Abubakar, told one of our correspondents on the telephone that the military was fully in support of the Federal Government’s campaign against corruption.

Abubakar, who was reacting to reports that a top military officer was in the detention of the EFCC, said he was not aware of the arrest of the military officer.

He explained that any military personnel, serving or retired, who was required to make clarifications on his or her role in the ongoing arms probe would be released to do so in the interest of the country and national development.

Abubakar added, “The military is in support of the war on corruption. All military personnel, serving or retired, can be invited by the committee in the interest of the nation.

“I actually don’t have the information that a serving personnel of the military is in the custody of the EFCC. I am not a member of the committee, so I don’t have that information but anybody, serving or retired, who is found wanting, can be invited.

“Anybody can be invited by the committee or any other agency of government to shed more light on his action because the military is part of government institutions. We are completely in support of the war against corruption because this is something that will help the country.”

PUNCH.

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