Buhari panel probes Army, to invite Ihejirika, Dambazau, others

Ihejirika

The presidential committee investigating arms procurement between 2007 and 2015 has started a fresh investigation into the purchases of equipment by the Army during the period, The PUNCH has learnt.

A top operative of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, who confided in one of our correspondents on Wednesday, said the commission was expecting another report from the presidential panel.

According to him, three former Army and Naval chiefs will be required to “clarify grey areas on arms purchased during their tenure.”

He said the presidential panel would submit a report to the Presidency, which would be forwarded to the EFCC.

The President had, on August 31, set up a committee, headed by the National Security Adviser, Maj. Gen. Babagana Mungono (retd.), to investigate arms procurement between 2007 and 2015.

The President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, had in a statement on November 17, 2015 said the committee had submitted its first interim report.

He added that following the submission of the report, President Muhammadu Buhari had ordered the EFCC to arrest a former NSA over alleged massive fraud, including the mismanagement of $2.1bn arms fund.

On Friday, the Presidency, in a statement by the President’s Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said the committee had submitted another preliminary report.

Shehu stated that Buhari had directed the EFCC to carry out further investigations into the alleged misconduct of some retired and serving officers of the Nigerian Air Force and Nigerian Army in the arms purchases.

Those affected in the order include the embattled former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.); former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh (retd.); and two former Chiefs of Air Staff, Air Marshal M. D. Umar (retd.); and Air Marshal Adesola Amosu (retd.).

The Presidency and the EFCC sources, who confided in The PUNCH, stated that there were deals involving arms procurement for the Army and the Navy that needed to be explained.

Although the sources did not name all the officers whose roles were being probed by the presidential panel, they hinted that some of the Army chiefs during the period could be called upon to answer questions in connection with arms deals in their services.

The source said three ex-Army and Naval chiefs, including Lt.-Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika (retd.), might be called upon to answer questions in connection with arms that were purchased during their tenure.

“Three former Army chiefs have questions to answer, including Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika; they may be invited to clarify some grey areas pertaining to arms procurement. As of today, the panel has not indicted anybody, but there are explanations that are needed to be made,” he stated.

Those who headed the Army during the period are Gen. Luka Yusuf (June 2007 to August 2008); Abdulrahman Dambazau (August 2008 to September 2010); Azubuike Ihejirika (September 2010 to January 2014); and Kenneth Minimah (2014 to 2015).

A top operative, who is close to the investigation, said the panel was reviewing the transactions of retired and serving officials of the Army after which it would move to the Navy.

Another security source told one of our correspondents that there was tension in the military, especially among serving personnel, whose offices were believed to have played some roles in the arms deals at different times.

It was gathered that a good number of the Air Force personnel were not invited to appear before the panel before their names were made known in the State House.

The concern is that a similar strategy might be adopted for the two remaining services.

The source added, “The presidential panel is now investigating arms procured by the Army. Some former Army chiefs will be invited.”

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, was said to be in a meeting when one of our correspondents sought his reaction on the latest move of the Federal Government on the arms purchase probe.

A text message sent through one of his aides had yet to be responded to as of the time of filing this report.

Also, efforts to get the EFCC spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren’s comment on the investigation into the Army’s books over the equipment’s purchase did not succeed as calls to his mobile set did not connect.

When one of our correspondents contacted him, Adesina, the presidential spokesman, said, “I need to check” before making comments on the move.

He had yet to call back as of the time of filing this report on Wednesday.

PUNCH.

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