Friday, June 25

N530B Arms Contract Probe : Army Generals Block Magu

More than six months after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC launched investigation into alleged diversion and misappropriation of over N530 billion allocated for procurement and operations in the Nigerian Army between 2007 and 2015, the Commission appears finding it tough with Army Generals under probe. As a result, the acting Chairman of the agency, has come under immense pressure to back down.

The AVM Jon Ode (Rtd)-headed Presidential Committee on the Audit of Defence Equipment Procurement in the Armed Forces (2007-2015) had in a statement on Thursday July 14, 2016 recommended a number of serving and retired military officers for further investigation.

Among those listed for investigation are 18 serving and retired military personnel, 12 serving and retired public officials and 24 chief executive officers of companies involved in military procurement during the period under review. According to the statement, all were either accounting officers or played key roles in the Nigerian Army procurement activities during the period under review.

Those listed for further investigation include two former Chiefs of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. O.A. Ihejirika (Rtd) and Lt.-Gen. K.T.J. Minimah (Rtd); former Minister of State for Foreign Affairs II, Dr Nurudeen Mohammed and three former Permanent Secretaries in the Ministry of Defence – Mr. Bukar Goni Aji, Mr. Haruna Sanusi and Mr. E.O, Oyemomi.

Also, the CEOs to be investigated include Col. Olu Bamgbose (Rtd) of Bamverde Ltd; Mr. Amity Sade of Dolyatec Comms Ltd and DYI Global Services and Mr. Edward Churchill of Westgate Global Trust Ltd. According to the Committee, the total amount spent for procurement and operations within the period were N185, 843,052,564.30 and $685,349,692.49.

Investigations by Saturday Sun reveal that, unlike in the cases of the Navy and Air force where indicted military chiefs were promptly investigated and arraigned in courts, the EFCC has come under immense pressure over the indicted Army chiefs, “as a result of which clues and leads in the investigation are not successfully followed to the end.”

A highly placed source in the Commission told Saturday Sun in Abuja on Thursday that “the Army Generals, whether serving or retired appear not ready to allow the Army face what the Navy and Air force have gone through with some of their chiefs now facing trial over defence procurement, and so they continue to build a wall of defence round themselves so that the case against some of them and their contractors won’t go to court.”

The source further revealed that the latest of such moves was from a highly influential former Defence Minister (Names withheld), who had also been a Chief of Army Staff during past military regimes.

Saturday Sun gathered that the EFCC last week arrested and detained a former Chief of Logistics at the Army Headquarters, Major General Daniel Kitchener; in furtherance of the investigation of a former Chief of Army Staff under President Goodluck Jonathan. The Army chief, it was gathered was questioned over procurements allegedly handled by him, Gen. Kitchener, who is a relation of the first wife of the former Defence Minister. Some of the procurement overheads include ammunition for Darfur operation, supply of training kits and equipment; purchase of 16MG and 29 RPG and 10 Grenade Launchers; repair of seven assault craft; repair service and upgrade of 29 Suncraft ; purchase of 15 Freefall Parachutes; buying of MRAP vehicles with maintenance containers; order of Radio Technologies Equipment; purchase of 10 APCs by DICON; 51 GPMG and sustenance of Operation Zaman Lafiya; emergency procurement of Combat Equipment for Ongoing Ops; Operation Internal Security; Quick Response Group and Forward Operation Bases; HE Type Mortal and purchase of bullet proof vests.

It was also learnt that after some three days in EFCC detention, the influential Army General was said to have put a call through to Magu to demand the immediate release of his brother-in-law. “With such call from such a powerful person, the Chairman had no option but to ask us to free the suspect, who was already cooperating with us, immediately and unconditionally”, the top official stated.

“The fact is that Nigerians won’t understand why the investigation of the Army contracts is taking too long, unlike that of the Navy and Air force. I just told you now some of the challenges but with the tenacity of the Chairman, we will crack this one too, it’s a matter of time. The Chairman came under worse pressure over the oil subsidy scam, yet we got it that, the Army Generals’ case won’t be an exception”, the source added.

N5B traced to Army General’s daughter’s account

Saturday Sun had on September 24 last year revealed in an exclusive cover report how over N5 billion was traced to the bank account of a daughter of one of the retired Army Generals being investigated by the EFCC.

A top official of the anti-graft agency had said that the discovery was made by a team of operatives in the Intelligence and Special Operations Section of the Commission, saddled with the responsibility of carrying out further investigation of those indicted in the Third Interim Report of the Presidential Committee on the Audit of Defence Equipment approved by President Muhammadu Buhari in July.

In the process of investigating the tenures of two former Chiefs of Army Staff, Lt. General Azubuike Ihejirika and Lt. General Kenneth Minimah, the immediate past Chief of Accounts and Budget, CAB at the Army Headquarters in Abuja (Names withheld) who served the two Army Chiefs also came under scrutiny. Although the General bears Northern Muslim names, he is from Ibadan, Oyo state. His middle name is Iyanda.

The source further said that following the discovery of suspicious cash deposits in an account in the name of the first daughter of the Army General in a new generation bank, a lien was placed on the account by the EFCC. The young lady who is under 30 recently got married (Names withheld). The account officer, a lady who manages the account was subsequently invited by the EFCC. She spilled during interrogation.

Her confession led to the invitation of the General’s daughter towards the last week of August, last year.

The source stated that she pleaded for more time to enable her attend to her infant child. The young nursing mother eventually turned up with her mother, baby, husband and lawyer. And for two days, she faced interrogation though she was not detained because she is a nursing mother.

A summary of criminal infringements already established against her and her father borders on conspiracy and money laundering. “Details of the account show that cash deposits of about N10 million were consistently paid into the account sometimes five or six times a day. The money so far deposited into that account and another in London should well be over N5 billion”, the source added.

Investigators also discovered that even though the lady was still a student in the United Kingdom, hundreds of thousands of Pound Sterling were wired into the bank account of a London based firm’s bank account for her. The firm, Carrington Whyte Consulting with Flat 4, Grove End Gardens 33 Grove End Road NW8 9LL London, as its address, was curiously registered around June 2014 and shortly after; the funds began to hit its bank account from Nigeria in torrents.

Though the Army General’s daughter is currently on administrative bail, she is however, expected to report back for further interrogation. “We had to study her last statements, juxtapose them with our findings and draw up fresh questions for her and with which we confront her”, the source explained. It was further gathered that apart from procurement contracts fraud, the retired Chief of Accounts and Budget along with the two indicted COAS will have to explain how billions of excess funds in Army salary accounts were diverted, withdrawn in cash and shared when they are eventually confronted by investigators, when and if EFCC is able to wriggle out of the current pressure to back down on the Army contracts probe.

The realm of indictment

According to the Committee, the total amount spent for procurement and operations within the period were N185, 843,052,564.30 and $685,349,692.49.
It found that the Nigerian Army Contracts awarded by the Ministry of Defence for the period under review were often awarded without “significant input from end-user (Nigerian Army) and to vendors who lacked the necessary technical competence”.

“As an example, 3 contracts with a total value of N5, 940,000,000.00 were awarded to DYI Global Services Ltd and Doiyatec Comms Nig. Ltd (owned by the same individuals) for the procurement of military hardware including 20 units of KM-38 Twin Hull Boats and 6 Units of 4X4 ambulances fitted with radios. The committee found that the 2 companies collected N5, 103,500,000.00, representing 86% of the total value of the 3 contracts worth N5, 940,000,000.00, but only performed to the tune of N2, 992,183,705.31,” the report said.

The committee also found that a contract worth N169, 916,849.77 for the procurement of 53 Armoured Vehicles Spare Parts, with 90 days completion time, is yet to be completed five years after.

With respect to contracts awarded directly by the Nigerian Army, the Committee found that many of the contracts were characterized by “lack of due process, in breach of extant procurement regulations and tainted by corrupt practices.

“In this regard, a review of the procurement carried out by Chok Ventures Ltd and Integrated Equipment Services Ltd established that between March 2011 and December 2013, the 2 companies exclusively procured various types of Toyota and Mitsubishi vehicles worth over N3,000,000,000.00 for the Nigerian Army without any competitive bidding.

”Though the committee found no credible evidence of delivery of the vehicles, the vendors were fully paid based on job completion certificate authenticated by the then Chief of Logistics. Also, analysis of the various bank accounts of the 2 companies showed transfers to individuals related to then Chief of Army Staff,” the report said.

Relations rise in defence of Gen. Kitchener

Daniel Kitchener, is a retired Major General who hails from Wusasa in Zaria local a government area of Kaduna State. According to some residents of Wusasa community, Gen. Kitchener is not as popular in the community like his other siblings. Mr Ibrahim Jocob, a resident of Wusasa told Saturday Sun “this is the first time I am hearing about Daniel Kitchener, I know his brothers; Dr Stephen Churchil Kitchener, Samuel and the late Isaiah Kitchener’’.

Another resident Mallam Lawal Musa said “I know him in person, though he rarely comes to Zaria except there is an occasion, I know he has been generous and approachable. General Kitchener had influenced the construction of Wusasa Town Hall donated by General T.Y. Danjuma and also donated money to most development projects in Wusasa’’

Some of Gen. Kitchener’s relations who spoke to Saturday Sun on condition of anonymity confirmed his arrest. “You know we don’t know the details of why government arrested him , we were only told that he was implicated in the Arms deal worth billions of Naira’’, a female relation said.

She however said that “Throughout his career in the military, he was never found wanting in any assignment not to talk of Arms deal, that is why he is not popular, I know his enemies are after him, and God would not give them a chance’’.

Another close associates of the family said ‘’ I wouldn’t want to comment on the charges, but my brother would be vindicated and the truth would be revealed soon. Fraud is not in his character, he has been a true Christian who adheres to the teaching of Jesus Christ.

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