The National Security Adviser (NSA), Major-General Babagana Monguno (rtd), opened the Pandora box last week in an interview he granted the British Broadcasting Service (BBC) Hausa Service. Monguno claimed government could not trace and account for money budgeted for arms, including the $1bn extrabudgetary fund taken from the Excess Crude Account in 2018 for the purchase of weapons during the tenure of erstwhile military chiefs: Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, Chief of Air Staff, Abubakar Sadique and Chief of Naval Staff, Ibok Ibas.
A verbatim translation of the revelation by the NSA reads thus: “The President has done his best by approving huge sums of money for the purchase of weapons, but the weapons were not bought, they are not here. Now, he has appointed new service chiefs, hopefully, they will devise some ways. I’m not saying the former service chiefs diverted the money, but the money is missing. As we speak, the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, too, is wondering where all the money went. We don’t know how, and nobody knows for now. I believe Mr President will investigate where the money went…’’.
Though the Presidency alleged mistranslation of the interview from Hausa to English, and that Monguno’s statement was interpreted out of context, no one has been able to show Nigerians the arms bought with the said money. It is therefore difficult to dismiss the impression that there were some suspicious, dubious or shady deals in the arms purchases.
There are indeed several questions begging for answers; should service chiefs be responsible for arms purchases? What role did the Ministry of Defense’s Procurement Department play in the deal, and why did the NSA single out service chiefs in his expose, and not the Minister of Defense? Why did Major-General Monguno (rtd) speak like an outsider in the country’s security architecture? As NSA, his office should be the hub of the security circle. It will do the government well to provide answers to these questions.
No doubt, the NSA’s outburst speaks of the dysfunctional leadership under the Buhari administration; the lack of synergy among the managers of the country’s security sector which does not in any way help the security situation.
It is indeed disheartening that such an allegation is coming out now, at a time where the rate of insecurity is alarming. Most Nigerians can no longer sleep with their eyes closed, yet money for arms to fight that battle is missing? This is unacceptable and the allegation cannot be swept under the carpet. It is scandalous and an irony that such is happening under Buhari, a self-acclaimed anti-corruption ideologue. An irony, because this same regime made a name with the probe of the embezzlement of $3.2 billion extrabudgetary interventions and another $2.2 billion budgetary spending on military operations, under former NSA, Col Sambo Dasukin (rtd). The flames of ‘Dasukigate probe’ have not fizzled out.
The Buhari administration must come clean with evidence of weapons purchased with the money. The allegation should be thoroughly investigated and it should go beyond the arms purchase to include what happened to allowances of soldiers on the battlefield? How much was budgeted for their upkeep and how much was paid to them? Why are there constant complaints about the lack of kits? Why are there not enough bullets for them to match the enemy fire-for-fire?
The service chiefs involved must be made to openly defend themselves against the allegation. If the arms were not purchased, the money must be returned to the treasury and anyone found culpable should be made to face the law.
The problem with Nigeria’s military expenditure is that there is hardly any reliable data for reference on its budget and how funds allocated are spent. Something should be done to address that as a way of ensuring transparency.