Missing Arms Fund: Presidency, Buratai React as NSA Clarifies Statement
Controversy ensued on Friday after the National Security Adviser (NSA), Major-General Babagana Monguno (retd.), alleged that funds meant to purchase arms to tackle insurgency during the tenure of immediate past service chiefs got missing.
The ex-service chiefs are the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin (retd.); Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai (retd.); Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas (retd.); and Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar (retd.).
Monguno, in an interview with the Hausa Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation early Friday, alleged that neither the funds nor the weapons the ex-service chiefs were meant to buy could be traced.
According to him, the President will soon order a probe into the matter.
In response to a question on why the Buhari administration was foot-dragging in the fight against terrorism, Monguno said: “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. We don’t know how, and nobody knows for now. I believe Mr President will investigate where the money went.”
Monguno added that the Nigerian Governors’ Forum was also wondering where all the funds meant for arms went.
“I can assure you the President takes issues of this nature seriously.
“The fact is that preliminary investigation showed the funds are missing and the equipment is nowhere to be found.
“When the new service chiefs assumed office, they also said they didn’t see anything on the ground,” he said.
However, in a statement by his office later on Friday, the NSA recanted his earlier allegations, saying he was quoted out of context.
While he admitted granting the BBC interview under reference, he denied saying funds meant for the purchase of arms had gone missing.
The statement read in part: “We would like to state that the NSA was quoted out of context as he did not categorically say that funds meant for arms procurement were missing under the former service chiefs as reported or transcribed by some media outlets from the BBC interview.
“During the interview, the National Security Adviser only reiterated the Federal Government’s commitment to deal decisively with insecurity and stated President Muhammadu Buhari’s continued commitment to providing all necessary support to the armed forces, including the provision of arms and equipment.”
The NSA said in the interview, he clearly informed the BBC reporter that: “Mr President has provided enormous resources for arms procurement, but the orders were either inadequate or yet to be delivered and that did not imply that the funds were misappropriated under the former service chiefs.
“Mr President is following up on the procurement process as it’s usual with contracts relating to military equipment. In most cases, the process involves manufacturing, due diligence and tedious negotiations that may change delivery dates.”
Arms procurement fund can’t go missing under Buhari –Presidency
Speaking later on Friday, the Presidency said no fund was missing under the watch of the immediate past service chiefs, adding that procurements had been made for military weapons but the arms had yet to be delivered.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said missing funds can’t happen under the administration of the President.
Shehu spoke on Channels Television programme, ‘Politics Today’.
He said the NSA was misquoted, stressing that Monguno did not accuse the ex-service chiefs of misappropriation of funds.
He said: “About the $1billion taken from the Excess Crude Account with the consent of state governors used for military procurements, I want to assure you that nothing of that money is missing.
“The reference by it in the interview of the BBC Hausa Service by the National Security Adviser has been misconstrued and mistranslated.
“NSA made two critical points – one is that we don’t have enough weapons, which is a statement of facts; and two, procurements made have not been fully delivered.
“At no point did the NSA say that money has been misappropriated and that no arms is seen. They have not been delivered, that is correct; these are things you don’t get off the shelves.”
No arms fund missing under my watch-Buratai
Debunking the NSA’s claim on Friday, counsel to the former Chief of Army Staff, Buratai, Mr Ugochukwu Osuagwu, said the ex-COAS and other ex-service chiefs did not fiddle with arms funds.
In a statement titled, Osuagwu said any attempt to tarnish the image of the former COAS would be resisted legally.
The statement read in part: “I can confirm that Lt. Gen. 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 retired Lt Gen TY Buratai.”
Ugochukwu added that anyone interested in knowing how arms were procured by the ex-service chiefs and, particularly Buratai, should channel such requests to the Ministry of Defence