Counting losses from $2.1bn arms fund diversion

In this piece, Fisayo Falodi writes on the incalculable damage the $2.1bn arms fund said to have been diverted by the Office of the National Security Adviser for political purpose and other corrupt practices have done to the country

Prudent management of a nation’s resources – both human and material – amid scarcity is recognised the world over as a key role of a responsible government.

This is essential to the fight against poverty and building of infrastructure for business expansion and wealth creation among the citizens.

So, when in August 2015 President Muhammadu Buhari directed the Office of the National Security Adviser to set up a 13-man committee to carry out an audit of the procurement of arms and equipment in the Armed Forces and Defence sector from 2007 to date, Nigerians were interested in knowing why the government they elected to promote their welfare could not guarantee the adequate security of their lives and property, let alone providing semblance of the basic necessities of life for them.

They were particularly worried that the number of internally displaced persons arising from the constant attacks by Boko Haram insurgents kept on increasing. This is compounded by the widespread outage that had culminated in the relocation of many companies from Nigeria to neighbouring countries thus increasing unemployment rate here. This is in spite of the huge billions of Naira budgeted for security and for the development of infrastructure yearly by successive governments.

The interim report of the 13-man committee revealed that the alleged fraud in the procurement of arms and ammunition from 2007 to date had contributed to the disturbing rise in the number of the IDPs and the sad situation the country finds itself today.

Observers are of the opinion that if such huge amount of money, including the over $2.1bn, meant for the purchase of arms to fight the dreaded Boko Haram sect, has been judiciously spent for the purpose for which it was meant by those concerned, instead of diverting the fund to private pockets, the greater part of the infrastructural deficits across the country would have been addressed.

More shocking in the $2.1bn arms saga is the money shared among a few eminent Nigerians for political and personal interests, which is believed to be equal the size of the budgets of Abia State (N100.89bn), Anambra State (N101bn), Bauchi State (N102bn) and Katsina State (N141bn) for the 2016 fiscal year.

Although some of those mentioned in the sharing of the money had admitted and stated the amount they got from the former Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party Board of Trustee, Chief Tony Anenih, to mobilise support for the re-election bid of former President Goodluck Jonathan, it was nevertheless alleged that the money was part of the $2.1bn arms meant for the purchase of arms to fight the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East. The money was said to have been released by a former NSA, Col Sambo Dasuki (retd).

Ironically, some of the eminent Nigerians who admitted to have collected money from Anenih had held one position of responsibility or the other in the past. For example, Chief Olu Falae was a former Minister of Finance, a former Secretary to the Federal Government and admitted that he collected N100m; elder statesman Tanko Yakasai, was an aide to former President Shehu Shagari and admitted that he collected N63m; Jafaru Isa was a former military governor of Kaduna State and report said he had refunded N100m of the N170m he received from Dasuki.

The development therefore raised observers’ doubt over the successive governments’ sincerity in attending to the people’s welfare.

They said the diversion of the arms fund and other money previously embezzled in the past had denied the country its expected growth and pride in the comity of nations.

A poet, Mr. Odia Ofeimun, traced the issue to deliberate attempts by the government in power to flout the constitutional provision that certain subvention should be given by the state to political parties in accordance with the votes scored in previous election.

He said every political party in Nigeria is sponsored by money sourced from the coffers of government at all levels, adding that money meant for the development of health and education sectors had always been diverted in the same way.

According to him, if the government in power does not use security votes, it uses certain percentages taken from one contract or the other. No political party in Nigeria is dependent on membership subscription, including Buhari’s APC.

Ofeimun said, “This particular case ($2.1bn arms saga) is sensational because it revealed the issue as a poster case to aide Buhari’s anti-corruption war. But it followed the pattern of all the improper expenditures that have always taken place under the Nigerian government. Every political party in Nigeria is sponsored by money sourced from the coffers of government at all levels. If they don’t use security votes, they use certain percentages taken from one contract or the other. No political party in Nigeria is dependent on membership subscription.

“There is a constitutional requirement that political parties should be given subvention by the state in accordance with the votes scored in previous election. But all the ruling parties in the country have always prevented the electoral commission from following the rule. When the ruling parties give the subvention, they give such an insignificant amount that will not be enough to print posters. So, we have a situation that no political party in Nigeria is in position to make hue and cry over corruption.

“All political parties in Nigeria are run with corrupt money. The fact that the arms saga is made to look out of the way is because people were being killed in the North-East and the money that was supposed to be used to bail the country out of terrorism was diverted for political purpose. Every big contractor in Nigeria supplies the means for running political parties; this is the way it has always been.

“Where does the money spent on Buhari’s campaign come from? What will convince me that the President is fighting corruption is to provide a practical solution to the problem of political party finance so that when somebody takes certain percentage from money meant to execute a contract, we will know that the person has committed a crime. What is required is an institutional solution to the problem of political party finance.”

The General Superintendent, Holy Spirit Mission, Lagos, Bishop Charles Ighele, blamed the situation on the porous system of awarding contract in country. He said the arms scandal involving Dasuki was a clear manifestation of a bad budgetary system that allows a president or a governor and their chief security advisers to have yearly financial allocations of billions of Naira without accounting for how such a huge amount is spent.

The cleric said that the matter was more serious than what it was turning out to be, asking that “we should not make it a reality show as we have done in the past.”

Claiming that this is the time for the country to stop the absurdities that have defined its political life, Ighele said, “Many years ago, the political reality show with which we were entertained was that of the then female Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mrs. Patricia Etteh. She was accused of planning to spend an unnecessarily huge sum of money to renovate her official residence. At that time, I said that we should look at our nation’s system of awarding contracts and not crucify the then Speaker. She was just a mere manifestation of the system. After Etteh was forced out of office, the team that took over from her continued with the same system; the team did worse.

“We should all know by now that all past rulers of this nation and governors are guilty of what Dasuki has turned out to be a scapegoat for. For example, a state governor can decide to give a political associate N5m to fuel his car and put it under security vote. And such a governor can explain it away that he used the security money to secure the loyalty of his political associates in order to “secure” his government. Let all the past rulers come out and say that they have never done what Dasuki did.

“So, let us not turn this serious matter into another political reality show. Let the intelligent people of this nation rise up and define what constitutes security vote. Let a committee be set up now to determine what security vote allocations should be spent on. And the president and the governors should have secret documents in which they will state what the money was spent on.

“They should be classified documents. This current system is like a latrine and if we do not focus our energy on replacing this latrine financial system with a modern toilet system, this type of latrine stench will keep coming out to pollute our national air space. What is going on in this nation concerning resource allocation is sad.”

A project management expert, Mr. Teslim Agunbiade, said the absurdities, one of which he identified as the fraudulent administration of resources by those entrusted with them had done unimaginable damage to the country.

Agunbiade said the current poor state of infrastructure in the country, archaic equipment in our hospitals and tertiary institutions are direct consequences of public fund diversion.

While stressing that political parties need money to run their programmes such as printing of posters, campaigning and paying their workers, he condemned a situation whereby money earmarked for boosting the country’s security would be diverted to fund such.

“Most of the problems staring Nigeria in the face should not have arisen if public funds have been appropriately spent,” Agunbiade said.

An economist, Prof. Sheriffdeen Tella, said the diversion of the money culminated in the low economic activities in the country now.

He said, “More foreign and local investors would have come to Nigeria to do business thus increasing the country’s Gross Domestic Product were the money used for the purpose it was meant.

“Nobody wants to invest in a non-peaceful environment. We don’t need any soothsayer to tell us that many economic activities have been badly affected due to the arms fund diversion.”

Copyright PUNCH.

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