Strong indications emerged over the weekend that President Muhammadu Buhari may have concluded plans to sack two officials of his government indicted in the final report of arms procurement probe.
The 13-man Presidential Committee on the Audit of Defence Equipment Procurement in the Nigerian Armed Forces (2007-2015) had submitted its final report to Buhari on Sunday, October 23.
The probe cut across procurement of arms and related military contracts between 2007 and 2015 in the Ministry of Defence, Nigerian Army (NA), Nigerian Navy (NN), and Nigerian Air Force (NAF). The arms panel also probed the activities of the Presidential Implementation Committee on Maritime Security (PICOMS).
It was reported that the final report indicted some influential officials of the present and immediate past administrations.
The report also indicted a former Chief of Army Staff (COAS), an ex-Chief of Defence Intelligence (CDI), some former ministers of defence, senior military officers, a permanent secretary, top officials of the Ministry of Defence and several contractors.
Even some of the military top brass facing prosecution in connection with arms scandal are also indicted in the final report. Some former officials of the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) were indicted in the latest report.
The panel, in the final report, had recommended that the indicted persons and firms should be prosecuted and made to return some huge amount of money. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is expected to commence investigation of those indicted as soon as the president releases the report of the arms probe.
Consequently, it was gathered from highly placed sources that the president was under intense pressure to ease out his senior appointees that were found wanting in the final probe report. It was gathered that Buhari’s zero tolerance for corruption will weighin substantially, as it would be a contradiction to overlook the development.
It was further gathered that those privy to the final report are particularly angry with the way and manner public funds meant for arms procurement were alleged to have been mindlessly diverted or misapplied, as the case may be.
“Further to the indicted senior officials, it is most likely that Mr. President will excuse two top officials of his government. “Don’t forget that his avowed commitment to the ongoing anti-corruption fight, is total. The president would not shield anybody from investigation and prosecution, no matter whose ox is gored.
“To say the least, the final report is too weighty and indicting, and those in the know are furious about startling discoveries,” the source said. Like other indicted persons, it was learnt that the two top officials of the Buhari administration were also quizzed by the probe panel.
Their involvement was as a result of procurement of military hardware and other purchases while holding sensitive positions in government. The arms panel established that there were irregularities and fraud in some of the procurement under their watch.
There are fears that the panel report will be suppressed because of those indicted in the latest report. A source, however, said that the president will not tinker with the panel’s report which indicted some officials of the present administration.
The Air Vice Marshal J.O.N Ode (rtd)-led panel was established in August 2015, to audit defence equipment procurement in the Nigerian Armed Forces, as well as the Ministry of Defence. Some firms, which executed contracts with the ONSA and the Ministry of Defence, were also recommended for prosecution by the EFCC, based on their levels of culpability.
Before the final report, the panel had turned in two interim reports, which indicted serving and retired military officers. Prior to the event of October 23, the 13-man panel, which sat for 14 months, had indicted a former NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd); former Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh (rtd); former Chiefs of Army Staff (COAS), Lt.-Gen. Azubike Ihejirika (rtd), and Lt.- Gen. Kenneth Minimah (rtd); and ex-Chiefs of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal M.D Umar (rtd), and Air Marshal Adesola Amosu (rtd)