‘How military officials benefit from fight against Boko Haram’
• Transparency accuses them of creating fake contracts
• Says officers launder proceeds in U.K., U.S.,defence faults report
While the Federal Government and the victims of the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East count their losses, some military officials are profiting from the crisis.
This was the position of Transparency International as it released a report on the crisis. But the defence headquarters yesterday strongly dismissed the report as false and that it was meant to weaken the fight against terrorism.
“Corrupt military officials have been able to benefit from the conflict through the creation of fake defence contracts, the proceeds of which are often laundered abroad in the United Kingdom (UK), United States (U.S.) and elsewhere,” TI declared.
The report alleges that corruption in the military is weakening the country’s efforts to battle Boko Haram.
It underlines the difficulty of achieving two key campaign promises of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015: tackling endemic corruption and defeating the insurgency that has claimed over 20,000 lives and displaced millions.
The allegations of misappropriation of funds meant for equipping the military have persistently trailed the battle against Boko Haram. Thus, the dismissal of the report by the military as false should not stop the government from investigating the allegations of corruption.
TI noted that last year, the vice president said around $15 billion had been stolen from the public purse under the previous government through fraudulent arms procurement deals.
It said this had left the military “without vital equipment, insufficiently trained, low in morale and under-resourced.”
“This has crippled the Nigerian military in fighting an aggressive ideologically inspired enemy such as Boko Haram,” the watchdog added, pointing to cases of soldiers taking on the militants without ammunition or fuel.
Reacting to the allegation, Defence spokesman, Brig-Gen. John Enenche, at a press briefing in Abuja yesterday, said the TI was seeking to block the support Nigeria is getting in the war against terrorism by concerned countries. He said the leadership of the Armed Forces of Nigeria had done a lot to train, boost troops morale and procure vital equipment through due process, for the North East operations against Boko Haram in particular and other operations.
Enenche noted that the military had already been commended by the United Nations (UN) on the war against corruption, adding that it was this good image that the TI was working hard to destroy.
The Defence spokesman said: “The attention of Defence Headquarters has been drawn to an inciting corruption allegation against military officials, by Transparency International . Let me start by making it clear that this sweeping allegation is false with the following clarifications:
“The present leadership of the Armed Forces of Nigeria has done a lot to train, boost troops morale and procure vital equipment through due process, for the North East operations against Boko Haram in particular and other operations.
“The Defence Headquarters, Army, Navy and Air Force headquarters have established procurement branches that are guided by the rules and regulations of the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP). The Ministry of Defence deals directly with states and governments on defence equipment procurement without using contractors or vendors any longer.”
Enenche said a sweeping statement of corruption against military officials at this time was rather disheartening. “More so that the Nigerian military was on 22 March 2017 credited by the U.S. as having done very well to fight insurgency and extremism among others, with advice to other countries to learn from Nigeria. That such an allegation is coming at the peak of consistent successes being recorded at our areas of operational engagements, the North East in particular, it must be treated with utmost suspicion,” the Defence spokesman said.
Enenche assured the general public that there was no calculated, deliberate or institutionalised corruption in any form within the military, stressing that the Armed Forces of Nigeria remained focused and committed to providing security to lives and property, and totally loyal and subordinated to the Commander-in- Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Meanwhile, the Defence Minister, Mansur Dan-Ali, has said that the Federal Government has so far freed more than 4,000 persons held hostage by Boko Haram insurgents.
In a keynote address at a two-day retreat organised by the ministry in Jos, Plateau State yesterday, Dan-Ali said the figure included 106 Chibok girls who were abducted in 2014.
The retreat, holding at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), has the theme: “Enhancing civil-military relations, a panacea for promoting security and national development.”
He said, however, that more needed to be done to consolidate on the efforts to sustain the peace and security in the region. “For more to be achieved, the military components of the ministry and the civilians must work hard, understand each other and have mutual respect and trust,” he said.
According to him, the combined efforts of members of the armed forces have successfully degraded the Boko Haram insurgents, making it difficult for members to regroup and carry out organised attacks.
Plateau State Governor Simon Lalong, described the retreat, targeted at enhancing civil-military relationship, as “apt and of great significance.”
Lalong said that Plateau had had its share of security challenges and had seen how collaborations between the military and civilians had ensured a quick resolution of internal conflicts.
The governor called for more bridges of understanding between the military and civilians, saying that such unity was key to an effective discharge of constitutional duties.