Arms deal: Why Army can't probe ex-service chiefs — Buratai

By The Citizen
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The Chief of Army Staff, COAS, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, said yesterday that the Army cannot probe ex-service chiefs involved in procurement of weapons for the fight against Boko Haram because they had retired.

Buratai, who disclosed this while defending Army's budget proposal before the House of Representatives Committee on Army, also lamented that the N160 billion budget approved for the Army by the Ministry of Budget and Planning was grossly inadequate to prosecute the war against insurgency in the North East.

His declaration came as the Army yesterday said it would not reabsorb the 250 soldiers dismissed last week for failing to join their colleagues posted to the North East, gross acts of indiscipline, cowardice and absence without leave.

According to him, all the service chiefs and other senior officers involved in the procurement have so far retired, hence the Army is limited on the extent it could go to investigate the procurement.

On Army budget, Buratai said the force had proposed N526 billion for 2016 fiscal year but lamented that only N160 billion was approved.

He pleaded with the committee to assist the force by ensuring that what it had earlier proposed was given so that the Army could carry out all its required assignments, including rehabilitation of barracks and welfare of officers and men of the force.

He said: 'The ministry went below what we actually need minimally. This honourable House should assist to ensure that what we proposed is given to us.

'The significant drop is not from us but the Budget Office, but we will appreciate your efforts to make it up so that we can function well.

'If we can get N526 billion today, Nigerian army will not be the same again. We will make sure that our barracks are rehabilitated and troops and their families taken care of.'

On the release of the 2015 supplementary budget of N3.196 billion for the payment of salaries of Nigerian Army, including N1,987,056,478 for 72 recruitments; N768,637,124 for 62 regular combatants and N440,395,803 for 22 direct short service, Buratai said the Accountant-General of the Federation had announced the release of the fund.

He said: 'The Accountant General of the Federation was in my office this morning (Wednesday) and said some funds will be released. I believe it is the supplementary budget.'

The COAS told the committee that the Army had deployed equipment to the North East where there is insurgency and the Niger Delta where there is renewed attacks on oil pipelines.

He said the Army concentrated more on ammunition, adding that the rate of expenditure on ammunition in the North East zone was very high. T

he Army chief also lamented what he described as deduction at source by the Ministry of Finance on utility bills, especially power. Commenting on the dilapidation of barracks across army formations, he said it was unfortunate that the barracks were left to decay for several years, adding that the situation required deliberate intervention by the Federal Government.

He said: 'The situation in the Barracks requires maximum and urgent intervention from the Federal Government. Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai 'This unfortunate situation should be reversed for us to perform our duty for the betterment of the country.'

Chairman of the House Committee on Army, Rima Shawulu, called for urgent review of the procurement of arms and ammunition for the Nigerian Army and all the security agencies operating in the country. Shawulu, expressed concerns over the sorry state of facilities in the 30 military formations and barracks visited recently during the familiarisation tour conducted by the committee.

He said: 'In all, we visited and related with officers in about 30 formations in the six geopolitical zines of Nigeria. The findings are sobering and a rethinking of the way we do things.

'It is sobering that the officers and men who have dedicated their lives to fighting to keep us safe, live in such scandalous accommodation. It is also shocking that the decay and rot in the system has been left unchecked and our soldiers fighting without required equipment.

'The controversies over the purchase of arms and ammunition or alleged purchase of inferior or substandard arms call for an urgent review of our processes. Indeed, as several scholars, leaders and generals have repeatedly affirmed, war is too important to be left in the hands of generals.

'The world has moved on and in most democratic countries, representatives of the people, the parliament is involved in the details of implementation of budgets and procurement processes.'-Vanguard.