Nigerian Army: In the Shadow of Corruption

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Nigeria- the giant of Africa parades one of the most sophisticated army in the Continent. Apart from the traditional function of maintaining the territorial integrity of the nation, the Nigerian Army (NA) has been promoting international peace and security

through her several peace keeping operations in Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and presently in Darfur – Sudan. In political leadership, the Military has held sway. Out of the 49 years of the nation's existence, the NA has taken a large chunk of about 31 years. The first, second and third Republics failed essentially due to corruption from our political gladiators and the military insatiable appetite for greed and power. More often than not, the military establishment has always capitalized on the ills that beleaguered the civilian administrations and swung the pendulum of the political economy to its advantage.

This trend has been established since 1985 when the then maximum ruler General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida entrenched corruption and reinforced a huge rent-seeking and patronage network. Analysts believe that corruption in the NA was worsened by sharp practices such as over inflation of contract values, diversion of pension funds, drug trafficking, intimidation of contractors, withholding allowances and sundry other vices. Senior Officers heading the financial branch of their arm of the armed forces usually become instant billionaires on retirement. Successive Chief of Army Finance, Chief of Air Finance or Chief of Naval Finance respectively never retire from the service without billions of Naira in their accounts or stashed somewhere.On Friday the 4th of July, 2008, soldiers that converged from all over Nigeria held Akure town to ransom; the city stood at a standstill, the city got frozen. The soldiers that went on peacekeeping missions abroad became peace disturbers at home. the “wipers of other people's tears” started “shedding basins of tears”. Army peacekeepers drawn from across the country to participate in the operations protested the non-payment of their allowances. Authentic sources claimed that instead of the $1,228 that the global body approved for them on monthly basis, authorities of the Nigerian Army were short changing them by paying them only $3,000 for the six-month period.

They claimed that since they returned to Nigeria on April 23 2008 from the operation, which they started on September 12 since 2007, life had been difficult for them because they were not paid their allowances.The atmosphere at the Owena Barracks of the 323 Artillery Regiment of the Nigerian Army in Akure, Ondo State was a rancorous and mutinous one. Hundreds of soldiers went on violent demonstration over the alleged military authorities' cut of the United Nations (UN) allowances for their peacekeeping operations in the former war-torn Liberia. The protest of the soldiers confirms a well tested Igbo proverb that “Cheating brings nightmare to the victim”. Even Thomas Paine said many years ago that “When all other rights are taken away, the right of rebellion is made perfect”IBB is believed to have guzzled over $12 Billion Naira windfall during the American invasion of Iraq. From awesome Abacha loot to other Abdulsalam profligacy, from the Niger Dock scandal under Ozobia-led management to the controversy surrounding the removal of Auditor-General of the Federation, virtually all government agencies ranging from federal ministries to the National, State and even at the local government levels, have recorded one case of corruption or another.

Corruption has also emasculated the potency of the military. Until the Niger Delta insurgency, the Nigerian Airforce can only boost of about two battle ready MIG Fighters and few helicopters, the other day; the Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal Paul Dike, was disclosed to the Senate Armed Forces Committee the pathetic story that the Nigerian Air Force has no fighter jets, the Navy on its own cannot boost of any class A warship except N.N.S Aradu that should have been disengaged from the service as most of its gunnery cannot even function again, the Navy has no single submarine in this 21 st century while Libya can boost of about three. The implication is that the Army has only obsolete arsenals. As the Senate Ad Hoc Committee on the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) begins the probe of allegations of corruption in the PTDF, the Campaign for Accountable Governance through Elections (CAGE) has asked the Committee to uphold transparency, accountability and fairness in undertaking this important constitutional task. The Senate Committee was established following reports that out of about $700 million realized during the 2002/2003 bidding rounds only about $145 is known to have been transferred to the PTDF account. Cases like this are legion.

In January, 2008, the Chief of Army Staff, Ministry of Defence, acting for and on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria awarded contracts to Esquire Ventures Ltd; Profitel Ltd, Century Communications Ltd and Jonny-Way Investments Ltd ) for the supply of various specialist Military items to be used by the Nigeria's United Nations-backed Troops deployed to Darfur and Sudan for the total sum of One Billion, Two Hundred Million Naira. The man at the centre of the shaddy deals is Lt. Gen. AB Danbazau.

Our investigations revealed that between January and August 2008, these companies supplied these items to the Nigerian Army worth N660,000,000 (Six Hundred and Sixty Million Naira) because of the note of urgency expressed by the NA and the assurance that the mobilization fee was being processes in line with Due Process, mobilization fees as provided by the said contract. Of the total sum, only N175,000,000 was paid by the Late Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Lukas Yusuf shortly before he was retired. The outstanding balance stood at N476,000,000 unpaid. The total cost of the items when fully supplied was N476,448,000 while the cost of items produced and ready for shipment is N530,700,000.Further investigations revealed that when Lt. Gen Dambazau took over as the new Chief of Army Staff, the Nigerian Army was paid millions of dollars from the United Nations in respect of these military items to be used by the Nigerian peace keeping troops in Darfur, Sudan. There seems to be a clear case of diversion of a huge chunk of the money. Rather than pay the contractors the Chief of Army Staff, instructed that the money be deposited in special accounts and used for other purposes at the expense of the contractors and the welfare of the Nigerian troops in Dafur. Following mounting pressures from the contractors, Gen. Dambazau set up two committees, one of which was headed by Major-General Azurunwa, to verify all contracts awarded by his predecessor.

The Major-General Azurunwa committee after visiting all the depots where the supplies were made, and checking out all documentations from both the contractors and the supply depots, came out with a report which certified that the contracts were duly executed and should therefore be paid by the army authorities. After the report of the Azurunwa Committee over two months ago, the Chief of army staff mandated Major-General U T Usman and Major-General Charles to negotiate with the contractors to give the army some discounts on the outstanding debts and also to agree for the debts to be paid in two installments. Since then, the contractors claim, nothing else has been heard from the army authorities. Sources revealed that these companies have made several demands on the Chief of Army Staff to pay for the Military items already supplied and honour the terms of the contracts but to no avail. Meanwhile, the money used for the execution of the contracts being borrowed funds from the banks continues to yield huge default interest rate of 30% against the companies. Subsequently, the banks threatened to foreclose on the companies' collaterals for failure to pay back the loans.

However, the companies have stopped further supply of these items to the soldiers in Darfur and Sudan as a result of this ugly incident. Having exhausted all amicable means of urging the Chief of Army Staff to pay the outstanding sum and honour the agreement have briefed Festus Keyamo Chambers to give a formal notice of the reference of the matter to the Arbitration court and the appointment of J.B Daudu (SAN) as their arbitrator. The contractors' claims against the Federal Government before the arbitration panel are as follows: (a) The sum of N476,448,000 being the contractual price of the good supplied to the Nigerian Army with 21% interest per annum from August 2008 till judgment is entered and 60% interest on the judgment sum until it is liquidated. (b) The sum of N100,000,000.00 as general damages for breach of contract. (c) The sum of N530,700,000 being the purchase price of the remaining items for which our clients have already committed part payment to the manufacturers, production of which is ready for shipment. Or alternatively, the sum of £358,000 paid as deposit by our clients to the manufacturers in respect of the remaining items with 21% interest per annum from February, 2008 till judgment is entered and 60% interest until the judgment sum is liquidated.

The Chief of Army Staff and the Federal Government are expected to forward the name of their Arbitrator within 15 days of their receipt of the notice. In the court of law, facts are sacred and the military establishment cannot twist these facts to serve its own megalomania. It is also wrong for the military to intimidationcivilians especially contractors. The solution is to pay for genuinely executed contractors. The likes of Lt.General Dambazu should learn from past military dictators like Gen. Sani Abacha that power is transient.

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