Presidential Panel uncovers N2.175bn fraud in Defence Ministry

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• Gets Nov. 30 deadline to submit report

From Molly Kilete, Abuja

The presidential committee investigating arms purchase to prosecute the counter-insurgency war in the North-East has been given November 30 deadline to submit its report.

There are fears that the deadline came as a shock to members. Reason: The committee has uncovered a N2.175 billion fraud in one of the agencies of the Ministry of Defence.

The money, meant for arms procurement, was allegedly diverted. Members believed the deadline, may have been engineered by powerful forces who were indicted in the alleged fraud. The committee which was set up last year, had submitted three reports. Implementation of the report had led to the prosecution of the former Chief of Defence Staff, Lt. Gen. Alex Badeh (retd).

Similarly, some other top officers are currently being detained for their roles in the illegal diversion of funds meant for military operations.

In its third report submitted in July this year, the committee made up of very senior retired and serving military officers, and headed by Air Vice Marshal J.O.N. Ode, indicted former Chiefs of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika (retd) and Kenneth Minimah (retd), top military officers and civilians.

Sources told Daily Sun that the committee during its investigation on the Ministry of Defence had uncovered a whopping N2.175 billion fraud traced to one of the agencies under the ministry for a specific project.

However, rather than embark on the said project, the money was diverted. The committee discovered that the money meant for the project was paid in instalments to some corporate bodies and Bureaux De Change.
Daily Sun authoritatively gathered that the said money was part of the N35 billion the ministry took as loan from the Debt Management Office (DMO) to purchase equipment for troops on international peace-keeping mission with the aim of getting reimbursements from the United Nations.

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The committee since its inauguration on August 31, 2015, is said to have so far submitted four interim reports to the Presidency.

Daily Sun gathered that some past defence ministers, permanent secretaries and directors of finance in the ministry have been indicted in the said missing money and recommended for probe and further investigation by the relevant government agencies to get to the root of the matter.

Trouble was said to have started for the committee when a member of the House of Representatives accused the Committee on Audit of Defence Equipment Procurement in the Nigerian Armed Forces (CADEP) of deliberately delaying the report of its committee after over one year of its inauguration.

The committee was accused of being biased and indicted those perceived to be enemies of the present administration as culprits in the illegal purchase of arms and ammunition for the military.

On its investigation on the Nigerian Navy which Daily Sun gathered is ongoing, the committee has already sent out investigations to some past Chiefs of Naval Staff, Chiefs of Budgets and Accounts, Chiefs of Training and Operations, Chiefs of Policy and Plans, Directors of Procurement to appear before it.
Although Daily Sun could not ascertain if the committee would be able to conclude its investigation before the November 30 deadline, sources say it will be unfair for the other services where the committee spent months conducting their investigations and openly disgraced them.

To do a through job, it was gathered that the committee needs between two and three months.
Aready, some serving and retired military personnel are   accusing the committee members of being biased in their investigation and doing the bidding of government.

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The committee probing arms procurement for the Navy began sittings last week. But there was anxiety that the committee may not do a thorough job as was done for the Army, Air Force and the Defence Ministry.

Aside the deadline, the committee has also been barred from requesting for documents and other materials from the agencies under probe.

The deadline will definitely hamper CADEP from effectively carrying out its work, because it has always depended on the documents provided by the organisations, ministries, parastatals and agencies under probe.

There are indications that all may not be well between the committee and the Federal Government after it submitted its fourth interim report indicting persons perceived to be untouchable, about four weeks ago.

– Sun

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