An anti-corruption group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project; civil society groups and the opposition parties under the aegis of the Coalition of United Political Parties have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to order a probe into the spending of military budgets from 1999 to 2018.
They also called on the President to take before the International Criminal Court all cases of alleged diversion of military funds, including $2bn arms funds allegedly diverted during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Their call followed the attack on the Metele military base in Borno State by terrorists. The terrorists, believed to be fighters of the Islamic State West African Province, had attacked the army base on November 18, during which scores of soldiers, including a commander and his assistant, were reportedly killed by the insurgents while others fled the base or were abducted.
The army had yet to release any figure of missing or deceased soldiers a week after.
In an open letter on Sunday by its Senior Legal Adviser, Bamisope Adeyanju, SERAP said it believed the inability of the Nigerian troops to respond adequately to attacks by insurgents was tied to inadequate arms.
It said, “We believe that referral of the cases to the ICC would serve as a deterrent and ensure that Nigerians, particularly those in the North-East of the country whose human rights, including the right to life, to human dignity, and to an adequate standard of living have been violated, are not denied justice and effective remedies.
“SERAP is concerned that several billions of naira allocated to the military to defend the country have neither contributed to improving the ability of Nigerian soldiers to fight Boko Haram and other armed groups nor provided the much-needed security, especially for Nigerians in the North-East of the country.”
SERAP urged the President to “move swiftly to implement these recommendations as a way of demonstrating your government’s commitment to end the perception of the lack of transparency and accountability in the spending of military budgets in the context of the conflict in the North-East and to ensure the safety and security of our soldiers and all Nigerians in that part of the country.”
“Establishing a commission of inquiry to investigate how defence and military budgets have been spent since 29 May, 1999 would help Nigerians to know if the funds meant to defend the country and for the purchase of arms to empower Nigerian soldiers to fight Boko Haram have been transparently and accountably spent.”
Huge military budget have yielded no fruits yet, say Transparency Int’l, CD
Also, Transparency International and the Campaign for Democracy have asked the Federal Government to investigate the huge funds voted for military arms and ammunition, particularly for the anti-insurgency war in the North-East.
They said the huge amount budgeted for the military to prosecute the war had yet to yield any positive result.
TI said on Sunday the escalating terror attacks on military bases showed there was a “huge defence corruption” in the system that needed to be urgently looked into.
The TI Head in Nigeria, Mr Musa Rafsanjani, said in an interview with one of our correspondents that despite the huge budgetary allocations and other funds voted to fight insurgency in the North-East, all were not yielding the desired results because of “defence corruption.”
He said, “The resurrection of attacks by the insurgents in the country is a very sad and unfortunate development. This is at a time when the government had repeatedly informed the whole world that the terrorists had been technically defeated. Secondly, it is so unfortunate that the huge amounts of resources to procure ammunition and motivate the troops have not yielded many results, if any.
“This shows there is institutionalisation of defence corruption. Nigeria has been facing serious defence corruption. This is the only reason why money meant to procure military equipment is not accounted for or visible in the war. It appears that nothing has changed from what has happened in the past in terms of military corruption.”
Also, the CD President, Usman Abdul, said the civil society had repeatedly been against the extension of tenures of the service chiefs by the President, saying there was much corruption in the military.
He said, “What is happening in the North-East is sad and it is part of the official corruption in this administration that led to such failures. The mass killings of our soldiers by terrorists are unwarranted. Large chunks of money were released for military arms and ammunition; but the money is unaccounted for.
“Today, the money meant for armaments was doled out by the government, but the soldiers meant to defend the territorial sovereignty of the country are falling dead every day due to poor weapons.
“This is why the civil society groups have repeatedly been against the extension of tenures of the service chiefs by the President.
“So, we ask the Federal Government to disclose how it spent the money voted for military arms and ammunition. This was what happened in the last administration and it is repeating itself.”
Coalition of political parties call for sacking of service chiefs
In its reaction, the Coalition of United Political Parties said in a statement by its spokesman, Ikenga Ugochinyere, that it regretted that the incident happened on the same day some service chiefs attended a political function organised by the ruling All Progressives Congress at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Ugochinyere said it was obvious the service chiefs were out of communication and beyond the reach of their subordinates and certainly could not give instructions and coordinate backup and air support for the troops who were left to die.
He described the increase in attacks by the Boko Haram and ISWAP on military facilities in the North-East as a national embarrassment.
Ugochinyere called for the immediate sacking of the service chiefs.
He said, “From the attack in Jili in July where we reportedly lost over 200 soldiers to Zari in August, Mainok and Kekeno and now Metele, this is one attack too many.
“This is a national disgrace, especially with the loud mouthing of an outgoing regime which had claimed the group was degraded and technically defeated after alleged misappropriation of billions of dollars.
“CUPP is shocked also by the dishonourable silence of the Federal Government on the attacks which only became prominent on the social media after the terrorist group released very gory videos of some of these attacks.
“For President Buhari to only summon service chiefs for a briefing five days after such a calamity clearly shows the slow response time of this administration to national emergencies and the lack of capacity to meet up with the fast pace of developments which affect the lives of citizens.
“We hereby call on President Buhari to salvage the last vestiges of honour left for his regime by immediately sacking the service chiefs, the Inspector-General of Police, Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and Comptroller General of Customs who have at one time or the other been found playing politics with their offices instead of doing their jobs with every sense of neutrality.”
Ugochinyere alleged that heads of security agencies in Nigeria had become more interested in obtaining intelligence on the meetings of opposition leaders than on the activities of Boko Haram.
He added, “The police and State Security Services are now more interested in hounding and intimidating opposition leaders and activists than they are in identifying and neutralising the activities of the terrorist group.
“Boko Haram is now allegedly expanding their territory even beyond the territories they held in 2014 before they were pushed back just before the 2015 general elections.
“The ugly report that the fallen Metele military camp is the last camp in the entire Northern District of Borno State raises a red flag and calls for concerted action to reverse it.”
It described as appalling and sacrilegious that months after President Buhari received $1bn to fight Boko Haram, videos supposedly released by soldiers on the front suggest that the soldiers were armed with obsolete weapons.
“We don’t want to believe yet the allegations that security chiefs with the knowledge of their political masters have now turned this war into a source for raising campaign funds.
“The political ambition of the President and indeed any other person is not worth the lives of Nigerians. This ugly trend mst stop and it must stop now,” CUPP added.
Soldiers fighting Boko Haram reject promotion of Jos colleagues
Meanwhile, some soldiers fighting Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East have rejected the alleged approval by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai for the promotion of soldiers who unraveled the circumstances surrounding the disappearance and subsequent death of the former Chief of Administration of the Army, Major General Idris Alkali (retd).
They said on Sunday they were dissatisfied that despite what they had suffered in fighting the war, they were not being recognised.
They described the army chief directive in favour of the soldiers sent to Jos for the special task as an insult to them, when they had been in the bush for years without recognition by their superiors.
Some of the soldiers in the North-East, who spoke to journalists on condition of anonymity, said, “The Chief of Army Staff promoted soldiers that went for the search operation of the body of Major General Alkali in Jos but neglected the soldiers in the North-East, whose lives are in danger and dying every day.
“This is unfair and it will further demoralise us. What death or danger have the soldiers sent to Jos faced, what threat to the nation have they warded off?
“We are daily being killed by insurgents who have only one mission to disintegrate this nation and to wreak havoc on its citizenry. What have been our rewards?
They added, “Many of us have not seen our wives and children for years. Some of us, our family members are not sure we are still alive and the COAS with what he has just done, just showed that we are not worthy of anything.”
Some of the soldiers, who were apparently aggrieved, asked the Federal Government to come to their aid, alleging that they were being used by “greedy officers to make money.”
They also complained about the lack of modern weapons to fight the war.
They said, “The T72 tank was made in 1983 by Slovakia. You can’t fire more than two rounds with it before it will hang. Majority of us are graduates, so we know what is going on. All the arms given to us are outdated.”
Publish identities of victims, says Ezekwesili
The presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, Mrs Oby Ezekwesili, while lamenting the death of the soldiers wondered why it took the military about a week to confirm the incident, even though its video had already gone viral.
Ezekwesili, in a statement on Sunday, challenged military authorities and the Commander-in-Chief to prove that they had not failed the nation’s soldiers.
She asked the Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government to “publish the names and authentic figures of fallen heroes for Nigerians to know the extent of damage and for record purposes.”
Ezekwesili said, “There are pertinent questions the Federal Government and the military need to answer. How did this latest in a series of killing of our soldiers in frontline of battle catch our country off-guard? Don’t we think the official line that the Presidency and military have been pushing on the state of the terrorism war is endangering our soldiers and nation? Can the government be more honest on the challenges it appears to be facing in prosecuting the war?
“It is no longer acceptable for our heroes to die and not be accorded the honour of gallantry. The FG and the military must accord full military burial rites to the fallen soldiers and also publish the list of others who have died and had been buried discreetly in recent times.
“The Federal Government should immediately take measures to protect and preserve our soldiers, military establishments, our people and territory to avoid further deaths. It is time for a review of current operational strategy being used to prosecute the war. It is also high time that our Intel was revamped.”
She advised the military to improve on its intelligence gathering, saying that would be key to defeating the Boko Haram insurgency.