Over the last 10 months into the life of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, Nigerians have almost on daily basis, been inundated with mind-boggling reeling out of figures of alleged corrupt practices perpetrated by previous administrations in the country.
One major topical issue which has elicited divergent reactions under this current administration is what is today known as the $2.1billion arms procurement scam.
President Buhari is a man full of surprises. During the electoral campaign, he told Nigerians that he was not going to probe those who looted the nation (probably at Federal and State levels), before May 29, 2015. But in a dramatic U-turn, the President after winning the historic election, where for the first time in Nigeria, an opposition party beat a ruling party, he declared that he was going to probe the last administration(s).
When questions were raised, the President, his handlers and his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, told Nigerians that the mess perpetuated under the 16 years of former ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP, must not be left to go just like that. Thus, the need for a thorough probe on how the PDP mismanaged the nation’s treasury.
The President got a commendation for this dramatic U-turn, including from yours truly.
Fast forward to August 24, 2015, some three months after coming to power, President Buhari, in a bid to prove his status as an ”˜anti-corruption’ Czar, mandated the office of the National Security Adviser, NSA, to convene an investigative committee on the procurement of hardware and munitions in the Armed Forces from 2007 to 2011.
A widely circulated statement by Presidential spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, said the 13-man investigative committee headed by Air Vice Marshal, AVM, J.O.N Ode (rtd.), among other things were mandated to identify irregularities and make recommendations for streamlining the procurement process in the Armed Forces, from 2007-2015.
Inaugurated on August 31, 2015, some two months later, precisely on November 17, 2015, the media was awash with screaming headlines that President Buhari has ordered the arrest of ex-NSA, Sambo Dasuki, who served under the administration of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, from 2012-2015, and others indicted by the committee in its interim report on the arms contract probe.
Nonetheless, it was from this interim report of the presidential committee empaneled to probe the arms procurement from 2007 to 2015, that it, as at then, collated a total of extra-budgetary interventions of N643.8 billion, the Foreign currency component which was $2.2 billion. This was where the infamous $2.1billion arms scam usually used as kickers in news headlines emanated from.
Startling revelations have emerged since that interim report, on how funds meant for arms procurement were allegedly mismanaged by those put in charge to manage them.
However, there is an important poser that must be raised since this arms procurement probe commenced. Nigerians had thought that the probe was from 2007-2015. But all those, whom money have been traced to seem to be between 2012-2015.
The Presidency would also not stop inundating Nigerians with flip-flops, denials and back-tracks. The latest release by the Presidency on March 24, 2016, posted on its Facebook page, Aso Rock Villa, is now saying the Presidential Committee was set up to probe contracts awarded by the office of the NSA from 2011-2015, instead of from 2007-2015.
The State House Press Release yesterday said the committee has indicted over 300 Office of the National Security Adviser, ONSA Contractors and prominent citizens, including serving and retired officers of the armed forces.
It seems these companies and prominent Nigerians were those indicted between 2011-2015. So, the question is what happened to those companies and prominent Nigerians indicted from 2007-2011.
Even though I won’t hold the brief for those indicted so far, it is apt to state that the arms deal probe has been centred around ex-NSA Sambo Dasuki.
But Dasuki was appointed as NSA in 2012. What happened to the procurement contract under the NSA preceding Dasuki, even from 2011 that the Presidency now wants Nigerians to believe its probe kicked-off from?
Again, since the Presidency in a widely circulated Press Statement on August 24, 2015, had told Nigerians that the arms procurement probe is within the period 2007-2015, Nigerians would like to know what happened under 2007-2011.
I hope the Presidency is not hiding anything from Nigerians? It is a truism that at least one key cabinet member currently serving in this administration was one of the Service Chiefs between 2008-2010, thus, in the period under review.
Thus, it is our hope as countrymen, that this arms probe must be thorough, and not just jaundiced.
If jaundiced, the perception in several quarters that the arms probe was just a ploy to kill the opposition PDP, as well as humiliate and witch-hunt ex-President Goodluck Jonathan and those who served loyally under him, will be valid and empirically ascertained.
If jaundiced, it will confirm the fears in several quarters that President Buhari is not sincere in his much taunted anti-corruption war.
Timothy Godson is a public affairs commentator; he wrote from Anambra State.