Nigeria: A Once Vibrant Country Dwarfed by Criminals and Rogues

To the criminally minded, an opportunity once given should be exploited for personal advantage. Some would say, “All those shouting about stealing, diversion and corruption in Nigeria are not opportune to be in position of doing so”. That is the mindset of criminals that see stealing as the shortest route to success for ostentatious living.

Nigerians have of recent been regaled with sleazy deals in arms procurement, with several highly placed individuals and past public office holders summoned by the Department of State Security (DSS) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC to explain their roles in sordid deals that turned into complex cobwebs involving politicians who once wielded enormous power.

First to be arrested by EFCC was the former National Security Adviser, a Sokoto Sultanate prince who desperately wants to be a Sultan, Colonel Sambo Dasuki (rtd) for allegedly expending $2.1billion in arms purchase with nothing to show except deaths of military officials and civilians from insurgents.

Nigerians and the rest of the world may not yet know those fully involved in the messy arms deals until further investigation is completed.

What the public know is that a lot of their money meant for arms purchase ended up in private vaults in the better-forgotten, yet difficult to forgive and forget the dark years of the Jonathan administration. Budget allocations to security/defence, is not enough evidence of what was truly sunk into those areas, sadly, without positive result. In 2008, Nigeria expended N444.6billion on security; 2009: N233 billion; 2010: N264billion; these were in the days of Umaru Yar Adu’a. In 2011, after Jonathan took over from where Yar Adu’a stopped, Nigeria committed N348billion for security; 2012: N921.91billion; 2013: N1.055trillion. It fell to N968billion in 2014, about 20percent of the year’s N4.962trillion budget.

These were budgetary allocations alone to security. Going by the on-going revelations after the arrest of Dasuki and his co-travelers in the sleaze, it is getting clearer that the Jonathan administration went beyond budgetary provisions in disbursing funds to the National Security Adviser, ostensibly for security purposes.

Former finance and coordinating minister of the economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, testified that she also disbursed $322million to Dasuki from the recovered loot of the late Sani Abacha who stole more than he needed.

In her words, “the NSA made a case for using the retrieved funds for urgent security operations since, he noted, there could not be any development without peace and security”.

Those defence disbursements are laced with several mindboggling dimensions beyond human reasoning. One, the Jonathan administration seemed to have no value for money. And no one would have expected that a country at war with terrorists would have been so inhumanly raped by those supposed to execute the war to logical conclusion. There is also another dangerous implication for the armed forces whose men and officers were ordered to confront the murderous terrorists literally with bare hands while Dasuki and his gang stole the funds meant for arms.

Perhaps Nigerians need some statistics to drive the points vividly home. Boko Haram from a rough estimate has murdered over 20,000 people since their insurrection in 2009 and displaced over 2.3million from their natural habitats.

Indeed, the terrorists had wrecked havoc that may take decades to reverse particularly in the north-eastern part of the country. Boko Haram has carried out successful abductions including kidnapping 276 school girls from GGSS Chibok in April 2014 without resistance. All these form part of why there was joy across the country when EFCC began to arrest suspects in connection with the N2billion arms deals. Others that are now having their day with the embattled Dasuki in court are former Sokoto state governor, Attahiru Bafarawa who allegedly collected N100million from the arms deal through former PDP national chairman, Ahmadu Adamu Mu’azu; Bashiru Yuguda, Jonathan’s minister of state, finance, told EFCC that he gave N600million to six (6) PDP chairmen of contact and mobilization committee for the 2015 general elections. Beneficiaries of the loot were; ex-convict, Bode George from South-west, Peter Odili from South-south, ex-convict, Jim Nwobodo from South-east, Amb. Yerima Abdullahi from North-east, Attahiru Bafarawa from North-west and Ahmadu Ali from North-central whose biological son is standing trial for another offence on fuel subsidy scam. Others were; Former head of terrorism in the office of the NSA and PDP Kebbi state 2015 gubernatorial candidate, Sarkin Yaki Bello who received N200million without sweating for it. Former Zamfara state governor, Mahmud Aliyu Shinkafi received N100million. Emeritus chairman of Africa Independent Television (AIT), Chief Raymond Dokpesi allegedly collected N2.1billion from Dasuki for what he claimed to be money for advertorials aired by AIT for Jonathan’s 2015 presidential campaign but despite that huge sum of illicit money, he failed to settle several months of the same AIT staff salaries. But if one may ask, when has the office of the NSA become the platform to settle fees for political advertisements? Was Dasuki a member of the PDP publicity committee or expectedly a neutral servant entrusted with the security aspect of the country? Was the NSA’s office an extension of Wadata Plaza managed by PDP crooks and rogues guarded by Dasuki? Was Jonathan presidential campaigning funded from with public funds meant for development? What went wrong with the billions claimed to have been ‘realized’ at his presidential campaign launching? Who then must have funded the notorious Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN) and the several other mushroom groups under PDP? EFCC has a long way to go in its assignment as most of the criminals are within and outside Wadata Plaza. The anti-corruption agency has also launched a manhunt for another suspected high profile criminal, onetime national chairman of the PDP, Muhammed Halliru Bello Gwandu in connection with some diverted arms cash. One of the suspects in EFCC’s custody is said to have refunded N200million and pleaded for bail to enable him refund about N1billion credited to him from the stolen arms funds. If that is done, let him be sent to Sambisa forest to assist the military in the fight against Boko Haram.

One joyful aspect of the unfolding drama is that those who hitherto classified themselves as untouchables are now touched and frightened. That is the best way it should always be; the law should be no respecter of persons – soldiers, police, governors, ministers, religious and community leaders, lawyers, journalists, media owners, even former presidents and Heads of state. Although the court process is yet to start, Nigerians and the international community are already being treated to melodious songs; some are singing like canaries already. Honestly, one is impatient waiting to hear more melodious tunes from the onetime untouchables that would now sing- treble, tenor alto, bass – from the suspect box in the coming harvest of songs.

But Nigerians should thank their God for not allowing their military to commit serial senseless murders in the name of punishing soldiers for mutiny because it could have been disastrous with the on-going revelations after those innocent soldiers had been killed. Yet the sacked Chief of Defence Staff, Alex Sabundu Badeh had endorsed the summary trials and execution of the soldiers and officers who deserted the war front because they did not want to commit suicide that the Nigerian authorities wanted them to commit.

Regrettably, Badeh was quoted to have said: “In fact, may be you will now push us to go and start doing field court martial in the bush. We try them, in five minutes we would have finished the trial, kill them, bury them and we go on with the fight,” Badeh said in reaction to the barrage of criticisms that trailed the sentencing of 12 soldiers to death for alleged mutiny and other military offences. Now, the question is: Do you confront better armed bandits with superior weapons with bare hands just because you want to carry out an order from your superior officer who failed to even secure his ancestral home in Adamawa state? Only God knows how many soldiers and officers had gone the Badeh way in the military era over coups, real or phantom. This was simply the height of man’s inhumanity to man. The same Alex Badeh had testified that he headed a military that lacked equipments, when he was handing over to the new Chief of Defence Staff, Major- General Abayomi Gabriel Olonishakin following his well deserved sack alongside other military chiefs by President Muhammadu Buhari on July 13, 2015.

“The task of coordinating the military and other security agencies in the fight against terrorists is perhaps the most complex and challenging assignment I have had in my over 38 years in service. For the first time, I was head of a military that lacked the relevant equipments and motivation to fight an enemy that was invisible and embedded with the local populace”, Badeh confessed at the occasion.

This reminds me of the sincere situation report made by Borno state governor, Kashim Shettima that attracted him attacks from Jonathan for saying, “Boko Haram insurgents were better equipped than our soldiers and better motivated”.

Now, if Badeh knew his troops were not properly equipped for the war, why did he approve the killing of soldiers who refused to make themselves, available for suicide in the hands bandits? Perhaps it did not occur to him and his colleagues that those soldiers are entitled to right to life and loved by others. Again, was Badeh not aware of the billions of naira and dollars that had been budgeted for same military he was coordinating to buy arms and ammunitions? What then happened to the monies and why would the military be left without the budgeted weapons and motivation as even confirmed by foreign observers of the situation? If he was not aware, did he raise any alarm to salvage the situation? Why did he wait for a sack while losing the war until he was disgracefully made to vacate the position?

Honestly, if security is a function of huge budgetary and extra-budgetary allocations, then Nigeria under Jonathan could have been one of the most secured countries on earth, given the stupendous amounts security swallowed in the country’s budgets in the last three years.

This has never been and is depressing and insulting enough. The matter is worsened by the un-Godly manner the military authorities handled it in collaboration with criminally minded politicians amongst who messed-up their states when they held sway as governors. Indeed, one begins to agree that the Almighty God may create a special Hell fire for Nigerians on the Day of Judgment especially those who presided over government affairs. Those who say the furnace in hell would be reinforced seven times more than usual on that Great Day of Judgment must have had Nigerian leaders in mind. Very soon, some of the big crooks already in the net would start to claim strange ailments and ask the courts to allow them travel overseas for proper medical attention. But the courts need to be vigilant and in some cases, ask the vandals whether their itchy-fingers are not responsible for the absence of state-of-the-art medical facilities in public hospitals.

Part of the beauty of the arms deals case is that it would check impunity on the part of public officials and their collaborators. Those close to the seat of power have over the years committed several atrocities with impunity that even the blind could see especially during the dark days of Jonathan.  Honestly, Jonathan needs all the angels to swear on his behalf that truly, he was not aware of those monumental scams because in terms of whistle blowing, he had a surfeit of it; but, rather than doing something, he busied himself trying to distinguish between stealing and corruption while the likes of Ahmadu Adamu Mu’azu, Prof. Ahmed Alkali, Udenta Udenta, Peter Odili, Tony Anenih etc were busy diverting monies budgeted for arms to the PDP through Sambo Dasuki who has now brought shame to the Sultanate of Sokoto.

EFCC should better cast its net wider to get in all those who might have partaken in the stealing and diversion of the arms funds. President Buhari needs to be reminded of the implication of the scam on loyalty, professionalism and cohesion in the military. It has implication for national security beyond being, kept in the cooler and later destroyed.

 

By Sanusi Muhammad

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