The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has begun investigations into the utilisation of N8bn released by the Office of the National Security Adviser for multi-national operations, The PUNCH has learnt.
It was gathered on Thursday that the funds were released in March, 2014 and January, 2015 for counter-insurgency operations across the Nigerian borders.
It was learnt that the investigations were based on the third report of the Presidential Committee on Audit of Defence Equipment in the Nigerian Armed Forces, which was submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari in July.
A source in the commission, who confided in one of our correspondents, said the commission had started tracing how the funds were spent with a view to recovering it.
The Air Vice-Marshal John Ode-led panel had, in its report, stated, “In March 2014, the ONSA made a case for the release of N1,000,000,000 to sustain offensive operations against Boko Haram insurgents across Nigerian borders. Although the amount was approved and released, the committee could not establish the utilisation of the funds.
“Additionally, in January 2015, the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs requested N7,000,000,000 to urgently fund operations of the Multi-National Joint Task Force in the Lake Chad, which was approved and released from ONSA. However, the committee could not ascertain the utilisation of the funds from ONSA and the Defence Headquarters.”
The source stated that one of the mandates of the EFCC was to recover all funds diverted in the guise of fighting insurgents.
The source added, “I can assure you that the commission is doing that and those who got funds and could not account for how the money was used for counter-insurgency operations will be quizzed.
“They have to provide documents to prove that the money was used for what it was meant for. The report is not a final indictment, but if they cannot provide documents besides being taken to court, they will refund the money.”
It was learnt that those being investigated on how the funds were spent included a former NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.); an ex-Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Nurudeen Mohammed; and a former Director of Finance in the ONSA, Alhaji Salisu Shuaibu.
It was also gathered that the EFCC was investigating the abuse of end-user certificates and payments of withholding tax.
According to Wikipedia “an end-user certificate is a document used in international transfers, including sales and arms provided as aid, of weapons and ammunition to certify that the buyer is the final recipient of the materials, and is not planning on transferring the materials to another party.
“EUCs are required by many governments to restrict the flow of the materials to undesired destinations such as embargoed states or rebel groups, governments with bad human rights records or states, which are considered a threat by the original supplier of the arms.”
The presidential committee had stated in its report, “The Nigerian Army issued several EUCs for the procurement it undertook within the period under review. The authority to issue or raise EUCs is exclusively vested in the NSA.
“The Nigerian Army also made provision for payment of VAT in several of its contract agreements for procurement of military hardware which are exempted from the payment of VAT. On the other hand, the Nigerian Army failed to deduct WHT from source on most of the payments and where made, there were no evidence of remittance to FIRS.’’
The PUNCH had reported that the EFCC had begun investigations into 20 companies indicted in the third arms probe report.
No fewer than six of the companies would pay a total of N2.4bn as withholding tax in connection with defence contracts awarded between 2007 and 2015.