The presidential panel set up by President Muhammadu Buhari to probe arms procurement between 2007 and 2015 has been disbanded, Sunday PUNCH learnt exclusively on Saturday.
It was gathered that among other reasons, the panel, which uncovered a $15bn fraud in arms procurement, was scrapped because government believed it had outlived its usefulness.
Our correspondent learnt that before its dissolution, the panel had begun moves to investigate the tenure of the present National Security Adsiver, Babagana Monguno, as the Chief of Defence Intelligence between July 2009 and September, 2011.
The panel had submitted its first interim report in November 2015 while it presented the second report in January 2016 following which Buhari ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to investigate 18 serving and retired military officers, mainly from the Air Force.
Sunday PUNCH’s investigation revealed that the panel, which has AVM J.O.N. Ode (retd.) as the chairman, was dissolved by the NSA.
A top government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told our correspondent that the panel was asked to hand over to the EFCC.
The source said the anti-graft commission had already taken over the assignment.
When asked why the panel was dissolved, the source said the NSA who set up the committee was of the view that it had run its course.
“The NSA is of the view that they have run out of time. You know they have a time frame and he said they wanted to perpetuate themselves. And you know they have a budget and have been drawing money,” the source said.
But another top official in government, who craved anonymity, confirmed that it was disbanded to avoid a clash with the NSA.
The source said the committee ran into trouble with Monguno when members decided to probe his tenure as the Chief of Defence Intelligence from July 2009 to September 2011.
Meanwhile, a source close to the committee has told our correspondent that he is not aware of the dissolution.
“I have not been told officially that the panel has been dissolved. It was the President that set up the panel. We will wait for him to return,” he said.
According to reports in May last year, the panel during its investigation discovered that the total amount involved in arms fraud was $15bn.
Apart from Ode, who is the panel’s president, the committee’s members include R/Adm. J.A. Aikhomu (retd.); R/Adm. E. Ogbor (retd.); Brig.-Gen. L. Adekagun (retd.); Brig.-Gen. M. Aminu-Kano (retd.); Brig.-Gen. N. Rimtip (retd.); Cdre T.D. Ikoli; Air Cdre U. Mohammed (retd.); Air Cdre I. Shafi’i; Col. A.A. Ariyibi; Gp Capt C.A. Oriaku (rtd.); and the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu. The panel has Brig-Gen Y.I. Shalangwa as its Secretary.
Following the submission of the panel’s second interim report, Buhari had on January 15, 2016 directed the EFCC to carry out further investigation into the alleged misconduct established against some retired and serving officers of the Nigerian Air Force and Nigerian Army.
Those affected in the order included embattled former National Security Adviser, Lt.-Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.); a former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh (retd.); and two former Chiefs of Air Staff, Air Marshal MD Umar (retd.) and Air Marshal Adesola Amosun (retd.).
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, had disclosed the President’s directive in a statement made available to journalists.
Shehu had listed others that the President asked the EFCC to probe to include: Maj.-Gen. ER Chioba (retd.); AVM IA Balogun (retd.); AVM AG Tsakr (retd.); AVM AG Idowu (retd.); AVM AM Mamu; AVM OT Oguntoyinbo; AVM T Omenyi; AVM JB Adigun; AVM RA Ojuawo; AVM JA Kayode-Beckley; Air Cdre SA Yushau (retd.); Air Cdre AO Ogunjobi; Air Cdre GMD Gwani; Air Cdre SO Makinde; Air Cdre AY Lassa; and Col. N Ashinze.
He added that following the submission of the audit committee’s second interim report, the President had also directed the EFCC to investigate the roles of the officers as well as some companies and their directors in fundamental breaches associated with the procurements by the Office of the National Security Adviser and the Nigerian Air Force.
He gave the names of those affected to include: Messrs Societe D’ Equipments Internationaux; Himma Aboubakar; Aeronautical Engineering and Technical Services Limited; Messrs Syrius Technologies; Dr. Theresa A. Ittu; Sky Experts Nig Ltd.; Omenyi Ifeanyi Tony; Huzee Nig. Ltd.; GAT Techno Dynamics Ltd.; Gbujie Peter Obie and Onuri Samuel Ugochukwu.
Others were Spacewebs Interservices Ltd.; Oguntoyinbo Tayo; Oguntoyinbo Funmi; Delfina Oil and Gas Ltd.; Chief Jacobs Bola; Mono Marine Corporation Nig. Ltd.; Geonel Intergrated Services Ltd.; Sachi Felicia; Mudaki Polycarp and Wolfgang Reinl.