The last may not have been heard on the ongoing controversy over Lt. General Tukur Buratai, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) ownership of two Dubai-based properties valued at N4.3 billion ($1.5 million).
Competent sources told Independent that the Department of State Security (DSS) may have placed some recently retired army officers on surveillance on the belief that they may be the principal sponsors of the disclosure, which is seen as a smear campaign on military top brass.
The army, last month, sacked about 50 officers over charges bordering on corruption.
Independent gathered that the revelation on Buratai’s Dubai interest might be the handiwork of some of the retired officers itching to get back at the COAS for booting them out of office.
But while the DSS may have their hands full in this matter, the military high command, on another front, is on high alert over intelligence detailing disaffection in the defence over what insiders call attempt at ‘profiling’ army personnel to be sent to hot spots or to be placed in strategic offices as it braces up for a major campaign in the Niger Delta.
Profiling, especially in intelligence circle involves isolating an individual or group of persons on the basis of their race, ethnicity, religious beliefs or some other sentiments considered to be primordial. The army, however, has denied this.
The two incidents, despite spirited efforts by authorities at putting a lid on their attendant media ruckus, are believed to have many in the Defence Headquarters concerned. Buratai came under storm after a petition by a group identifying self as Concerned Soldiers and Officers from the North East, who accused the COAS of owning the property from proceeds of executing contract as a former procurement officer for the army.
According to the petition, the COAS and his two wives are joint owners of a Dubai property that was paid for in one transaction. The money for the purchase of the property may have come from a vehicle contract scam while Buratai was the Director of Procurement at the Army HQ. The allegation that the COAS skimmed off money meant for the purchase of military vehicles allegedly sparked outrage among soldiers and officers, especially those from the North East region of the country.
Also according to the petitioners, the proxy’s name is Usman Gamawa, founder of Baggash Investment Limited. But the army has since dismissed the allegations of the petitioners, insisting that Buratai declared the said property, which, according to them, was purchased with the army chief’s savings. Skeptics are, however, befuddled as to how a Lt. General’s salary within the period could purchase N4.3 billion property in Dubai.
Concerned by the implication of this, the DSS is trying to nip in the bud other revelations that may further implicate Buratai and other top officers and has since moved to stave off this from happening.
“DSS believes that such revelation may weaken army cohesion thereby endanger national security,” explained a military source, adding that “about 25 former officers recently retired over corruption allegation are closely being watched and may be rounded up soon.”
The military are also desperately quelling a growing impression that there is ongoing subterranean profiling of officers in the face of ongoing military campaigns especially in the Niger Delta.
According to anonymous sources that spoke to Independent, army’s selection of personnel to go to conflict zones reflects a bias for certain ethnic nationalities in the army. One of the sources recalled a military incident in Enugu, where troops’ mobilisation for an operation was believed to have favoured an ethnic group that is a traditional rival of the indigenous people in the area of conflict.
“The soldiers had resisted the assignment because the aftermath of the operation would have increased animosity against their people,” the source said.
The mobilisation in question had sparked off fight in the cantonment at the time. Army later denied the incident though. Sources say that as army mobilises for possible onslaught in the Niger Delta, the army hierarchy may have prepared to use the same method.
Army authority, however, debunked this claim. In a terse text message to Independent, Col. Usman, Army Public Relations Officer (PRO), said that the allegation was simply “not true”.
Another army officer who declined being mentioned by name said that the army is a highly regimented place that does not allow for such permutations. “You cannot shuffle troops like a pack of card, we are too rigidly regimented for such thing to happen,” he said.