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The Vindication of Vincent Azie

02 May 2013

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The Verdict By Olusegun Adeniyi. Email, olusegun.adeniyi@thisdaylive.com

On February 10, 2003, Mr Vincent Azie, then acting Auditor-General of the Federation was sacked by President Olusegun Obasanjo. The controversial decision was predicated on the damning 2001 audit report Azie authored which incriminated the three arms of government. Then Finance Minister, Alhaji Adamu Ciroma, accused Azie of demonstrating “incompetence” by rushing to the press with the report instead of passing it to the Accountant-General of the Federation. Ciroma’s Information counterpart, Professor Jerry Gana, argued in similar line, saying Azie was unprofessional by releasing the report to the public without first passing it to the appropriate agencies for their comments.

Even if there were procedural breaches in the manner the report was released, the reaction of the Federal Government at the time was essentially because Azie’s report was indeed damning. It revealed how billions of Naira were collected for purchases not made, contracts not executed and for the supply of what in most cases were simply listed as “various items”. Because the report was so thorough and comprehensive, the  Federal Government resorted to technicalities to rubbish Azie who was unceremoniously eased out of the system.

Although what the media feasted upon at the time was the litany of corrupt practices in the three arms of government as presented by the Auditor General, when I eventually read the full report which contained 434 sections and 301 pages, I discovered an important aspect that was not in the public domain yet had far-reaching implications for our national security. In my column on March 13, 2003, I brought out this critical issue in a piece titled “Murder Made Easy, By Vincent Azie”. Given the crime rate in our country today, I leave readers with an abridged version of that column published more than ten years ago on this page so everyone can draw their own conclusions:

...The most alarming aspect of Azie’s report is the audit of the weapons in the hands of the police. While lack of accountability in funds management can be tolerated by Nigerians as we have been doing for four decades now, lack of accountability when it comes to the weapons in the hands of our security agencies, especially police, however, portends great danger to all of us. Many people have in recent times wondered why there are so many guns in the hands of armed robbers, assassins and the likes. Well, Azie’s report may provide some clues. Because guns are neither cheap nor easy to come by. However, since Azie’s report covers only the police, only God knows what happens in the Army, Navy, Air Force and other security agencies like the State Security Service (SSS). But even from his report, we can see that we are in big trouble in Nigeria.

In the period under review, at the Ebonyi State Police Command, Abakaliki, one Lar rifle number 1692253 with 10 rounds of ammunition was snatched by armed robbers. At Jalingo police command, the examination of Arms and Ammunition Register indicated that the underlisted rifles and pistols were missing: 12 G.3 Rifle, one AR Pistol, one SMG Rifle, one Baretta Rifle, two Riot Gumers, five FNC Rifles, one Mark 4 Rifle, two K.2 Rifles and one Long Range Pistol. At Enugu Mobile Force, according to Azie, audit examination revealed that seven arms were missing, four of them Lar Rifles numbers 1692706, 1693708,1693891 and 1693464 while the other three were SMG Rifles with numbers 16579,165778 and 24162.

At Federal Intelligence and Investigation Bureau (FIIB), Alagbon, the following observations were made by Azie: “Eight Brownie pistols issued to eight officers of the Force CID, Alagbon between 1993 and 2001 were yet to be returned to the Arms store as at the time of the audit in June 2002. Some of these officers had either been retired or re-deployed to other departments. Similarly, three Brownie Pistols issued to three officers of the FIIB, Alagbon were reported to have been lost. The circumstances surrounding the disappearance and non-recovery of these arms were not explained.”

At the Nigerian Police Force Area ‘E’ Headquarters Festac Town, Lagos, one Light Automatic Rifle with number 1694953 was snatched by armed robbers on March 2000. At Isolo Police Station, one Baretta pistol number A063282 was reportedly snatched by armed robbers on 6 April 2001. At Mushin police station, one K.2 Rifle number 061553 with seven rounds of ammunition and one FCN Rifle number 052868 with five rounds of ammunition were snatched by armed robbers on 25th November 2000. At the same station, two K-2 Rifle number 61679 and 301067 with 20 and 16 rounds of ammunition and one Lar Rifle number 1697239 were snatched by armed robbers on 3rd September 2001. At the Nigerian Police Alakuko, Agege, one K-2 Rifle number 302079 with 10 rounds of ammunition, two FNC Rifles numbers 97-045156 and 97-046146 with 20 rounds of ammunitions and one Lar Rifle number 1668406 with 16 rounds of ammunition were lost to armed robbers on 21st November 2000. At the Makinde police station, Oshodi, one Chief Revolver pistol number 9D42759 issued to an officer on 8th April 2000 and one Wembley Revolver pistol number B.2811 issued to another officer on 11th October 2000 could not be produced for audit verification.

But this dangerous trend is not restricted to Lagos, it is nationwide as armed robbers seem to find it so easy to “snatch” weapons from policemen. In Akwa Ibom state, according to Azie, two revolver pistols numbers 9B09777 and 9D09375 with six rounds of ammunition each were snatched by armed robbers at the Police Headquarters, Eket. At divisional police headquarters, Oron, one revolver pistol with six rounds of ammunition was lost by a police sergeant on 20th April 2000 during an arrest. Azie added: “I am yet to receive the report of the loss of this asset in accordance with the provisions of the Financial Regulations”.

At the Divisional police, Itu, one Assault Rifle number 40786 and 15 round of ammunition; one G.3 Rifle number 69115010 and 15 rounds of ammunition and one SMG Rifle number OFN25792 and ten rounds of ammunition were snatched by armed robbers after killing the policemen. At the same station, another Baretta pistol number 101762 with 58 rounds of ammunition could not be produced for audit verification while the pistol and ammunition were taken away by the divisional police officer who had been transferred to Delta state. At the divisional police headquarters, Mkpa Enin, one G3 Rifle number 8018474 with 20 rounds of ammunition and one Chief Revolver pistol number 8D88754 with six rounds of ammunition were snatched by armed robbers. At the ‘B’ Operation division, Sokoto, the audit inspection of the Armoury in August 2001 revealed that a Lar Rifle number 1696558 was also snatched by armed robbers on 4 September 2000. In the same station, a Baretta pistol number AO6626 was reported missing while the officer carrying it was on specific duty on 25th July 2000.

At the ‘13’ Department Operations, the Arms and Ammunition Register showed that one SMG number 20233 was reported stolen in 1998 by a police corporal while one SMG number 9205 was claimed to have been deposited at the Benin police command after the police sergeant was involved in an accident. Also lost to men of the underworld are one Scorpion F.5424 which was allegedly snatched by armed robbers, two Assault Rifles number 40897 and 31692 were equally snatched by armed robbers. One G.3 Rifle number 69050137 was reported missing. One Rifle number 8107655 with 20 rounds of ammunition was said to have been deposited at the Oyo State police command after a motor accident while one Mark 4 Rifle was reported missing with another FMC Rifle number 98052318 also snatched by armed robbers. During the examination of the accounting records maintained at the Nigerian Police Force, MOPOL 4, Ibadan, it was observed that seven officers who had been transferred to other commands left with seven Baretta pistols issued to them. “The anomalies have been brought to the attention of the Permanent Secretary whose response is being awaited,” Azie stated as he listed the weapons that could not be accounted for at virtually all police formations across the country.

Given the ease with which these weapons were being ‘snatched’ from the police by armed robbers, Azie commented that something ought to be done by the authority concerned: “considering the alarming rate at which arms and ammunition disappear from the various formations, it has become imperative that the mechanism for the issuance and control of these weapons be reviewed so as to enhance their safe keeping and prevent their getting into wrong and dangerous hands.”

With this situation in the police only God knows what happens in the other armed services. I believe Azie has given us some clues and we should begin to block these loopholes…

ENDNOTE: Because the 2001 audit report indicted both the executive and the legislature, it was easy to dismiss it in its entirety while, rather than be confirmed as Auditor General, Azie was removed and retired. And since there were no sanctions for the police officers who were evidently playing games with their weapons, that perhaps emboldened an arms syndicate to move into the Nigerian Army. These criminal gangs were operating from 1 Base Ordnance Depot Kaduna (1BODK) arms sheds, the Ordnance Sub Depot (OSD) in Jaji and the Ordnance Field Park (OFP) in Calabar, carting away heavy weapons. This much was revealed in the report of an investigation carried out by former Chief of Army Staff, the late Lt. General Luka Yusuf.

As I reported in my book on the Yar’Adua years, “the extent of the theft was so staggering and the crime so well organized that the investigating team could hardly determine the exact amount of arms removed due to deliberate false accounting and destruction of stock cards by the perpetrators. But the army chief noted that the arms and ammunition removed included GPMGs, Sterling SMG, Bren LNG, AK 47 rifles, Uzis, FNs, 3G, Cetme, M12 She Berettas, grenades, rocket launchers, and several fragmentation jackets. Instructively, he said all the new UMGs, as well as the used but serviceable GPMGs, RPG 7 and AK 47 rifles were stolen.”

Perhaps if somebody had paid attention to Azie’s 2001 Audit Report, especially in the area dealing with the handling of weapons by the police and had taken adequate preventive measures, we probably would not be in the kind of situation we are in today where our nation is now practically under the gun!

45 Years for N50,000

An Osogbo High Court on Monday sentenced 31-year old Kelvin Ighodalo to 45 years imprisonment without any option of fine for stealing a mobile handset valued at N50,000 belonging to Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State. In a nation where those who steal billions of Naira are either “plea-bargained” out of justice or have ridiculous sentences served on them, what the judgement means in practical terms (since nobody can survive 45 years inside Nigerian prisons) is that this hapless man will spend the remaining period of his life in jail for stealing something worth N50,000. Nigeria indeed we hail thee!

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