Hunter Becomes the Hunted, House Investigates Arms Probe Panel

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Tobi Soniyi

In what looks like a displacement of the Presidential Arm Probe Panel headed by Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Jon Ode from the top of the Pecking Order, the House of Representatives has mandated a joint Committee on National Security and Intelligence and Public Procurement to investigate the presidential arms probe panel.

The arms probe panel was inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari at the outset of his administration to investigate the procurement of arms and ammunition by successive governments.
Before its disbandment last year, the panel indicted several former government officials, serving and retired military personnel, individuals and companies for the mismanagement and diversion of funds meant for the procurement of arms for the war against the insurgency in the North-east.

Several of those indicted are currently facing prosecution in various courts in the country.
One of the notable persons indicted by the panel include the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki, who has been in detention for more than one and a half years, despite bail orders granted by three courts.

According to a statement on Tuesday by media consultant, PRNigeria, the joint committee chaired by both Hon. Aminu Sani Jaji of the Committee on National Security and Intelligence and Hon. Oluwole Oke of the Committee on Public Procurement, which has begun investigation of the probe panel, has called for the submission of written memoranda/position papers from top government officials and the 241 indicted firms.

A member of the committee, who did not want his name in print, said other stakeholders and the general public with relevant information on the matter have been requested to make submissions before holding the public hearings.

Those officially invited to make submissions on their memoranda include the chairman and members of the arms probe panel, NSA, Defence Minister, Finance Minister, Interior Minister, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Accountant General of the Federation and Auditor General of the Federation.

Others invited include Secretary to the Government of the Federation, service chiefs and ex-service chiefs from 2010 to 2016, Director General, Department of State Services (DSS), Director General, National Intelligence Agency (NIA), acting Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Director General, Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Director General of the National Pension Commission (PENCOM), Director General, Industrial Training Fund (ITF), and Managing Director, Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF).

The arms probe panel was inaugurated in 2015 by the president to investigate the procurement of hardware and ammunition in the armed forces from 2007 to 2015 and to identify irregularities and make recommendations for streamlining the procurement process in the military.

The panel submitted its first interim report in November 2015 and presented the second report in January 2016, following which Buhari ordered the EFCC to investigate some serving and retired military officers, mainly from the Nigerian Air Force (NAF).
The president also directed investigations into the roles of the officers as well as some companies and their directors in fundamental breaches associated with the procurement by the Office of the NSA and the Nigerian Air Force.

During their investigation, some members of the arms probe panel were accused of receiving bribes from individuals and companies that were being investigated by the same panel.
One of the members, Air Commodore Umaru Mohammed (rtd.), was later arrested and detained by DSS for money laundering and illegal possession of firearms.

Some serving security officials also accused the panel of criminalising critical institutions and indicting groups and individuals through media trials without being arraigned in courts of competent jurisdiction where the accused could defend themselves.

Apart from AVM Jon Ode who was the chairman, other members of the disbanded arms probe panel included Rear Admiral J.A. Aikhomu (rtd.), Rear Admiral. E. Ogbor (rtd.), Brig.-Gen. L. Adekagun (rtd.), Brig.-Gen. M. Aminu-Kano (rtd.), Brig.-Gen. N. Rimtip (rtd.), the late Rear Admiral T.D. Ikoli; Air Cdre U. Mohammed (rtd.), Air Cdre I. Shafi’I, Col. A.A. Ariyibi, Group Capt. C.A. Oriaku (rtd.), acting Chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, and Brig.-Gen Y.I. Shalangwa as its secretary.