•N’ Assembly investigates defence spending
•Suspects fraud in arms purchase and deployment
Iyobosa Uwugiaren, Kingsley Nwezeh and Shola Oyeyipo in Abuja
In an apparent effort to boost the morale of soldiers fighting Boko Haram in the North-east, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday called off his five-day casual leave as a mark of respect for the victims of the insurgents’ attacks across the battlefields in the region.
He is, according to presidency sources, also scheduled to visit the troops at the theatre of war shortly.
Buhari had planned to spend the casual leave at his home country, Daura, Katsina State from November 27 to December 2. He had earlier cancelled his official trip to Benin City, the Edo State capital, where he was originally billed to inaugurate the Edo-Azura Power Plant and grace the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Annual Conference.
Presidency sources said the cancellation of the trips would also enable the president to continue his on-going meetings and consultations with relevant security and community intelligence personnel aimed at addressing the worsening security challenges.
Buhari is expected to declare open today, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Annual Conference, which was moved from Benin City to Maiduguri, Borno State, at the Government House Conference Hall and use the opportunity to visit troops fighting Boko Haram.
The presidential visit comes after months of deadly raids by the IS-affiliated jihadists on military bases, which have left scores of troops dead or missing in the volatile North-east.
In a posting on Twitter on Monday, presidential spokesman, Mr. Bashir Ahmad, said Buhari would attend the army conference in Maiduguri as well as address troops to boost their morale.
“President Muhammadu Buhari has cancelled his planned official visit to Benin, Edo State tomorrow, to visit Maiduguri, Borno State on Wednesday,” he wrote.
The president had severally noted that fighting terrorism had taken a global dimension, which necessitated international collaboration among states facing similar security challenges.
He had reassured Nigerians of his continued commitment to their security and of his efforts to sustain the momentum in the previous significant successes recorded against the terrorists, advising Nigerians against making a political capital out of the national tragedy.
N’Assembly Investigates Defence Spending
Meanwhile, believing that the huge funds budgeted to wage war against Boko Haram terrorist group are not being properly utilised by the military authorities, the National Assembly has commenced investigations into alleged dirty deals by military high command.
THISDAY gathered yesterday that the leaderships of both the Senate and House of Representatives have directed their relevant committees to probe how the huge funds budgeted for the prosecution of the on-going war against terror in the last three and a half years has been spent.
From the House of Representatives, the Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Chukwuka Onyema, in a motion moved under matter of urgent national importance, urged that after the killing of 118 soldiers and their commanding officer, Lt. Col. Ibrahim Sakaba, with about 150 more soldiers and officers still missing, the house should extensively deliberate the issue.
While amending the motion, three lawmakers, Mohammed Sani Abdu, Isaac Gyang and Hassan Saleh, however, urged the house to investigate the funding for the military’s fight against the insurgency.
The Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, who presided over the deliberations, expressed worry over the killing of the soldiers, noting that something must have gone wrong in Nigeria’s war against insurgency, especially considering that countries like Chad, Cameroon are securing their borders more effectively.
The lawmakers resolved that the probe, which is to be conducted by an ad hoc committee, should be constituted immediately to also look into the operational lapses that led to the killing of the soldiers by the insurgents.
The lawmakers also called on the military high command to release the names of fallen soldiers after due consultation with members of their families.
Dogara urged that there is urgent need to curb insecurity in the country, wondering whether or not the Multinational Joint Task Force (MJTF), which comprises Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Benin Republics are still tackling the Boko Haram in the Lake Chad region.
Abdu (Bauchi, APC) particularly called for the probe of the $1billion recently appropriated by the National Assembly to prosecute the Boko Haram insurgency.
Also contributing to the debate, Aliyu Magaji called for the immediate sack of the entire service chiefs, saying they have failed and wondered how long they would be there to be attending funeral services of soldiers.
Abdulsamad Dasuki, who chairs the House committee on Navy, claimed that the armed forces is not only technologically backward, it could only boast of about 200,000 soldiers, which he said is not enough to protect about 200 million Nigerians and its borders stretching from the Chad Basin to the Atlantic Ocean.
Dasuki, who also claimed that the service chiefs had failed to live up to expectations, insisted that Buhari has failed Nigerians on his promise to secure the country.
A ranking senator who spoke with THISDAY last night alleged that corruption among military high command might have compounded the security challenges in the North-east in the past few months.
He said in spite of the huge funds the present government had received to engage the terrorist group, it has not bought any ammunition in the last three years.
According to him, ‘’Our investigation has revealed that it was the several units of highly effective sophisticated weapons from Eastern Europe, which former President Goodluck Jonathan administration bought that the military is still using.
For instance, it was gathered that the former administration acquired 60 units of computerized T72 tanks, alongside 30 units of transports vehicles, which were said to have been deployed in various war fronts against the insurgents before now.
The source said that some of the equipment from Israel was received in August 2014.
Other arms acquired by the former administration include, 40 units of BTR, with heavy fire power capability; 100 units of D30-122 mm; two units of mi 35 hind; 50 units of tanks T72 combat; 20 BMP 1, 30 trucks Knaz 6X6; 20 tanks transporter 8X8; 40 truck Steyer 6X6; 25 BTR4/30mm; 100 81mm motar; 200 RPG G7; 100 122mm motar; 18D30-122mm; 100 120mm motar; 12 20 BM70 New and 10 units of Demining System anti-mine and others.
A lot of this military equipment were said to have been delivered to the Nigerian Army on January 27, 2014.
A defence source also told THISDAY that there are growing concerns over the application or otherwise of arms and ammunitions available to the military in view of the recent attack by terrorists at the 157 Battalion, Metele, Borno State that led to the death of 118 soldiers.
There are also issues concerning ‘’incompetence of commanders’’ and prevailing substance abuse within the ranks and file, factors that have affected the overall performance in the fight against insurgents.
For instance, going by the record of military purchases since 2015, the three services, army, air force and the navy, have boasted robust funding.
The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, had said the federal government made purchases and conducted repairs of a total 49 aircraft, including the 12 Tucano Aircraft ordered from the United States to be delivered in 2020.
In the 2018 Budget, the military proposed N38 billion for the purchase of ammunition, jet fighters, amoured tanks, landing ships, patrol vehicles and boats among others.
Going by the record of appropriations since 2008, a total of N6 trillion would have been expended on defence by the end of the 2018 fiscal year.
A significant part of this budget was said to have been concentrated on the war against insurgency.