Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
With the insecurity woes in the country showing no sign of abating, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, has admitted that the country was in crisis.
Attahiru who was represented by the Commandant of Army War College, Major-Gen. Charles Ofoche, stated this yesterday when he appeared before the House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee investigating procurement of arms and ammunition used in prosecuting the war against insurgents and other security challenges in the last 10 years.
The Ad hoc Committee was constituted following a motion on the floor of the House on the need to review the purchase, use and control of arms, ammunition and related hardware by military, paramilitary and other law enforcement agencies in Nigeria.
Ofoche stated: “The country is embroiled in a lot of crisis…We are at your service, we are here to serve you as a people, to serve all Nigerians and we cannot pretend that we do not know there is crisis all over the country.
“The Chief of Army Staff cannot afford to be at every location at the same time. He is on the way trying to get to know his men, he took over barely a week ago, he is going around trying to get first-hand information as to the capability of the fighting force he is leading.”
Earlier, the members of the committee were furious that the COAS did not honour the committee’s invitation but only sent representatives.
Speaking, a member of the committee, Hon. Kabiru Idris, said it was important for both sides that the committee was set up.
According to him, “from our side as legislators, it is for us to investigate basically what we are here for today and based on the Public Procurement Act, when we are talking process or Procurement Act, we are talking about the accounting officer.
“If you look at Section 21 of the Act as amended, it is clearly spelt out that the person in question or the person who was invited to appear before us is the COAS who is the accounting officer of that organisation and we expect a written a document like you just mentioned because the chairman sent a letter signed,” Idris said.
He added that for any reason that the COAS may not be able to appear before the committee, Section 21 of Public Procurement Act stipulates that a written communication should be made to the chairman, and in which there was none.
On his part, on. Ibrahim Al-Mustapha, said the accounting officer of the Army should have appeared before the committee to give his account as far as the communications made to him was concerned.
He noted: “For the chairman and Secretariat, there is no communication before us that the COAS is having another schedule that may not allow him to be physically present here. That is a contravention to Section 88, Section 89 sub-section 1, and of course section one of the Armed Forces Act 1994.
“So, we are not witch-hunting but telling you what the law says. So as far we are we concerned there is no how we can entertain you because basically we are detailed not to be friendly but to work to find faults.
“You can bear witness to the fact that Nigeria is embroiled in serious security issues and year in year out appropriations were made and huge sums expended on procurement of arms and ammunition and yet in the whole of the arrests made, you find these arms and ammunition with some of these bandits and miscreants. Some of them can be traced back to the very military or police. It is serious issue and the National Assembly is well positioned to dig deep into the root of this issue and find solution.”
“As moved by my colleague there is need for a motion to allow the COAS come and make his submissions personally to this committee.”
Also, Hon. Bede Eke, said there was need for the representative of the COAS to know that the investigation was a very serious matter.
He said the committee would not entertain any representatives from anybody because of the importance of the matter.
However, after the plea by the representatives of the COAS, the meeting was later held behind closed doors, while the journalists covering the event were asked to leave.