The presidential panel set up by President Muhammadu Buhari through the Office of the National Security Adviser to probe arms procurement between 2007 and 2015 has allegedly uncovered massive fraud in the Nigerian Army, The PUNCH has learnt.
It will be recalled that the panel had, so far, submitted two reports on its probe to the President.
While the first interim report was submitted in November 2015, the second report was submitted in January following which Buhari ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to investigate 18 serving and retired military officers, mainly from the Air Force.
The PUNCH’s investigation on Sunday revealed that the panel, which has Air Vice Marshal J. O. Ode (retd.) as its chairman, was concluding work on the probe of the Army.
It was gathered that part of the panel’s discovery was that the total amount involved in arms fraud was $15bn and not $2.1bn.
The PUNCH had, on Wednesday last week, reported that $15bn arms funds were diverted by top military officers.
According to the report, the $2.1bn earlier reported as the mismanaged arms procurement money was just for one transaction.
A top government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity on Sunday, described the fraud uncovered by the panel in the purchase of arms in the Army as “enormous.”
“The committee is still working. What they discovered in the Army is enormous,” he said.
When asked when the third report would be submitted to the President and be made public, the source said Buhari had directed the panel to change tactics.
“The President has directed that we explore the option of prosecuting indicted persons immediately instead of first publicising their names, thereby giving some of them the leeway to escape justice,” he explained.
The source added that as of last week, efforts were ongoing by the committee to discuss the prosecution of the freshly indicted persons with the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN).
He added that efforts were ongoing to make public some achievements of the panel, especially in the recovery of funds, ahead of a summit on anti-corruption that Buhari would attend alongside other world leaders in the United Kingdom next week.
In announcing the establishment of the committee last year, the Presidency had given its mandate to include identifying irregularities and making recommendations for streamlining the procurement process in the Armed Forces.
Following the submission of the panel’s second interim report, Buhari had, on January 15, directed the EFCC to carry out further investigation into the alleged misconduct established against some retired and serving officers of the Nigerian Air Force and Nigerian Army.
Meanwhile, in a continuation of the probe into how the Peoples Democratic Party allegedly bribed some officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission before the 2015 presidential election, the EFCC has arrested an oil tycoon, Mr. Laitan Adesanya, for his alleged role in the $115m (N23bn) bribe funds.
It was learnt on Sunday that Adesanya, who is the Chief Executive Officer of Lenoil Nigeria Limited, was arrested by the EFCC in Lagos on Friday.
The anti-graft agency had, last week, arrested the Managing Director of Fidelity Bank Plc, Mr. Mr. Nnamdi Okonkwo and the bank’s Head of Operations, Mr. Martin Izuogbe.
Adesanya was alleged to have handed $1.85m to the bank based on the instruction of a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke.
Other companies, which allegedly handed over money to the bank MD, included Northern Belt Gas Company Limited ($60m); Auctus Integrated ($17.8m); and Midwestern Oil and Gas ($9.5m).
Diezani was also alleged to have given the bank MD $26m in cash which was ultimately disbursed to officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission ahead of the 2015 presidential election as bribes.
A reliable source at the EFCC said Adesanya was in the custody of the commission in Lagos and was being grilled as of Friday.
He said, “We are asking him about the $1.85m he dropped and what purpose it was supposed to serve.”
According to the United Kingdom Financial Times, Adesanya is an international oil businessman, who has been in the business for decades.
The newspaper states that Adesanya made huge profits during the military administrations of the 1980s and 1990s.
Also, sources within the EFCC have denied claims by Fidelity Bank Plc that it reported all its financial dealings to the appropriate authorities
The bank had, in a statement last week, stated that “transactions were duly reported as required by the regulators and the bank is cooperating fully with the authorities on the investigation.”
However, the source said the $26m, which the MD allegedly collected directly from Diezani, was neither reported to the Central Bank of Nigeria nor the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, which is domiciled in the EFCC.
The source added, “The $26m cash that was collected from Diezani was not deposited into any account. So, how could they say they reported it? They didn’t report anything because the money was given to the bank for safekeeping and there was no intention for it to be used to open an account.
“If it was put in the system, then, there must be records. Who brought the money? They don’t know. They were supposed to have reported the transaction to the CBN and NFIU, which is domiciled in the EFCC but there is no such report.
“The money was meant for distribution to INEC officials. When the bank MD was collecting $26m cash from a serving minister, why didn’t he ask her where she got the money from?”
Culled from www.punchng.com