Nigerians have been raging over claims by the National Security Adviser (NSA) Major General Babagana Monguno (Rtd) that monies meant for the purchase of arms may have been misappropriated by the immediate ex-Service Chiefs.
Monguno, who made the disclosure in an interview with the Hausa Service of the BBC, further stated the new Service Chiefs have not seen the arms bought by their predecessors.
According to the NSA, it is still unclear how much money President Muhammadu Buhari has spent on arms and other equipment to fight terrorism and banditry in the country.
He said the government was working hard to address the ongoing security crisis, “which some Nigerians saw as a serious setback.”
According to him: “No one knows what happened to the money, but God willing the President will investigate to find out where it went or where the goods went.
“As long as there is no proper investigation, I will not say anything but the money is gone, the goods are not seen and the new Security Chiefs say they have not seen it.
“Some may be on their way from the United States, England or elsewhere, but now I don’t see them on the ground. The President has done his best to provide out-of-pocket funds but the goods have not been procured”.
The revelation outraged Nigerians, especially on social media, who wondered if Buhari rewarded the ex-Service Chiefs with ambassadorial posting to cover up for the alleged misappropriation.
But Monguno recanted a few hours after the interview.
He claimed to have been quoted out of context.
The Office of the National Security Adviser, in a statement, said Munguno did not categorically say that monies meant for arms procurement were missing under the former Service Chiefs.
It said: “The attention of the Office of the National Security Adviser has been drawn to some media reports regarding Armed Forces equipment during an interview with the BBC Hausa service.
“We would like to state that the NSA was quoted out of context as he did not categorically say that funds meant for arms procurement were missing under the Former Service Chiefs as reported or transcribed by some media outlets from the BBC interview.
“During the interview, the National Security Adviser only reiterated the Federal Government’s commitment to deal decisively with insecurity and stated President Muhammadu Buhari’s continued commitment to provide all necessary support to the Armed Forces, including the provision of arms and equipment.
“In the interview, the National Security Adviser clearly informed the BBC reporter that Mr President has provided enormous resources for arms procurement but the orders were either inadequate or yet to be delivered and that did not imply that the funds were misappropriated under the former Service Chiefs.
“The NSA also informed the reporter that, Mr President is following up on the procurement process as is usual with contracts relating to military equipment, in most cases the process involves manufacturing, due diligence and tedious negotiations that may change delivery dates.”
Presidential spokesman Garbu Shehu also clarified no part of the money earmarked for the procurement of military equipment is missing.
He spoke while featuring on Channels Television’s ‘Politics Today’ programme monitored by The Nation.
Shehu said it is not possible that funds meant for procuring military equipment are misappropriated under Buhari.
Garba Shehu also explained the Armed Forces had made a lot of purchases but the army has been having a bit of a problem with procurement which has been “coming in bits and in pieces”.
“I want to assure you that nothing of that money is missing. The reference by it in the interview of the BBC in Hausa service by the national security adviser, I think, has been misconstrued and mistranslated.
“The NSA made two critical points. One is that we don’t have enough which is a statement of fact, and two; procurements made have not been fully delivered.
“In August 2018, they allowed the Nigerian government to buy 12 super Tucano aircraft suitable for the kind of war we are fighting in the north-east.
“In addition to that, other arms of the military have also made procurements. The navy has done nearly 100 percent of their procurement — equipment delivered.
“The air force has bought a number of attack helicopters — 35 helicopters from Ukraine. Some of them have been commissioned on national television.
“We have bought a lot of drones, but with the army, there have been problems with procurement. The equipment has been coming bits and in pieces.
“This is not ideal. In fact, our biggest procurement is coming from the UAE. As I speak to you now, it is held up in a situation only diplomacy will resolve.
“We were talking to them last week; the Nigerian minister of defence actually had a meeting with the ambassador of the UAE to Nigeria and the idea is to resolve this so that the equipment held up will be released. We need them here.
“So all these procurements are ongoing; nothing you can buy on the shelf. NSA did not make accusations of misappropriation, because there is none in dealing with this matter.
“I have heard the interview on the radio and I think, reasonably, I have a good understanding of it. At no point did the NSA say that money appropriated and there are no arms to be seen.
“They have not been delivered; yes, that is correct, but the thing is that they are things you buy on order, not off the shelf.”
But many believe the recant and explanations by the presidential spokesmen were damage-control efforts.
Their explanations further incensed Nigerians on social media.
Many commentators believe Munguno may have been pressured to recant over the effect of his revelations on the anti-corruption crusade of the current administration.