An anti-corruption group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project; civil society groups and the opposition parties under the aegis of the Coalition of United Political Parties have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to order a probe into the spending of military budgets from 1999 to 2018.
They also called on the President to take before the International Criminal Court all cases of alleged diversion of military funds, including $2bn arms funds allegedly diverted during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Their call followed the attack on the Metele military base in Borno State by terrorists. The terrorists, believed to be fighters of the Islamic State West African Province, had attacked the army base on November 18, during which scores of soldiers, including a commander and his assistant, were reportedly killed by the insurgents while others fled the base or were abducted.
The army had yet to release any figure of missing or deceased soldiers a week after.
In an open letter on Sunday by its Senior Legal Adviser, Bamisope Adeyanju, SERAP said it believed the inability of the Nigerian troops to respond adequately to attacks by insurgents was tied to inadequate arms.
It said, “We believe that referral of the cases to the ICC would serve as a deterrent and ensure that Nigerians, particularly those in the North-East of the country whose human rights, including the right to life, to human dignity, and to an adequate standard of living have been violated, are not denied justice and effective remedies.
“SERAP is concerned that several billions of naira allocated to the military to defend the country have neither contributed to improving the ability of Nigerian soldiers to fight Boko Haram and other armed groups nor provided the much-needed security, especially for Nigerians in the North-East of the country.”
SERAP urged the President to “move swiftly to implement these recommendations as a way of demonstrating your government’s commitment to end the perception of the lack of transparency and accountability in the spending of military budgets in the context of the conflict in the North-East and to ensure the safety and security of our soldiers and all Nigerians in that part of the country.”
It added, “The military’s inability to respond adequately to the Boko Haram insurgency suggests among other things mismanagement in the spending of the country’s defence budgets.
“Establishing a commission of inquiry to investigate how defence and military budgets have been spent since 29 May, 1999 would help Nigerians to know if the funds meant to defend the country and for the purchase of arms to empower Nigerian soldiers to fight Boko Haram have been transparently and accountably spent.”
Huge military budget have yielded no fruits yet, say Transparency Int’l, CD
Also, Transparency International and the Campaign for Democracy have asked the Federal Government to investigate the huge funds voted for military arms and ammunition, particularly for the anti-insurgency war in the North-East.
They said the huge amount budgeted for the military to prosecute the war had yet to yield any positive result.
TI said on Sunday the escalating terror attacks on military bases showed there was a “huge defence corruption” in the system that needed to be urgently looked into.
The TI Head in Nigeria, Mr Musa Rafsanjani, said in an interview with one of our correspondents that despite the huge budgetary allocations and other funds voted to fight insurgency in the North-East, all were not yielding the desired results because of “defence corruption.”
He said, “The resurrection of attacks by the insurgents in the country is a very sad and unfortunate development. This is at a time when the government had repeatedly informed the whole world that the terrorists had been technically defeated. Secondly, it is so unfortunate that the huge amounts of resources to procure ammunition and motivate the troops have not yielded many results, if any.
“This shows there is institutionalisation of defence corruption. Nigeria has been facing serious defence corruption. This is the only reason why money meant to procure military equipment is not accounted for or visible in the war. It appears that nothing has changed from what has happened in the past in terms of military corruption.”
Also, the CD President, Usman Abdul, said the civil society had repeatedly been against the extension of tenures of the service chiefs by the President, saying there was much corruption in the military.
He said, “What is happening in the North-East is sad and it is part of the official corruption in this administration that led to such failures. The mass killings of our soldiers by terrorists are unwarranted. Large chunks of money were released for military arms and ammunition; but the money is unaccounted for.
“Today, the money meant for armaments was doled out by the government, but the soldiers meant to defend the territorial sovereignty of the country are falling dead every day due to poor weapons.
“This is why the civil society groups have repeatedly been against the extension of tenures of the service chiefs by the President.
“So, we ask the Federal Government to disclose how it spent the money voted for military arms and ammunition. This was what happened in the last administration and it is repeating itself.”
Coalition of political parties call for sacking of service chiefs
In its reaction, the Coalition of United Political Parties said in a statement by its spokesman, Ikenga Ugochinyere, that it regretted that the incident happened on the same day some service chiefs attended a political function organised by the ruling All Progressives Congress at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.