Service chiefs: Apply caution in $1bn arms deal probe, CSOs tell Reps

The Coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSCN) in Nigeria has implored the House of Representatives, to apply caution and be circumspect in the ongoing probe of $1bn arms deal by the immediate past Service Chiefs, as “they have no case to answer.” 

Speaking during a world press conference Wednesday in Abuja, the Convener, Coalition of Civil Society Organizations in Nigeria and President, Good governance Advocacy Initiative, Comrade Mustapha Tijani, said some Nigerians were hiding behind the probe by the House of Representatives “to stoke flames of propaganda, raise false alarm and deliberately on a mission to malign the hard earned integrity of the immediate past service chiefs, who have committed service to the nation.”
He said: “On behalf of the Coalition of Civil Society Organizations in Nigeria, we have invited the media today on a matter of urgent national importance, especially as it relates to the activities surrounding the ongoing probe of $1bn arms deal by the House of Representatives.
“While we consider any call for probe as the right of citizens and constitutional duty of the lawmakers, particularly when financial impropriety have been noticed to be committed, it however amount to wicked distractions, outright disservice and deliberate falsehood when certain individuals, who are not bold enough to demand prove, are hiding behind to stoke flames of propaganda, raising false alarm and deliberately on a mission to malign the hard earned integrity of the immediate past service chiefs, who have committed service to the nation.
“Right from the time the trio of the immediate past service chiefs were in office, we are aware that several individuals were after them to bring their names into national disrepute. First, it was phantom allegations of extra judicial killing at the war front, even hyped by some international organisations, promoted by certain political parties all in the bid to create national security crisis and demoralise the patriotic men fighting at the war front. 

“But with time, they turned out to be largely unproven, outright falsehood and deliberate orchestration to weaken the zeal of the service chiefs. While their tenure was severally extended by President Muhammad Buhari, their reputation, office and name came under needless attacks, blackmail and dangerous propaganda from religious, tribal and political angle, given the privileged opportunity they had to serve the nation for such a long period.

“Despite all the attacks, they were focused on the job and delivering on the assignment given to them as service chiefs. They did excellently well to push the activities of the dreaded Boko Haram that were already entering Abuja and other major northern states, back to the bushes of Sambisa. Their leadership cleaned up the major roads that were opened half way and restored high degree of confidence in the fight against insurgency.”

He added: “Although there are still activities of the Boko Haram elements going on, it is undeniably obvious that the Gen Olonisakin led Nigeria defence team degraded the ranks of the insurgents and restored relative peace to northern Nigeria, compared to what used to obtain before 2015. It is on record that their combined efforts led to Nigeria retaking all the local government areas under the control of the insurgents prior to their appointment. 

“In recent times, a statement was credited to the National Security Adviser, Major General Monguno rtd, that he said during a Hausa BBC interview that the Nigerian defence under the leadership of the immediate past service chiefs carted away money meant for purchase of ammunition to fight insurgency, claiming that records shows that such weapons were not bought and money not in government coffers. 

“It is important to state outrightly and unambiguously here that the National Security Adviser has since denied ever making such statement. The question that should come to mind is who is behind this propaganda and what is the intention of such person(s) and why should these gallant service chiefs be disgraced by all means? 

“Relying on this comment that have since been denied, the House of Representatives set up a committee to investigate the regime of arm purchase in the last ten (10) years during one of its sitting, where the incumbent Chief of Army Staff, Major General Attahiru, was asked questions on the purchase of arms.
“Instead of stating the obvious as contained in the records, he was said to have referred the committee to ask his predecessors and not him, although he didn’t mention the particular predecessor.”
Furthermore, he said: “The sponsors of falsehood have instigated a session of the media to twist the statement as though it was directed to the immediate past service chiefs. While we do not want to join issues with the current Chief of Army Staff, we are aware that government is a continuum, hence he should be able to speak based on available records and not stir atmosphere of suspension. 

“We also wish to admonish the Chief of Army Staff to as a matter of official demand, be more civil and professional in his approach to such issues and be careful of not giving the fifth columnists the undeserving opportunity to cash in on his statements and actions, especially on matters that are clearly official. 

“We wish to demand that the Ministry of Defence that is directly responsible for such transactions to come out clean on this matter, rather than painting pictures that leaves the public confused, thereby fuelling unfounded conspiracy theories. 

“We have noticed also that certain unseen persons have continued to sponsor campaign of calumny to bring down the men, who are supposed to be at peace after meritorious service to their fatherland, people who served the nation at the risk of their lives, people whose leadership help keep the Boko Haram away from city centers to the bushes. 

“It is upon this background that the coalition of civil society chose to dig into the allegations and we can authoritatively conclude that, apart from following the leadership of the service chiefs while in office, we have carefully followed up contracts awarded for arms during his tenure and we can inform that they were carried out with respect to extant laws and were even carried out by the Ministry of Defence and not the service chiefs as it is alleged.

“We therefore warn agent of propaganda and sponsors of campaign of calumny to desist as we enjoin the public to disregard the unfounded allegations against these Honourable gentlemen. We advise the House of Representatives committee involved in the probe to do so with utmost sense of sincerity and fear of God. 

“We also wish to state that the coalition of civil society organizations in Nigeria now pass a vote of confidence on the trio of Gen. Abayomi Olonisakin rtd, former Chief of Defence Staff, Lt. Gen Tukur Buratai rtd, former Chief of Army Staff  and Air Marshall Sadiq rtd, former Chief of Air Staff and proclaim a clean bill of health on them against all allegations.”

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