By Stephen Ubanna
Barely four years after President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired army General, established the $1billion arms Fund for the use of purchase arms and ammunitions for the military to help fight the Islamic Fundamentalist Group , BokoHaram, and the Islamic state of West African Province, ISWAP, insurgents in the north eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, the Femi Gbajabiamila led House of Representatives had constituted an ad-hoc Committee on arms and ammunition to investigate the spending of the arms fund.
Political Observers see the decision as a bold initiative by the Lawmakers. There had been pressure on the Katisna state born Nigerian President, National Assembly, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, to probe the spending of the $1billion arms fund as there were insinuations making the rounds that the money was missing.
Recall that a Coalition of Civil Society Organisations under the aegies of Nigerian Democracy Working Group , SERRAP, and he Opposition PDP, had consistently called on the Katina state born Nigerian President and the National Assembly to investigate the allegations of the missing $1billion arms fund. The situation was so worrisome that members of the House of Representatives have to go back to the drawing board which informed why they Constituted the ad-hoc Committee mandated to go ahead with the investigation of the use of the arms in order to disabuse people’s mind about the use of the fund.
The Katsina state born Nigerian President may have been encouraged to set up the $1bllion arms fund when the 36 state governors of the Federation approved the money for the government to be taken from the $2,3billion Nigerian excess Crude account, as at 2017, going by the report of the then Accountant General.
Goodwin Obaseki, then governor of Edo state on the Platform of the All Progressive Congress, APC, who was forced to decamp to the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, to seek re-election in 2019, which he had won, was said to have broken the news of the approved $1billion to the Buhari when the goings was good.
Hear him: We are pleased with the Federal government achievements in the insurgency war that’’ the vein state governors have approved that the sum of $1billion to be taken from the excess Crude account by the government to fight the insurgency war to its conclusion’’.
The Nigerian President was said to have given the then service chiefs in 2018, the nod to use the $1 billion arms fund to procure new weapons, after a meeting with them to review cases of violent unrest and conflicts in different parts of the country. By there have been news making the rounds that the money was not judiciously used by the former service chief to do the needful.
This may have informed why people have hailed Gbajabiamila, the Speaker of the House of Representatives for taking the bold initiative to allow the House ad-hoc Committee’’ to investigate how the $1billion arms fund was spent. The House ad-hoc Committee on arms and ammunition under the Chairmanship of Olaide Akiremi, was sad to have extended an invitation to Ibrahim Atthahiru, a Lt. General and Chief of Army Staff, COAS, to appear before it to shed more light on how the arms fund was spent by the military Authorities to procure arms over the last four years.
As a prelude to appearing before the Committee , the COAS, was said to have forwarded an Executive summary of how the money was spent to the Committee as demanded. It was therefore not very surprising that when he eventually appeared before the Committee members, he refused to entertain any further questions arising from the document which he had already presented to them, insisting that it was ‘’self-explanatory’’. The meeting between the Lawmakers and the COAS, was said to have turned out to be a shouting match that they were forced to go behind closed door to calm frayed nerves.
The army General who was not ready to be rubbished by the Lawmakers may have found a soft-landing for himself. He was said to have told the Committee members to sheath their sword as he had barely resumed into office barely about two months ago, insisting that’’ he is definitely not the right person ‘’to speak on the arms and ammunition purchased by his predecessors’’.
An aggrieved Atthahiru, who was said to have been shocked at the questions from the Lawmakers that were coming from different corners may have been forced to speak out. ‘’The report before you is the Executive summary of how the $1billion arms fund was spent. It is very self-explanatory to the extent that it has been pluralised’’, he had said.
He may have taken on the Lawmakers to expose their ignorance. ‘’When you demanded for the report and stated the specific period for which you wanted it’’, it was supplied’’, an indication that they were bothering him with issues which has no relevance to the report that was before them. Atthahiru, the COAS, who could not hide his feelings, may have shocked the Committee members when he disclosed that ‘’the issues of the arms and ammunition purchase were handled by individuals contracted by the then military Authorities to do so.
An insider informed The Value News that this may have emboldened him why he was not ready to speak further on the issues of the arms procurement. He may have challenged the Lawmakers ‘’ to invite the individuals contracted by the then Military Authorities to supply the arms and ammunition in order to shed more light to the specific issues raised in the general explanation as contained in the report’’.
Ejiro Ogene, a member of the Commttee from the oil –rich Delta state who was not happy with the Army chief who could not honor their first invitation, insisting that he has no reason not to honour the House invitation. ‘’The National Assembly is the House of the Nigerian people’’, noting that everybody in public office are answerable to Nigerians’’, he remarked. It was not therefore, not very surprising why he had said that the Lawmakers speak for Nigerians to force the COAS, to take their future invitations serious.
Many believe that nothing will come out of the House ad-hoc Committee investigation that is reviewing the use of the $1billion arms fund to purchase , use and control of arms, ammunition and other related hardware by the military, paramilitary, and other Law enforcement agencies in the country. This is because there had been similar investigation in the past which report are gathering dust in the Presidency
.Femi Gbajabiamila, the Speaker of the House of Representatives may have to prove Nigerians wrong when he gets the report from the Committee to ensure that it is implemented by the government and not swept under the carpet.