$1.89b arms deals: EFCC summons ex-Army Chief of Staff Minima

Former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Kenneth Tobiah Jacob Minimah has some questions to answer from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on how more than $1,891,809,299.1billion allocated for arms procurement for the Army during his tenure was spent.

The commission has already invited him for an interrogative session, The Nation learnt yesterday.

The EFCC, it was gathered, is interested in knowing how a company that was registered on November 17, 2014 came to be awarded contracts worth $125,179,299.10million in one day and from the $1.8b fund.

Also to face EFCC inquisition on the arms procurement are 53 others including another former Chief of Army Staff, 16 retired and serving Army officers, 12 serving and retired public officers and 24 Chief Executive Officers of companies involved in the procurement of equipment.

Minimah was appointed by ex-President Goodluck Jonathan as Chief of Army Staff on January 16, 2014.

He was disengaged in the same capacity by President Muhammadu Buhari on July 13, 2015.

The Presidential Committee on Audit of Defence Equipment, headed by AVM Jon Ode, had uncovered alleged irregularities and fraud in the purchase of arms and ammunition for the Army.

Based on the report of the panel which was referred to EFCC by the presidency, the anti-graft agency has summoned Minimah for interaction on June 12(Monday).

The EFCC, in its June 8, 2017 letter to Minimah, asked the ex-Army Chief to report at its headquarters in Abuja.

The letter said in part: “This commission is investigating a case of conspiracy, criminal breach of trust and money laundering in which your name featured.

“In view of the above, you are requested to attend an interview with EFCC on Monday, 12th June 2017 by 10am prompt.

“This request is made pursuant to Section 38(1) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(Establishment) Act, 2004 and Section 21 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended. “Accept the assurances of the Acting Executive Chairman’s highest regards, please.”

A top source in the commission said: “Our team will be interrogating the ex-Chief of Army Staff as a follow up to the report of the Presidential Committee on Audit of Defence Equipment which has been forwarded to us for action.

“We have about 54 retired and serving military officers, companies and businessmen that we are going to interact with. The procurement cash involved was over $1.89billion.

“We have been interviewing some of those implicated and it is the turn of Gen. Minimah. It is too early to assume that he has committed any fraud. The onus is on him to come and respond to the allegations against him while in office.

“Being a sensitive beat, we have spent many months screening the report of AVM Ode’s panel, retrieving vital documents and tracking alleged slush funds.

“If there are no infractions committed by the ex-Chief of Army Staff, we will make our findings known to the public accordingly.”

Responding to a question, the source added: “Our approach is the same with 53 others and companies invited. We work on a template that none of them has committed any fraud until after our investigation.”

Some of the findings of the AVM Ode committee were sighted by The Nation last night.

The panel observed that award of contracts in the Nigerian Army was fraught with irregularities.

It said a company was registered on November 17, 2014 and awarded $125,179,299.10 on the same day.

It said: “The Nigerian Army, between April and August 2014, entered into 4 contract agreements with Societe D’Equipmenteux Internationale (SEI Nig Ltd) for procurement of Cobra Armoured Personnel Carriers, Shilka Self-Propelled Artillery Guns, Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFVs) as well as various ammunition and spares funded by the ONSA.

“The contracts for the Cobra APCs and Shilka Guns were not executed as they were not funded. However, the costs for procurement of the AFVs; ammunition and spares were $398,550,000.00 and $484,765,000.00 respectively totaling $883,315,000.00.

“In November 2014, the ONSA awarded contract to Conella Services Limited for procurement of 72 various arms and ammunition that included MRAP vehicles, Mi-17 helicopter at the cost of $125,179,299.10.

“The Committee observed that SEI and its 2 associated companies, APC Axial Ltd and HK-Sawki Nig Ltd, were incorporated in May 2014 with 2 Nigerien brothers, Hima Aboubakar and Ousmane Hima Massy as the only directors.

“ Between May 2014 and March 2015, the ONSA mandated CBN to release various sums totaling $386,954,000.00 to SEI and the 2 associated companies for ‘procurement of technical equipment’, without tying the money to particular items of procurement. “Thus, the allotment of the fund was left at the discretion of the vendor without input or consultation with ONSA or the Nigerian Army.

“Furthermore, some of the funds transferred preceded the formalization of SEI contracts with the Nigerian Army. There was also no evidence of any contract to justify the payments made by ONSA to the SEI associate companies. Consequently, it had been difficult for the ONSA, the Nigerian Army and SEI to reconcile the accounts vis-a-vis the equipment delivered.”

The panel also uncovered that 42 units of Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) which were rejected by Iraq were later sold to Nigeria to fight Boko Haram insurgents.

It claimed that some of the APCs were either expired or unsuitable leading to loss of lives.

It added:  “The Committee observed that one of the new equipment SEI procured for the Nigerian Army from Ukraine was BTR-4E APC. However, according to the Ukraine’s State Enterprise Lviv Armour Repair Plant, the designers of the equipment, “some of the products sold to Nigeria in 2014 were actually among 42 units designed for Iraq which subsequently rejected them due to poor performance rating”.

“Additionally, the 2 weeks training availed the technicians and operators was inadequate for them to comprehend the technical workings of the newly introduced equipment.

“The Committee’s interactions with the field operators revealed that although the platforms and ammunition procured by SEI were deployed for the NE operations, some of them were aged or expired, lacked spares and prone to breakdown without immediate recovery equipment.

“Therefore, failure to carry out pre-shipment inspection and inadequate training resulted in procurement of some unreliable equipment that reduced the capacity of the Nigerian Army in the North East Operations and resulted in the loss of lives and equipment.”

On some payments to SEI on T-72 Tanks, the panel said the company made about $93,000,000.00 profit without paying the mandatory 5 per cent Withholding Tax(WHT).

It said: “SEI submitted a document to the Committee reconciling the items it delivered to the Nigerian Army vis-a-vis the payments made to it by ONSA. According to SEI, the total value of the contracts it executed amounted to $909,065,824.00 and not the $883,315,000.00 reflected in the 2 contract agreements it signed with Nigerian Army.

“Furthermore, SEI claimed that it delivered goods worth $697,718,168.00 whereas only $198,289,672.00 was paid to it by ONSA

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