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Arms deals panel begins sitting in Abuja

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The 13-man investigative committee set up to probe the procurement of hardware and ammunition in the Armed Forces has started its sitting, albeit in camera.

The committee has been meeting in the office of the National Security Adviser, Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno (retd.), a source in the Presidency confided in The PUNCH on Wednesday.

The source said, “I can confirm to you that the committee members have started meeting. They even started meeting before their appointments were announced. This is because they do not need any confirmation or any formal inauguration.

“Available information showed that members are getting the needed assistance and support from interested parties.

“It is the government’s belief that a lot of ground would be covered by the committee in its desire to ascertain what went wrong in the past as far as the procurement of arms is concerned.”

Presidential spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, had on Monday announced the composition of the committee, which is saddled with the responsibility of probing arms purchase from 2007 till now.

Adesina had said the President directed the NSA to set up the committee with the mandate of identifying irregularities and making recommendations for streamlining the procurement process in the Armed Forces.

Members of the committee include AVM J.O.N. Ode (retd.) –chairman; R/Adm. J. A. Aikhomu (retd.); R/Adm. E. Ogbor (retd.); Brig. Gen L. Adekagun (retd.); Brig. Gen. M. Aminu-Kano (retd.); Brig. Gen. N. Rimtip (retd.); Cdre. T.D. Ikoli; Air Cdre U. Mohammed (retd.); Air Cdre I. Shafi’i; Col. A.A. Ariyibi; Group Capt. C.A. Oriaku (retd.); Mr. I. Magu (EFCC); and Brig. Gen Y.I. Shalangwa – Secretary.

Adesina explained that the establishment of the committee was in keeping with Buhari’s determination to stamp out corruption and irregularities in Nigeria’s public service.

He added, “It (the committee) comes against the background of the myriad of challenges that the Nigerian Armed Forces have faced in the course of ongoing counter-insurgency operations in the North-East, including the apparent deficit in military platforms with its attendant negative effects of troops’ morale.

“The committee will specifically investigate allegations of non-adherence to correct equipment procurement procedures and the exclusion of relevant logistics branches from arms procurement under past administrations, which, very often resulted in the acquisition of sub-standard and unserviceable equipment.”

No timeline was given for the committee to carry out its assignment.

Meanwhile, South Africa has said that it is not involved in the investigation into the purchase of arms by the administrations of late President Umaru Yar’Adua and former President Goodluck Jonathan.

It described the arms probe panel as a Nigerian affair, saying it did not involve in the aborted botched $15m arms deal by the administration of Jonathan in 2014.

The South Africa’s High Commissioner in Nigeria, Lulu Mnguni, stated this in a telephone interview with our correspondent on Wednesday.

Mnguni was asked to react to a report that South Africa might be invited by the Buhari’s arms deal probe panel.

Also asked if his commission would appear before the panel if summoned, the envoy said his mission had nothing to do with the failed arms deals, stressing that it was purely a Nigerian issue.

He added that the South African mission would be guided by directives from the home government, noting that the embassy was a member of the diplomatic community which only follows official instructions.

“We don’t know anything about the arms issue; that is a Nigerian matter. We are not involved. You know what, we are guided by our government and you must also know that we are in the diplomatic community,” he said.

Punch

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