Claims early Friday by Nigeria’s National Security Adviser to the President, retired Major General Babagana Monguno, that funds meant for the purchase of arms to strengthen Nigeria’s anti-terror war got missing under the leadership of the ex-service chiefs, attracted immediate reprimand from powerful forces in the Presidency, forcing the NSA to recant and amend his assertions.
Also on Friday, the Presidency tacitly confirmed the pressure on Monguno, when President Muhammadu Buhari’s media aide, Garba Shehu appeared on a television programme in the evening and said funds can’t get missing under the Buhari government and that the NSA was misquoted.
In an interview on BBC Hausa Friday morning, the NSA said the new service chiefs had not seen any of the arms said to have been procured by the immediate past service chiefs and that the failure to provide arms to frontline military personnel was a setback to the fight against insecurity in the nation.
Sources told THISDAY Friday night that Monguno was immediately chastised by forces in the Presidency, who accused him of not considering the implications of his claims on the Buhari government.
The source told THISDAY: “He (Monguno) was told that his claims imply that there is corruption in the Buhari government and he was pressured to go and amend his statements.”
Another source said the immediate past army chief Tukur Buratai also complained to some powerful forces in the Presidency that the NSA embarrassed the ex-service chiefs, resulting in the rebuke of Monguno.
Apparently under pressure, the NSA had to amend his claims later on Friday in a press statement, saying government had provided sufficient resources for the arms procurement but the orders were either inadequate or yet to be delivered and “that did not imply that the funds were misappropriated under the former service chiefs.”
The statement issued by the NSA office to clarify issues raised in the earlier BBC interview adds: “We would like to state that the NSA was quoted out of context as he did not categorically say that funds meant for arms procurement were missing under the former service chiefs as reported or transcribed by some media outlets from the BBC interview.
“During the interview, the National Security Adviser only reiterated the federal government’s commitment to deal decisively with insecurity and stated President Muhammadu Buhari’s continued commitment to provide all necessary support to the Armed Forces, including the provision of arms and equipment.
“In the interview, the National Security Adviser clearly informed the BBC reporter that Mr President had provided enormous resources for arms procurement, but the orders were either inadequate or yet to be delivered and that did not imply that the funds were misappropriated under the former service chiefs.
“The NSA also informed the reporter that Mr President is following up on the procurement process as is usual with contracts relating to military equipment. In most cases, the process involves manufacturing, due diligence and tedious negotiations that may change delivery dates.
“As the National Security Adviser conveyed during the Aso Villa media briefing, questions relating to defence procurement should be channelled to the Ministry of Defence. All security and intelligence agencies are working together to bring an end to insecurity with the full support of Mr. President and stakeholders, including the media and civil society, as part of a whole-of-government and a whole-of-society approach to address our security challenges.”
The clarification apparently tried to whitewash the NSA’s BBC interview during which he unequivocally stated that some funds meant for the purchase of arms got missing under the leadership of the ex-service chiefs.
During the BBC interview, the NSA clearly said: “No one knows what happened to the money but by God’s grace, the president will investigate to find out whether the money was spent and where the arms went.
“It is not that we are not working to end the security challenge in the country. The president has done his own part and allocated huge amount of money to purchase weapons but they are yet to be here. We don’t know where they are.
“I am not saying that the past service chiefs have diverted the money, but presently we don’t know where the money is.”
On the possibility of a probe into the disappearance of the funds, he said: “I am sure the president will investigate this. As I am talking to you now, even the Nigerian Governors’ Forum has started questioning where the money is. So I assure you that the President is not playing with anything that has to do with the people. I can’t say the money was stolen but we didn’t see anything and even the new service chiefs said they didn’t see the weapons.
“It is possible the weapons are on their way coming. Maybe from America, England and other places, but as at now, I didn’t see anything and the service chiefs too didn’t see any weapons too.”
The NSA had earlier said on Thursday at a State House briefing in Aso Villa, Abuja, that the President had released a lot of funds for the military to purchase firepower and win the insurgency fight.
The ex-service chiefs, who retired last January, are Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin; Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai; Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas; and Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar.
President Buhari appointed them in July 2015 but the Commander-In-Chief replaced them in January 2021 after persistent clamour from Nigerians for fresh blood in the country’s anti-terror war, especially against Boko Haram in Nigeria’s North-East region.
The new service chiefs are General Leo Irabor as Chief of Defence Staff; Lt. General Ibrahim Attahiru as Chief of Army Staff; Vice Admiral A.Z Gambo as Chief of Naval Staff; and Air Chief Marshal Isiaka Amao as Chief of Air Staff.
The Presidency has said no fund was missing under the watch of the immediate past service chiefs, adding that procurements have been made for military weapons but the arms were yet to be delivered.
According to Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, missing funds can’t happen under the regime of the President Muhammadu Buhari.
Shehu, who spoke Friday on a television programme was reacting to reports on the NSA’s interview on BBC in which he said funds meant for the purchase of arms to strengthen the country’s anti-terror war got missing under the leadership of the ex-service chiefs.
Shehu said the NSA was misquoted, stressing that Monguno did not accuse the ex-service chiefs of misappropriation of funds.
He said: “About the $1 billion taken from the Excess Crude Account with the consent of state governors used for military procurements, I want to assure you that nothing of that money is missing. The reference to it in the interview of the BBC Hausa Service by the National Security Adviser has been misconstrued and mistranslated.
“NSA made two critical points –one is that we don’t have enough weapons, which is a statement of fact; and two, procurements made have not been fully delivered. At no point did the NSA say that money has been misappropriated and that no arms are seen. They have not been delivered, that is correct; these are things you don’t get off the shelves.
“People are just been political, they want to draw moral equivalent between the PDP and the APC administrations – we are not the same, things like this cannot happen under a Buhari administrations.”