Sunday, 3 July 2016

Serving and retired senior Military officers on trial for N94.7bn fraud

Top Military officers on trial for N94.7bn fraud and other related offences.

The Federal Government has charged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to leave no stone unturned in the prosecution of serving and retired senior military officers undergoing trial for corruption and other related offences.

Trials of military chiefs alleged to have been involved in one corrupt act or the other had since commenced in various courts. Such corrupt act is broadly divided into two parts – diversion of arms procurement funds and bribery.

New Telegraph learnt that the government is dis-turbed that 12 military officers, both serving and retired, are being prosecuted in various Lagos and Abuja courts for cumulative N94.7 billion frauds in relation to arms procurement.

“We are disturbed that so much fraud was perpetrated by senior military officers in the course of discharging their duties. There is a matching order from the Presidency to recover the looted funds. “We are afraid that the figures will go up when the 13-man audit panel on arms procurement releases its report on the Nigerian Army and the final report.

What we have now is just the report on the Nigerian Air Force,” a source said. The source added that President Muhammadu Buhari has mandated the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), to provide all needed legal support to the EFCC to ensure effective prosecution of the cases.

The thinking of the Presidency is that the recovery of the looted funds would go a long way to address some challenges in the system. In the trial, N93.84 billion were fraud-related cases while N851.1 million were cumulative amount paid in form of bribes to serving and retired officers of the Air Force. Interestingly, three successive Chiefs of Air Staff are facing trial for alleged N31.57 billion fraud.

They are: a former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh; former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Muhammed Dikko Umar and another former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Adesola Amosu. A former commander of the Niger Delta Joint Task Force, Major General Emmanuel Atewe, is standing trial for allegedly swindling Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to the tune of N19.7 billion.

Others in the arms scandal deal are Air Vice Marshal Jacob Bola Adigun, Air Commodore Gbadebo Owodunni Olugbenga, Air Officer in charge of Tactical Air command, Makurdi, Air Vice Marshal Rufus Ojuawo and a former Chairman, Presidential Implementation Commit tee on Maritime Safety (PICOMMS), Air Vice Marshal Saliu Atawodi (rtd.). In the bribery trial, all defendants are officers of the Nigeria Air Force.

They are a Director of Armament with NAF, Air Vice Marshal John Adeniyi Kayode-Beckly; Air Officer Training Command and a member of the Committee for Procurement, Ministry of Defence, Air Vice Marshal Alkali Mohammed Mamu and Chief of Training and Operations of the Nigerian Air force, Air Vice Marshall Olutayo Tade Oguntoyinbo. All the defendants had, in their various trials, pleaded not guilty and the trials are ongoing.

While former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki, is standing trial over alleged diversion of $2.1 billion and N45 billion arms deal money before three different courts, Badeh is standing trial before the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja over alleged diversion of N3.97 billion belonging to NAF. Umar, on his part, is also facing trial before the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, over alleged diversion of N4.8 billion, which also belonged to NAF.

However, Amosu and two ex-top Air Force officers – Air Vice Marshal Jacob Bola Adigun and Air Commodore Gbadebo Owodunni Olugbenga – are standing trial before a Federal High Court, Lagos over alleged fraud to the tune of N22.8 billion.

For Atewe, he is standing trial before the Federal High Court, Lagos for allegedly swindling NIMASA to the tune of N19.7 billion. Atawodi is inside the dock for allegedly defrauding the government to the tune of N600 million through suspicious contracts to procure military boats.

While Ojuawo was arraigned on a two-count charge of allegedly receiving a gift of N40 million and a car valued at N29.2 million from a contractor, Kayode- Beckly was docked for allegedly collecting the sum of N10 million as gratification from a contractor.

For Mamu, the Federal Government is prosecuting him on a three-count charge bothering on bribery to the tune of N5.9 million. Human rights activist, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), expressed satisfaction with the trial of the serving and retired military officers for corruption.

“Criminal suspects are the same. Just like we are talking about politicians, who are alleged to have looted the treasury, there is no difference between the military and civilian wings of the Nigerian political dynasty. There is no difference in terms of ideas, worldview and primitive accumulation of assets.

“They are one and the same and that is what is manifesting in the ongoing revelations.” Falana told New Telegraph that the trial of the officers has not caused any bad blood in the military. His words: “There is nothing that has caused any bad blood in the military.

I am sufficiently close to the rank and file of the military; those who have borne the brunt of the criminal looting and diversion of money meant for procurement of arms, which had led to loss of over 25,000 men, comprising of soldiers and civilians.

So, there is nothing to worry about over the trial of the military officers. “In fact, many of the soldiers are happy. Those who are languishing in prison custody and others who were dismissed illegally are happy over the development. So, their trial won’t cause any bad blood because people betrayed their country.

One of those standing trial, allowed his village to be overrun by a rag-tag army of terrorists, while he was smiling to the bank and buying properties for his children, who have never worked anywhere in their lives. Who is going to lose a sleep for them?”