Former Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan has waded into the arms procurement scandal surrounding the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, saying his government never awarded any contract in the range of $2 billion dollars.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on Tuesday ordered the arrest of the country’s former national security adviser, accusing him of stealing around $2 billion received for phantom arms contracts, the presidency said.
“I did not award any $2 billion contract for procurement of weapons” Mr. Jonathan stated categorically at a forum in Washington DC, Thursday, querying, “Where did the money come from?”.
He repeated emphatically: “I did not award a contract of $2billion for procurement of weapons”.
Buhari’s office said former security adviser Sambo Dasuki had “awarded fictitious and phantom contracts” worth around $2 billion for jets, helicopters and ammunition for the army to fight the jihadist Boko Haram group which were never delivered.
Under Buhari’s predecessor Goodluck Jonathan, when Dasuki was in office, Boko Haram took control of parts of Nigeria’s northeast where it is trying to carve out an Islamic state.
“Had the funds siphoned… been properly used for the purpose they were meant for, thousands of needless Nigerian deaths would have been avoided,” the presidency said late on Tuesday.
Arms procurement was supposed to be under the purview of the Defence Ministry but its inability to deliver prompted Jonathan to shift the task to the National Security Advisor in September last year. Normally the NSA only advises on procurement.
Top military sources complained they were given little notice or say in what they needed and had to be creative with whatever equipment arrived.
Nigeria’s NSA had to seek arms and ammunition from a wide range of eastern European and Asian countries as some western states, where equipment was sought previously, were concerned with possible human rights abuses.
Large orders finally arrived early this year and were key in turning around the fight against Boko Haram, according to diplomats.
Mr. Dasuki had denied in a statement Wednesday that all contracts and accruing payments were made based on the approval of Mr. Jonathan, adding that due process and military procurement regulations were followed in all the transactions.
“Nigerians should note that all the services generated the types of equipment needed, sourced suppliers most times and after consideration by the Office of the NSA, the President will approve application for payment,” said Mr. Dasuki.
But Mr. Jonathan said he never awarded any $2billion arms contract, suggesting that the claims by the Buhari administration were false and unsubstantiated. Mr. Dasuki had also argued along that line.
The former president was speaking at an event titled: “Presidential elections and democratic consolidation in Africa: Case studies on Nigeria and Tanzania”.
The session was co-hosted by National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) with Mr. Jonathan as the sole speaker.
Mr. Jonathan touched on the contract issue after he stated that he was aware of allegations of huge sums of money that were said to be missing from the Nigerian treasury, but he claimed that some of the figures mentioned are not believable. “Sometimes, I feel sad when people mention these figures,” he added.
Speaking pointedly about his successor, President Jonathan said, “When the president (Buhari) paid official visit to the US, there were some figures that were mentioned that I don’t believe.”
He drew attention to figures like the $150billion alleged to have been stolen in previous Nigerian administrations, but Mr. Jonathan scoffed at the probability of “$150 billion American money” being missing and “Americans will not know where it is,” adding that at any rate President Buhari did not accuse his administration.
“He didn’t say my government, he said previous administrations… “$150 billion is not 150 billion Naira,” he stated, suggesting, “People play politics with very serious issues.”
The former president was equally dismissive of people who alleged that the sum of $59.8 million was misappropriated within a 12-month period while he was in office.
“In Nigeria, if you lose $59.8 million in a year, federal and state governments will not pay salaries,” he said, adding that there is no way Nigerian budget can accommodate such a loss without the country coming to a standstill.
“Of course we brought international audit teams, forensic auditors and they didn’t see that,” he said.
The former President said he does not want to join issues with the new government, “I wanted to keep away from the public for at least twelve months.”