Nigeria in a lot of crisis, COAS tells Reps

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The House of Representatives’ ad hoc committee set up to audit arms and ammunition procured by the Armed Forces has criticised the new Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, for failing to appear before it in person.

The House Ad Hoc Committee on the Need to Review the Purchase, Use and Control of Arms, Ammunition and Related Hardware by Military, Paramilitary and Other Law Enforcement Agencies in Nigeria held its first investigative hearing in Abuja on Friday, where the COAS was represented by the Commandant, Army War College Nigeria, Maj.-Gen. Charles Ofoche.

Ofoche, while pleading with the committee for Attahiru’s absence, noted that COAS and other service chiefs were in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, and Enugu earlier on Thursday.

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He said, “The country is embroiled in a lot of crisis, so they are moving around. And he thought he could make it down here this morning for this meeting, so the notice was quite short for me to come and represent him because he would have loved to do it personally and that is why there is no written note.”

The COAS’ representative also said, “We are at your service, we are here to serve you as a people, to serve all Nigerians. And we cannot pretend that we do not know there is a crisis all over the country.

“The Chief of Army Staff cannot be at every location at every time. He is on the way trying to get to know his men. He took over barely a week ago. He is going around trying to get first-hand information as to the capability of the fighting force he is leading.”

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One of the lawmakers, Aliyu Al-Mustapha alleged that criminals had been caught with arms and ammunition said to have been procured by the Armed Forces.

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He said, “You can bear witness to the fact that Nigeria is embroiled in serious security issues and year in year out, appropriations were made and huge sums expended on procurement of arms and ammunition.

“Yet, in the whole of the arrests made, you find these arms and ammunition with some of these bandits and miscreants. Some of them can be traced back to the very military or police. It is a serious issue and the National Assembly is well-positioned to dig deep into the root of this issue and find a solution.”

Al-Mustapha stated that the lawmakers were not witch-hunting the COAS or the Army.

The lawmaker said, “This is a very serious and sensitive security matter; at least, let us see the man, being that this is the first meeting with the Nigerian Army. The accounting officer of the Army should have appeared to give us his account and position as far as the communications made to him.

“For the chairman and secretariat, there is no communication before that the COAS is having another schedule that may not allow him to be physically present here. That is a contravention to Section 88, Section 89 (1) (of the Constitution), and of course Section o1 of the Armed Forces Act 1994.

“There is a need for a motion to allow the COAS to come and make his submissions personally to this committee.”

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Ifeanyi Momah condemned the Chief of Army Staff for not writing the committee to introduce and endorse Ofoche to speak for him.

The lawmaker said he did not think Attahiru’s representative could be held culpable or liable for the remarks made before the committee “because it is assumed that any remarks made here are made by the Chief of Army Staff.”

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He said, “So if he is not the one making the remarks, it makes it very easy for him to actually engage in culpable deniability since he is not the one making the remarks.”

Another member, Kabiru Idris, noted that based on Section 21 of the Public Procurement Act 2007, the COAS, who is the accounting officer of the Nigerian Army, should appear or empower his representative in writing.

Similarly, Bede Eke described the action by Attahiru as “a very serious matter.”

Eke added, “It is so serious we would not entertain any representatives from anybody because we must hold you liable for anything you say here. We don’t want a situation where the COAS would say this is not the position of the Army. So, I want to use this opportunity to move a motion that we insist that the COAS must appear before this committee.”

Responding, Ofoche started with “rendering the apologies of the Chief of Army Staff for his inability to appear here in person.”

Ofoche noted that his entourage came prepared and had all the information the lawmakers might need for the Army. He also noted that the government is a continuum, stressing that Attahiru was not the Chief of Army Staff from 2010, where the scope of panel’s probe begins. “So, it is the records we have here present that he will still refer to,” he stressed.

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The House had on December 8, 2020, resolved to audit the arms and ammunition procured and deployed by Nigerian Armed Forces, especially to “investigate the quality and quantity of arms” in the last 10 years.

The House had also urged the Federal Government to review the policies, protocols and procedures for the purchase of arms, ammunition and related hardware by military and paramilitary agencies in the last 10 years.

In addition, the House urged the Federal Government to review the guidelines and systems for training officers and men of these security outfits, while asking it to appraise the armoury and weapons control mechanisms currently being implemented by the military and paramilitary agencies.

Those to be affected include the Nigeria Army, Navy and Air Force; Nigeria Police Force, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Nigerian Immigration Service, Nigeria Customs Service and the Nigerian Correctional Services, according to a motion unanimously adopted by the lawmakers, titled ‘Need to Review the Purchase, Use and Control of Arms, Ammunition, and Related Hardware by Military, Paramilitary and Other Law Enforcement Agencies in Nigeria.’

The committee had held its inaugural meeting with security and safety agencies in Abuja on February 11, 2021.

At the meeting were representatives of the National Security Adviser, security and service chiefs, Nigeria Police Force, Federal Fire Service, Independent Corrupt Practices (and Other Related Offences) Commission, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Central Bank of Nigeria, among others.

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