Curbing corruption in the Armed Forces
Given the revelations of misapplication of security funds under the immediate past administration, the skepticism with which Nigerians greeted recent statement and denial from the authorities is hardly surprising. In the past, the country had gone through such denials, only to be confronted with stark realities that the nation’s security had indeed been compromised. Nigerians are far from being happy with the existing security challenges across the country, and would want government to assure them with action rather than with words.
The other day, the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno cried out that huge money voted for arms procurement was missing while the arms were not on ground. Subsequently, his office issued another statement indicating that no money was missing but some of the military equipment ordered have not been delivered. The statements nevertheless again raised the concerns over the lack of adequate equipment for men of the Nigerian Armed Forces particularly at a time the nation is besieged by innumerable security issues. In particular, the clarification did little to reassure Nigerians, as it only emphasized that orders made for arms procurement were either inadequate or yet to be executed. This state of affairs is worrisome amidst media reports of soldiers being at the receiving end of Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East.
In 2014, 66 soldiers who refused to fight terrorists group citing lack of adequate equipment and remuneration were charged with mutiny and attempted murder, and subsequently sentenced to death, although the sentence was commuted to 10 years imprisonment, following a review ordered by the former Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusufu Buratai. The big question since then has been whether those who misapplied vital funds meant to prosecute war against insurgency will ever be punished for their misdeeds. Certainly, fraudulent acts of these corrupt personnel directly endanger the lives of innocent civilians and military officers on the frontline as well as compromise the national security of the nation.
The military as an institution is built on a culture of honour and integrity; corruption should never be counted amongst its ranks. However, some ex-Service Chiefs and other high ranking military personnel had been involved in criminal diversion of security funds, for which some of them are undergoing prosecution.
Until his death in December of 2018, former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshall Alex Badeh faced trial for alleged fraud, criminal breach of trust and money laundering, to the tune of N3.97 billion. According to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Badeh, while being the CDS, between January and December, 2013, allegedly used dollar equivalent of the sum of N1.4 billion (One billion, one hundred million naira) removed from the accounts of the Nigerian Air Force to purchase a mansion in Abuja, while $1 million was also alleged to have been found in his wardrobe during a search of his apartment.
Similarly, former National Security Adviser, Lieutenant Colonel Sambo Dasuki, retired, is still standing trial over alleged misappropriation of $2 billion meant for buying arms for the military under the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, which sum was said to have been diverted to fund campaigns in the 2015 elections. Several other top military officers were charged or investigated for similar abuse and financial impropriety running into billions of naira. Some of them reportedly refunded part of the money they were said to have embezzled.
Senior military officers who engaged in these acts of corruption are a disgrace to the uniform they once adorned with dignity and authority and have violated the Oath of office they took. Nigerians are dismayed that the armed forces that were once the pride of Africa have now been so violated and diminished to the point that sitting governors now recommend the engagement of mercenaries to help salvage the country’s homeland.
Sadly, the cruel hands of corruption have reached virtually all spheres of public life in the country, such that the cankerworm is threatening to kill the country, as if giving vent to President Muhammadu Buhari’s warning during his 2015 election campaign that “if we don’t kill corruption in this country, corruption will kill Nigeria.”
Corruption has long been the root cause of the death of many Nigerians: accidents on roads that could have been averted if contracts awarded were duly carried out; victims of “accidental discharge” in the course of being extorted by corrupt Police officers, to mention a few.
The nation’s military personnel do not have to die for them to be termed heroes. Their decision to serve and defend a nation that has earned the reputation of failing to make adequate provisions for the welfare of its workforce, in and or out of service is an act of heroism in itself. Since the insurgency in 2009, Nigerians have had one too many reports on the death of men of the Nigerian Army. These “unknown soldiers” consist of brothers, sisters, fathers, husbands, who are now forever taken away from their loved ones. They are the true Nigerian patriots.
Frontline combatants may have taken an oath to serve the nation with all their strength and defend her unity, it however behooves on the government to ensure that their safety and welfare is given adequate attention. And God forbid that the labour of our heroes past should be in vain.