|The N4billion estate|
According to a The Nation report, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has seized an estate, allegedly valued at over N4billion from a former Chief of Army Staff.
The estate, which has been placed under Interim Asset Forfeiture, was confiscated on account of the ongoing probe of the ex-Army Chief over $2.1 billion arms deals.
Prior to the seizure, the Presidential Committee on Audit of Defence Equipment Procurement (CADEP) had traced about N2 billion meant for the purchase of vehicles for the Nigerian Army, to the accounts of five children of the former Army chief.
There were indications that the said accounts were yet to be de-frozen at press time.
The Presidential Committee on Audit of Defence Equipment, headed by AVM JON Ode, had submitted its third interim report to President Muhammadu Buhari, leading to the shortlisting of the 54 people to be probed.
Apart from two ex-Army Chiefs, others recommended for probe are 16 other retired and serving Army officers, 12 serving and retired public officers and 24 Chief Executive Officers of companies involved in the procurement of equipment.
According to findings made by our correspondent, the EFCC decided to invoke Interim Asset Forfeiture Clause pending the outcome of the ongoing investigation.
A search by our correspondent revealed that the estate is sited between Jabi and Life Camp.
When our correspondent visited the site at 11am on Friday, the EFCC’s ‘Keep Off’ sign was already pasted on the estate.
The anti-graft agency also indicated that the estate was “under investigation.”
The estate contains more than 30 duplexes built to taste.
A reliable source, who spoke in confidence, said: “The ex-Army Chief was referred to the EFCC based on the report of the Presidential Committee on Audit of Defence Equipment, headed by AVM JON Ode.
“We are still investigating the ex-Army Chief and he will soon be interrogated. But in line with our modus operandi, we have been able to trace his suspicious assets which we have attached under Interim Asset Forfeiture.
“In this case of the ex-Chief of Army Staff, his children and friends were used as fronts for money laundering.
“We have traced many suspicious accounts linked with the ex-Army boss. Most of these accounts have been frozen.
“Some of our operatives have been working on documents in the Office of National Security Adviser (ONSA) on evidence relating to these scandalous procurement deals.”
Responding to a question, the source said: “The estate under forfeiture is so massive and valued at about N4 billion.”
Section 7 of the EFCC Act says: “The commission has power to (a) cause any investigations to be conducted as to whether any person, corporate body or organisation has committed any offence under this Act or other law relating to economic and financial crimes.
“(b) Cause investigations to be conducted into the properties of any person if it appears to the commission that the person’s lifestyle and extent of the properties are not justified by his source of income.”
The Presidential Committee had established that the ex-Chief of Army Staff has a case to answer.
The report of the panel said in part: “The Committee further established that between March 2011 and December 2013, two companies exclusively procured various types of Toyota and Mitsubishi vehicles worth over N2, 000,000,000.00 for the Nigerian Army without any competitive bidding.
“Most of the contracts awarded to the companies were also split, awarded on the same date or within a short space of time at costs and mobilization higher than the prescribed thresholds.
“For instance, on 15 Feb 13, the 2 companies were awarded contracts worth N260, 000.000.00 and N315, 000,000.00 respectively for supplies of various vehicles. The Nigerian Army could not justify the exclusive selection of these vendors against other renowned distributors of same brands of vehicles procured.
“More seriously, the Committee found no credible evidence of delivery of the vehicles by the 2 companies as there were no receipt vouchers but only unauthenticated delivery notes, invoices and waybills that were purportedly used for the deliveries.
“Nevertheless, the vendors were fully paid based on job completion certificate authenticated by the then Chief of Logistics. The payments were also made without deduction of Withholding Tax (WHT). Furthermore, analyses of the various banks accounts of the two companies showed transfers to individuals.
“Thus, the Committee recommends further investigation to determine delivery of the vehicles and relationship of funds beneficiaries with the former COAS and the two companies,” the report added.
The panel also discovered that “between May 2014 and March 2015, the ONSA mandated CBN to release various sums totaling $386,954,000.00 to three companies for ‘procurement of technical equipment’, without tying the money to particular items of procurement.
“Thus, the allotment of the fund was left at the discretion of the vendor without input or consultation with ONSA or the Nigerian Army.
“Furthermore, some of the funds transferred preceded the formalization of contracts with the Nigerian Army. There was also no evidence of any contract to justify the payments made by ONSA to the companies. Consequently, it had been difficult for the ONSA, the Nigerian Army and the companies to reconcile the accounts vis-a-vis the equipment delivered.”
The panel also discovered that 42 units of Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) which were rejected by Iraq were later sold to Nigeria to fight Boko Haram insurgents.
It claimed that some of the APCs were either expired or unsuitable, leading to loss of lives.
It added: “The Committee observed that one of the new equipment procured for the Nigerian Army from Ukraine was BTR-4E APC. However, according to the Ukraine’s State Enterprise Lviv Armour Repair Plant, the designers of the equipment, ‘some of the products sold to Nigeria in 2014 were actually among 42 units designed for Iraq which subsequently rejected them due to poor performance rating.’
“The Nigerian Army did not also undertake the mandatory pre-shipment inspections provided for in the contract agreements. Instead, the NA deployed an Infantry officer, who lacked the technical knowledge to assess the capabilities and shortcomings of the equipment, to oversee the shipment of the items for the Nigerian Army from Ukraine.
“Additionally, the 2 weeks training availed the technicians and operators was inadequate for them to comprehend the technical workings of the newly introduced equipment.
“The Committee’s interactions with the field operators revealed that although the platforms and ammunition procured were deployed for the NE operations, some of them were aged or expired, lacked spares and prone to breakdown without immediate recovery equipment.
“Therefore, failure to carry out pre-shipment inspection and inadequate training resulted in procurement of some unreliable equipment that reduced the capacity of the Nigerian Army in the North East Operations and resulted in the loss of lives and equipment.”